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AmazonSmile charity program ends

The online retailer said it wants to focus on donating to bigger programs that have greater impact

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People stand in the lobby for Amazon offices in New York.

In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, people stand in the lobby for Amazon offices in New York. Amazon is ending a charity donation program it ran for a decade in its latest cost-cutting move. In a blog post on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, the company said the program, called AmazonSmile, will shut down by Feb. 20.

Mark Lennihan, Associated Press

Amazon is ending the “AmazonSmile” program, which let consumers designate charities that would benefit a little from the goods bought from the online retailers.

On its blog, Amazon said it will close AmazonSmile “to focus its philanthropic giving to programs with greater impact.”

The notice said the company, “which ranks among the top corporate philanthropists in the U.S., will continue to pursue and invest in other areas where it can make meaningful change — from building affordable housing to providing access to computer science education for students in underserved communities.”

The program will end by Feb. 20, per Amazon. And it said that it will provide the charities that had been part of the program “a one-time donation equivalent to three months of what they earned in 2022 through the program.”

They’ll also get any donations that accrue between now and the program’s close.

Amazon said that when the Smile program ends, “charities will still be able to seek support from Amazon customers by creating their own wish lists” of items than can be purchased on Amazon.

The New York Times reported that the change “comes as Amazon undertakes 18,000 layoffs — the largest retrenchment in its history — but a company spokesman said the decision was not a cost-cutting measure.”

How AmazonSmile worked

Amazon customers who signed up for the Smile program could designate that a half-percent of the price of their eligible purchases would go to charity, at no cost to themselves. Charities could sign up and the customers could choose a category of concern, like charities that provide clean water, or specify a recipient.

Amazon said it has distributed close to a half-billion dollars in donations as a result of the AmazonSmile program since its inception in 2013.

The New York Times said some groups received significant support. For instance, St, Jude Children’s Research Hospital got $15 million over the course of the program, the article said.

But company spokesman Patrick Malone told the Times that most charities got about $230 each, so the company decided to stop AmazonSmile and instead look at making larger donations that impact big problems like housing affordability.

Amazon was also criticized by some Republicans over the years for its vetting process, such as removing organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center described as “hate groups” from the list of organizations to which a donation would be made.

Future plans

Among the company’s planned philanthropic investments once AmazonSmile ends:

  • $2 billion to build and preserve affordable housing in the company’s “hometown communities.”
  • Amazon funded computer science curriculum to 600,000 students in 5,000 schools in underserved communities. It said it plans to reach 1 million more students this year.
  • The company said it will deliver 12 million more meals in 2023, building on its partnership with food banks in 35 cities.
  • Disaster relief and community giving are also planned.