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End of Amazon Smile Negatively Impacts Disability Nonprofits

Amazon Smile, a charitable revenue-driving program, is among Amazon’s latest cost-cutting measures, in addition to recent and forthcoming company-wide layoffs. The decision to end the meaningful customer engagement initiative will impact many nonprofits, including disability nonprofits, that previously benefitted as enrolled participants.

Amazon Smile first launched in 2013, allowing customers to designate a portion (0.5%) of their eligible purchases to go towards a charity of their choosing. The Mental Health Association of Central Florida (MHACF), which provides mental health services, support and information to the members of the Greater Orlando community, enrolled in Amazon Smile in 2020. Marni Stahlman, MHACF’s President/CEO, tells AmeriDisability that the elimination of this revenue stream is devastating to local charities.

“We utilized this program often to promote donations to the MHACF during peak shopping and annual event timeframes, like Cyber Black Monday for example. Through the promotion on our social media channels, it was a way for our community to contribute and support the mission of the MHACF in a way that was stress-free for them and seamless as they did their shopping,” Stahlman says. “It’s not just the loss of the incentive of the 0.5% of eligible purchases, it’s being able to create opportunities and encourage individuals to consider philanthropy for missions that are important to them even if they may not have large means.”

family using computer

Why Nonprofits are Frowning Over Amazon Smile 

Amazon Smile generated between $1,500 and $2,000 in annual contributions for the MHACF. That amount actually rose during the organization’s 2021-2022 fiscal year when online shopping (rather than in-person shopping) increased during the COVID pandemic.

“That may not seem like a large amount, but our annual budget in 2021-2022 was $756,000. If we equate the cost of medications for our patients at an average of $25 per, that’s funding for medications for one month for 60-80 uninsured patients or 26 uninsured patients for three months,” Stahlman explains. “For chronically mentally ill uninsured patients, access to their psychotropic medications is what keeps them out of a crisis situation, averting an involuntary hospitalization (i.e. Baker Act) or escalated interactions with law enforcement.”

In mid-January, Amazon sent a letter to customers to disclose the elimination of Amazon Smile, citing that with more than a million organizations registered their “ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.” But many community-based nonprofits are expressing a shared reaction of displeasure because every bit of funding helps to further important mission work.

senior women with chronic pain, holding neck in front of laptop screen

Nonprofits with a larger budget and/or other revenue streams may not feel the impact as much. Angelica Amador oversees media relations for the Stand Up and Play Foundation, an effort aimed at helping wheelchair users stand up to participate in sporting, artistic and other activities and/or experience the empowerment of looking one eye to eye. Amador tells AmeriDisability that because the kick-back percentage was quite minimal, the Foundation never really relied on Amazon Smile’s unpredictable contributions.

In an effort to soften the blow, Amazon declared it will issue a one-time donation equal to what each organization earned through Amazon Smile during a three-month period last year. But Stahlman says it’s simply not enough to ease the disappointment. Because, she says, “We saw a reduction in 2022 that we equated to consumers shopping less due to fears around inflation, so we are not expecting it to be equal to what we had seen in previous years.”

Amazon Smile will remain available through February 20, 2023. Therefore customers still have a small window of opportunity to help charitable organizations accrue donations. While the end of Amazon Smile is unfortunate, there are many other ways to support charitable endeavors. Find a cause that’s important to you and consider contributing your time, services and, if and when possible, philanthropic dollars.

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Nancy DeVault
Nancy is the managing editor of AmeriDisability. She is an award-winning storyteller passionate about health and happiness.

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