Amazon scraps donation tool used by thousands of UK charities

19 Jan 2023 News

Online shopping giant Amazon has announced that it has scrapped its online donation service, AmazonSmile, six years after launching it.

In a letter to customers, the retailer said AmazonSmile, which enabled online shoppers to donate to a charity of their choice when making retail purchases, had not “grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped”.

According to the AmazonSmile website, thousands of local and national UK charities – including RSPCA, Royal British Legion and Stonewall – were signed up to the service and collectively received £18.5m since the programme’s launch in 2017.

An Amazon spokesperson told Civil Society News that the charities on average received £137 per year through AmazonSmile and that this low return contributed to the firm’s decision to close the service.

The RSPCA told Civil Society News it had raised £430,000 through the programme since it launched in 2017 and was “saddened” to see it close. Meanwhile, Royal British Legion said it had raised £310,000 in that time.

Amazon plans to close the programme by 20 February, with registered charities able to accrue donations through the service until then.

Alternative charity programmes

Purchases made through AmazonSmile cost the same as through the retailer’s standard website, with 0.5% of the net purchase price of eligible products going to charity.

The retailer said that once AmazonSmile closes next month, charities will be able to seek support from Amazon customers by creating their own “wish lists”

Amazon said the service represented “a very small portion” of the total charitable contributions made through its other programmes, which the company estimated to be over £100m in 2021.

Its Amazon for Charity store – which features charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, the Natural History Museum and Marie Curie – allows organisations to sell products directly on the retail site.

RSPCA: ‘Saddened to see AmazonSmile close’

RSPCA said it was “disappointed” to see the programme close, saying it had “provided huge support to our work helping animals”. 

“The RSPCA has always valued our relationship with AmazonSmile, and the generosity shown by their customers, as a result we’ve raised £430,000 since 2017, helping us to protect animals on the frontline and recently supporting us amid a deeply challenging backdrop of the cost of living crisis. We’ve been so grateful to Amazon for providing a platform enabling this extra funding stream,” said James Jackson, RSPCA head of corporate partnerships.

“Many of our independent local branches also benefit from the Smile scheme, and will miss the support this funding brought to their animal welfare work in their communities. 

“While we’re saddened to see AmazonSmile close, we note Amazon's commitment to prioritising other philanthropic projects instead. We really hope this work will continue to create a kinder world for all animals - which is so important to the wider public and society.”

RBL: £310,000 raised through service

The Royal British Legion said it was grateful for the support it had received through the programme.

“Since 2018, more than £310,000 has been donated through the service which has helped us continue our vital work supporting members of the armed forces community in need,” said the charity's head of corporate partnerships, Ben France. 

“Amazon remains a very important partner for the RBL, it is a major channel for sales of our online Poppyshop products, has an active military network which has raised funds for the RBL and we look forward to continuing our strong relationship in future.”

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