Sparking Ideas

Amazon Hopes to Make You Smile

If a large online retailer offered to give your non-profit a share of purchases made by your supporters would you be excited? Last year, that’s exactly what Amazon.com began doing.

Your members and supporters could be sending you a portion of the money they spend online right now. Which sounds great; but is it the right move for your organization?

Here are the details.

Amazon will donate 0.5% of eligible sales to a charity of the purchaser’s choice... The catch? They have to purchase their goods through a different URL than that usually frequented by customers.

When visiting smile.amazon.com a customer adds items to their cart as usual, then selects which charity they want to support, from an available list of 501(c)3s. It's free for charities to sign up and there are no processing fees.

How to make it work for you!

For every $100 spent to purchase goods, only $0.50 (half of one percent) would be sent by the Amazon Foundation to your organization. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the “feel good” sensation people get when donating to a charity is roughly the same whether you gave $0.50 to the charity in the example above, or gave $20 directly.

For this reason, many non-profits have been hesitant to sign up for the program. In fears it would lower overall giving. This being said, a partnership could still be beneficial if you target your audience correctly.

For starters, avoid promoting this partnership to your members, gift membership buyers, or regular annual fund donors. We don’t want to run the risk that they stop buying gift memberships, because they purchased something on Amazon and supported you that way.

Instead focus promotion of this partnership to people who aren’t supporting your organization financially. These would be long-term lapsed members and people who have been supporters for over a year, but still haven’t given. This will ensure that any money you receive off their purchases is likely money the non-profit wouldn’t have gotten any other way.

How to use smile.amazon.com to support your non-profit

Due to the small purchase share you will receive, I’d recommend utilizing affordable email and site creative to keep marketing costs minimal.

    •  Use email to promote smile.amazon.com to lapsed and inactive supporters, asking them to make all of their Amazon purchases using this new link

        —  After the non-profit signs up, you can announce the partnership with Amazon and how it helps your mission

        —  During holiday season send emails letting lapsed and inactive supporters know how they can assist your mission while buying the gifts they need

     •  Feature promotional material (image or light box) on the organization’s website , which:

        —  Reinforces the messaging from your email campaigns

        —  Provides ongoing awareness for supporters

To add your organization's name to the available list of charities, please visit org.amazon.com. Amazon will require information for a bank account associated with the non-profit so Amazon can transfer funds into their account.

Kristopher Morris is a Digital Strategist at The Lukens Company, a direct-response marketing firm in Arlington, VA, specializing in integrated multi-channel digital and direct mail campaigns for political and non-profit clients. He specializes in digital advertising and audience analysis to bolster community development, fundraising, and election efforts; with a focus on performance-based ROI. A veteran political strategist, Kristopher has a background in Congressional, state, and national operations. Contact Kristopher at 703.845.8484 or kmorris@thelukenscompany.com

This article appeared in Marketing AdVents, August, 2014.




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