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Amazon ends its charity donation program AmazonSmile after other cost-cutting efforts

An Amazon fulfillment center is seen before sunrise on March 29, 2021, in Bessemer, Ala. Amazon announced it is ending its charity donation program, AmazonSmile.
Patrick T. Fallon for AFP via Getty Images
An Amazon fulfillment center is seen before sunrise on March 29, 2021, in Bessemer, Ala. Amazon announced it is ending its charity donation program, AmazonSmile.

Amazon is ending its charity donation program by Feb. 20, the company announced Wednesday. The move to shutter AmazonSmile comes after a series of other cost-cutting measures.

Through the program, which has been in operation since 2013, Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible purchases to a charity of the shopper's choice. The program has donated over $400 million to U.S. charities and more than $449 million globally, according to Amazon.

"With so many eligible organizations — more than one million globally — our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin," Amazon said in a letter to customers.

In 2022, AmazonSmile's average donation per charity was $230 in the U.S., an Amazon spokesperson told NPR in an email.

However, some organizations — especially small ones — say the donations were incredibly helpful to them. And many shoppers who use AmazonSmile have expressed their dismay on social media and shared the impact the program has had on the charities they support.

The Squirrelwood Equine Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary in New York's Hudson Valley that is home to more than 40 horses and other farm animals, tweeted that the nearly $9,400 it has received from Amazon Smile "made a huge difference to us."

Beth Hyman, executive director of the sanctuary, says the organization reliably received a couple thousand dollars per quarter. While that's a relatively small amount of the overall budget, "that can feed an animal for a year," Hyman says. "That's a life that hangs in the balance," she adds, that the sanctuary may not be able to support going forward.

Hyman says Amazon gave virtually no notice that AmazonSmile was going to end and that Amazon made it difficult for the program to succeed because they "hid it behind another URL, and they never integrated it into their mobile apps."

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Central Texas, an organization that trains volunteers to advocate for children in the child welfare system in four counties between Austin and San Antonio, was another nonprofit that shoppers on AmazonSmile could support.

Eloise Hudson, the group's communications manager, says that while CASA is a national organization, it's broken down into individual, local nonprofits that work and seek funding at the grassroots level. AmazonSmile empowered people in supporting a small charity, she says, and "that's not going to be there anymore."

Amazon said it will help charities transition by "providing them with a one-time donation equivalent to three months of what they earned in 2022 through the program" and allowing them to continue receiving donations until the program's official end in February.

After that, shoppers can still support charities by buying items off their wish lists, the company said, adding that it will continue to support other programs such as affordable housing programs, food banks and disaster relief.

Amazon had previously announced its Housing Equity Fund to invest in affordable housing, which is focused on areas where its headquarters have disrupted housing markets. Some of the programs listed in the announcement are internal to Amazon.

At the beginning of January, Amazon's CEO Andy Jassy announced 18,000 layoffs, the largest in the company's history and the single largest number of jobs cut at a technology company since the industry downturn that began last year.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kaitlyn Radde