Local charities benefit from online retailers

While shoppers are encouraged to spend their money in local brick and mortar stores where money is kept in the community, it’s a fact of modern life that some goods simply can’t be found in any DeKalb County stores.

Close to two-thirds of Americans say they've bought something on leading online retailer Amazon, according to an NPR/Marist poll.

Organizations rely on contributions from local businesses to continue offering their services, but charitable groups still have a way to benefit when someone chooses to instead shop online.

The AmazonSmile program allows buyers to donate 0.5 percent of the purchase price to eligible 501(c)(3) public charitable organizations (in good standing with the IRS) of their choice.

This includes a long list of other eligible nonprofits. In some cases, users need to type in the full name of an organization to search for it. A number of local religious organizations are included on the list.

Amazon advertises the program works “at no cost” to users, but there is one disadvantage to virtual giving through their platform. Unlike “real-world” donations to these charities, donors can’t count their contribution as tax deductible because the money technically comes from the AmazonSmile Foundation.

When shoppers visit smile.amazon.com for the first time, they are prompted to select a charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases before they begin shopping. The website remembers their selection, and then every eligible purchase they make on AmazonSmile results in a donation.

Amazon users receive quarterly emails showing how much the foundation has donated to a specific designated charity and allows them to “track your impact throughout the year at your ‘my Impact’ page.”

Giving by default via online purchases applies only to products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on product detail pages. Recurring Subscribe-and-Save purchases and subscription renewals are not eligible.

To support a designated charity with a purchase, users should make certain they are shopping through smile.amazon.com rather than the general page address. The website encourages users to bookmark the address or drag an icon to their favorites to create a shortcut.

United Giver’s Fund of DeKalb County Alabama Inc. Director Christine Phillips said the organization signed up about a year ago at https://org.amazon.com/.

“It’s a really neat program,” Phillips said. “We get a donation from Amazon every quarter, which is great because Amazon has bigger pockets than most of us. We publicize it on our social media platforms, on our website, and whenever we are out and about telling people about the United Giver’s Fund.”

Elizabeth Wheatley, Executive Director of the DeKalb County Children’s Advocacy Center, said she’s seen small donations come through after promoting AmazonSmile on their Facebook Page, but she said they will likely mention it in their future newsletters as another option for contributing.

Several local nonprofits rely on such promotional channels to communicate with potential donors.

Jessica Harper-Brown, the new Executive Director of Landmarks of DeKalb, Inc., said she had heard of AmazonSmile but has not received any information from Amazon. Like many local organizations, Landmarks’ primary fundraising efforts involve mailing a letter detailing how past contributions have been spent and giving existing members a chance to renew or become lifetime donors.

Michelle Gulledge of local Salvation Army said contributions may happen at the state level and make their way to local chapters, but she wasn’t aware of direct donations through Amazon.

Several of the organizations contacted by The Times-Journal were aware of the program but had not pursued involvement or promoted it as an option for contributions.

Angie Shugart said her group, Little River Waterkeeper, gets a few donations each year from AmazonSmile, “but nothing significant. Mainly because I haven’t promoted it more.” Funds have been dedicated to that group’s summer camp scholarship program for low-income youths.

The purchase price is the amount paid for the item minus any rebates and excluding shipping & handling, gift-wrapping fees, taxes, or service charges. From time to time, Amazon offers special, limited time promotions that increase the donation amount on one or more products or services or provide for additional donations to charitable organizations. The fine print specifies that special terms and restrictions may apply.

Online shoppers can also check out micro-donation platforms such as Bstow, CauseTap, Charitymiles, Check-In for Good, Donate a Photo, Give 2 Charity, Google One Today, I Can Go Without, SpotFund, SwearJar, and Tinbo. A lot of these platforms leverage mobile technology for nonprofit fundraising, taking advantage of the shift from desktop to mobile web browsing.

This holiday season, local shoppers should try to shop for Christmas presents from retailers who are close to home and familiar to them, said Jennifer McCurdy, Director of the Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce.

If they can’t find what they want in a physical store and must turn to the web to find it, DeKalb County citizens can still benefit from the good done by local nonprofits when a portion of an online transaction gets funneled back to the community.

Local nonprofits who have not yet signed up to participate in AmazonSmile can do so by visiting https://org.amazon.com/ with appropriate paperwork to prove their status.

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