Help Support Organizations with Your Everyday Shopping

By Kari Deming, Director, CALL Lakeshore Legal Aid, and CERA Project Specialist

Happy December, Everyone!  As the end-of-year holidays near, I offer a few simple tech(ish) tips to boost your program coffers while you go about your normal shopping.

Amazon-Smile-LogoMy favorite “costs you nothing, don’t need to think about it” program is AmazonSmile.  As Amazon says:

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support.

Happily, I found that blurb to ring quite true. Here’s the process:

  • Go to smile.amazon.com.
  • Select a charitable organization to receive .5% of your eligible purchases as a donation.
  • If your organization isn’t listed (mine was not), completed the simple form to add it.  Easy.
  • Log into your Amazon account and select your charity.  Amazon will save the choice in your Settings, so you don’t need to think about it again. You’ll also be reassured each time you log in, as you will see “Amazon Smile:  Supporting [insert charity here] on the top left of the page, right above your name.
  • Bookmark smile.amazon.com OR add the AmazonSmile 1Button extension to your browser to ensure that you always enter Amazon through the Smile portal.

Now, the funds generated here aren’t likely to take your program from rags to riches.  Only .5% of your base purchases (the amount paid for the item minus any rebates and excluding shipping & handling, gift-wrapping fees, taxes, or service charges) is donated, and not quite everything purchased counts.  Still, its free, and easy, and every penny counts.  Amazon also says that there is no cap on the total amount they will donate, and that they’ll occasionally run promotions to increase the donation amount. AmazonSmile is only a bit over a year old and hasn’t published many stats yet, but the possibilities are boggling.

Once you’re hooked on AmazonSmile, its a very short leap to entering AmazonSmile and many, many other sites through iGive.com.

iGiveiGive is a free service that generates donations when members shop at any of 1575+ stores (including Life Is Good, Walgreens, Best Buy, Expedia, Hertz, Staples, Petco, Pottery Barn…).  The amount of the donation varies by store — from 40% of your purchase price at iWeb to .4% at Air France.  Some stores also have “special rate donations.”  For example, PetSmart will donate $2 to your favorite cause every time you spend $25 in-store with a pre-registered debit or credit card. Through this, I will generate donations of over $100/year to my organization — buying the dog food I would be buying, anyway.

Since its inception in 1997, iGive says it has “grown to 350,000+ members supporting 50,000+ causes,” and that it has generated almost $8 million in charity donations.  There are no hidden costs, obligations or fees, and you don’t need to enter any codes or even notify iGive – its all automatic.  The set up is as simple and quick as AmazonSmile’s and their “Cause Dashboard” allows you to see exactly how much has been generated for your favorite cause at any point in time.  I, for example, joined iGive on December 10, 2014.  The site was running a promotion and donating $5 for every new member who selected a charity by December 15, 2014.  My dashboard showed that, as of December 15, I had personally generated $5 and the friends and family that I pointed towards iGive had generated another $74.35 for my program.  Not too shabby, for free. Such promotions apparently run periodically, so you might want to check in there periodically.

iGive and AmazonSmile also play nicely together.  That is, iGive generates a donation of .8% on Amazon purchases, and AmazonSmile generates .5%, so entering AmazonSmile via iGive generates donations equal to 1.3% of your base Amazon purchases.

There are also programs out there that encourage individual donations by making them easy and/or automatic.  For example, the PayPal Giving Fund has reportedly generated over $500 million in charity donations by inspiring “people to give more – and more often.”  Similarly, eBay Giving Works “encourages sellers to automatically give a portion of the proceeds from their sales” to a given charity, and urges buyers to add a donation to their purchase at checkout.

Happy Shopping!  

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