It was one of the easiest ways to support your favorite non-profit organization and help the poor or needy. The world’s largest online retailer launched the AmazonSmile program in 2013, providing its customers with an easy way to donate funds to their favorite charity. The program allowed for the customer to choose which non-profit the individual desired for their donations to support and then Amazon would send 0.5% of every purchase made by the customer to that charity. However, that easy way to help those in need has been eliminated by the retail giant.
Amazon donated $449 million to a variety of non-profits in 2022, yet they are discontinuing the charity program because it says there was not enough impact for the companies. They claim they will continue to support charities in other ways; however, this prevents its customers from choosing the non-profits the company supports and places the choice solely in the hands of Amazon’s leadership.
Amazon released a letter to participating customers which reads, in part:
“In 2013, we launched AmazonSmile to make it easier for customers to support their favorite charities. However, after almost a decade, the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped with so many eligible organizations – more than 1 million globally – our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.
We are writing to let you know that we plan to wind down AmazonSmile by February 20, 2023. We will continue to pursue and invest in other areas where we’ve seen we can make meaningful change – from building affordable housing to providing access to computer science education for students in underserved communities to using our logistics infrastructure and technology to assist broad communities impacted by natural disasters.”
The company continues in their letter by stating it will be making a one-time donation to all programs who have participated in AmazonSmile. The one-time donation will be the equivalent of three months of what they earned in 2022 through the program.
Although Catholic organizations participating in the program did not report receiving a large amount of revenue from the program, we know that Jesus can multiply even bread and fish to feed the poor or provide for the needy. Amazon’s view of a “large impact” does not consider the reality of what “large” consists of in the eyes of the Lord.
Amazon, however, did not exactly make it easy for customers to participate. In fact, customers such as myself often overlooked the small detail that costs charities some funds. Perhaps that is why it was not as successful as the company claims it hoped that it would be. In order to participate, the customer had to login directly to Smile.Amazon.com. The website looked the same either way, except when you went to checkout and saw the name of your chosen charity for the donation. However, without placing that “smile” before the web address, the customer many times would not be aware the donation would not be made without it. Perhaps if Amazon wanted to really make a difference, then they would have made it easier for customers to ensure the donation went to the non-profit without using a separate web address.
Christians are expected to reach out to the poor, needy, and hungry. We are to follow in the footsteps of Christ in this manner and we are to show the love of God through our works of charity. Even though the program has been eliminated and Amazon does not want its customers to choose the charities to which they donate, Catholics can still support those charities that were a part of the program.
You can make donations directly to those organizations such as: Our Lady of the Angels Monastery (where the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration live a consecrated life and also provide the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament for pilgrims), Food for the Poor, Cure’ of Ars Catholic School in Leawood, Kansas, Presentation of the B.V.M. Catholic School in Cheltenham, PA, and Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, NJ. I am certain there are probably others that I have not included in this list. These are the ones I am aware of that participated in the program.
It is unclear what organizations Amazon will choose to support. Their choice to eliminate the program does not have to guarantee Catholic non-profits will lose even a penny of funds.
“The kindly man will be blessed, for he gives of his sustenance to the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9)
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)
Do not let Amazon end your generosity and support of organizations who are being the hands and feet of Jesus to the needy. Directly support those non-profits you are about and who are providing for the needs of the poor as Jesus requires of us.