What Is the AmazonSmile Program?

By Roxy FavrettoLast Updated May 22, 2020
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Amazon operates a website called AmazonSmile that’s just like Amazon.com with the same products, prices and information. The difference is that, when you go to that website at Smile.Amazon.com instead of Amazon.com and do your shopping there, Amazon donates a percentage of your purchase of any eligible products to a charity of your choosing. Items that are eligible for the program are marked clearly on each product's page. AmazonSmile first launched in October 2013, just before the holiday season. As of 2020, it features more than 1 million charities.

Which Charities Qualify for AmazonSmile?

According to Amazon's rules, any charity that is in good standing with the IRS and registered as a 501(c)(3) organization is qualified to become an AmazonSmile charitable organization. Eligible charities must also be located within the 50 United States or Washington, D.C., and they can't be private charities. In addition, Amazon doesn’t accept charities that promote intolerance, hate, terrorism, violence, money laundering or any other illegal activities. The company uses the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center to help determine if any charity that applies falls into those categories.

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How Do Customers Choose a Charity to Support?

Amazon customers who use AmazonSmile enjoy having a choice in what charities they support — and all they have to do is shop. If you want to sign up, visit Smile.Amazon.com. Once you're there, sign in like you would any time you shop at Amazon, using the same username and password.

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Once you've signed in, Amazon shows you a list of some of its highlighted charities. These are usually well-known organizations, like the American Cancer Society or the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. If you're not interested in supporting the highlighted charities, go to the search bar at the bottom of the page and enter the name of a charity you want to support. You can also search by location if you want to support a local organization.

Once you see the charity that you want to support, click "select." Amazon then guides you to a page asking if you clearly understand that you must visit Smile.Amazon.com to support this charity. Click "yes" and start shopping. The next time you visit the site's homepage, you'll see the name of your charity below the main search bar.

How Much Does a Charity Earn Through AmazonSmile?

The total amount a charity earns depends on how many customers designate that organization as the one they'd like to contribute to. For every purchase of an eligible product, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase to the charity. Each charity receives its donations approximately 45 days after the end of each quarter, and payments are sent by electronic transfer into a verified bank account. However, Amazon may withhold some of an organization's donations until the end of the next quarter to account for returns that may come back in the meantime.

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The charity must also register and provide its banking information to receive the donations. If it doesn't, Amazon saves the money, and the organization receives the backlogged funds when it does eventually register. The charity must also earn at least $5 per quarter to receive its funds. If it doesn't, Amazon stores the money until the amount does reach that level or higher.

What Are AmazonSmile Charity Lists?

Shopping AmazonSmile isn't the only way to support your favorite charities through Amazon. If you'd rather donate items than money, the company allows charities to set up lists of items they need. For example, an animal charity may ask for pet food, cleaning supplies and cat litter. An educational organization may ask for books and school supplies for children in need. Any charity may ask for items like office supplies or electronics to help stay on top of administrative needs. Once the list is set up, you can shop from it and have items sent directly to that organization rather than to your own home or office.

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