Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Amazon Brings A Smile And Good Will

Jeff Bezos
While still under a year old, it's hard not to smile about the Amazon Smile program, an online philanthropic effort that invites online shoppers to pick the charity of their choice. Once selected, Amazon will automatically donate .5 percent of all eligible purchases made by that shopper to the nonprofit they pick.

There are almost a million charities, schools, and nonprofit organizations to choose from — enough that it is impossible to list them all. The easiest way to find a specific nonprofit organization is to use the Amazon Smile search tool. You might be surprised by some of the organizations you'll find.

In giving the good will effort a test run, I found several local nonprofit organizations that I assumed would be too small for the program. The difference between being included or not is largely up to the organization. Amazon Smile has guidelines for eligibility, including inclusion on GuideStar.

How charities enroll in a program designed to raise revenue. 

Once an official representative of an eligible organization verifies that their nonprofit hasn't been enrolled, all they have to do is complete an administrator account and accept the terms of service. Once Amazon is able verify the organization's email, bank account, and eligibility requirements, the organization will be added to the program.

Amazon Smile
Amazon also asks that the program be listed by GuideStar, which gathers information about every nonprofit organization's mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, governance, and more. Many organizations are listed on GuideStar but may not have had their reports updated. Any nonprofit can update its report for free.

Report fields are labeled blue, bronze, silver, and gold. Blue fields can be updated immediately. All other colors require varying degrees of confirmation. Updates are usually completed in 24-48 hours.

The important thing to remember is that GuideStar isn't a charity watchdog or evaluator. All it does is collect and organize information so donors have a better understanding of an organization, which is why Amazon Smile asks organizations to be listed before releasing any funds raised by purchases.

Amazon Smile Spotlights Several Organizations You Know. 

Although there are almost a million charities already listed, Amazon Smile does spotlight several well-known organizations. Here are five currently spotlighted.

American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. It is also becoming one of the biggest suppliers of blood in the nation.

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. It has more than one million members and has protected more then 119 million acres of land.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other deadly diseases. No family that turns to this hospital ever pays for anything.

Charity: Water is a nonprofit organization that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. It was featured as a good will pick last year. is leading the effort to bring computer programming education to every student in every school. It places an emphasis on the idea that anyone can learn these valuable skills.

While .5 percent might not seem like much, it adds up via Amazon. If everyone participated by selecting a nonprofit organization, then Amazon would contribute an additional $400 million to charities every year.

Amazon Smile And Whoever You Want Is A Good Will Pick From Liquid Hip. 

At least once a month, Liquid Hip highlights good will efforts undertaken by people with big hearts. We don't score them. That belongs to you.

Amazon might be a big company, but its heart is in the right place with Amazon Smile. While most corporate giving programs funnel a portion of consumer purchases toward nonprofit organizations, few allow their customers to help direct their contributions or even remain visible to the organization.

This one does. And while not everyone is fond of the program, it still represents a step in the right direction. The more connected contributors are to a benefactor, the more likely they will support the organization behind .5 percent of their shopping purchases. And while the Amazon Smile program can't replace actual donations, it's a very clear way to give a little bit more (even if it is only $50 a year).
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