Right On the Money: Two Ways Your Organization Can Benefit From Holiday Shopping

Friends shopping together.

Last year, while doing his holiday shopping online, Joseph Sorensen decided to donate a portion of his purchases to his favorite charity. He did all of this with hardly any effort at all through Amazon Smile, a version of the Amazon.com website that donates 0.5 percent of the price of purchases to the charitable organization of a shopper’s choice.

“It’s so convenient,” says Sorensen, who is administrative assistant at Willis Dady Emergency Homeless Shelter in Cedar Rapids, IA. “You just chose the agency you’d like to donate to and shop. It’s really easy if you’re shopping on Amazon anyway.”

After using it for his personal shopping, Sorensen signed Willis Dady up for Amazon Smile program earlier this year.

His experience illustrates the double benefit of Amazon Smile and a similar give-while-you-shop service called Goodsearch. Charities can make pocket change with little effort while enabling their supporters to shop and do good at the same time.

“It allows us to integrate into what people are doing when they’re not necessarily even meaning to do good,” says Stacy Massey, communications and media relations coordinator for The Night Ministry in Chicago, which raises money on Goodsearch. “It’s a cool way for us to be engaged with them.”

How Give-While-You Shop Services Work

Amazon Smile

“You just get it set up and then you can kind of let it go,” Sorensen says.

If your organization is included in GuideStar, an online database of IRS-registered charities, you’re already on Amazon’s list, but you have to register to receive the money through Amazon Smile.

A charity’s supporters go to smile.amazon.com to do their shopping. For every $100 they spend, 50 cents goes to the nonprofit organization.

“So far it’s not a huge amount of money,” Sorensen says. “A lot of people would have to do a lot of shopping to get a lot, but we’re interested to see what kind of return we’ll be getting over time.”


Goodsearch can be used for online shopping at over 5,000 retailers, with a small percentage of the purchase price (about 1 to 6 percent, or sometimes more) going to charity. The service also works as a Web browser, donating a penny to the charitable organization of the user’s choice for each Web search. Users select a nonprofit then search and shop online.

“It’s an opportunity for people to shop places they already shop online and give a percentage back,” Massey says. “The retailers are ones you already shop with, and it’s a nice way for our supporters to support us without spending any of their own money.”

Massey said The Night Ministry starting using and promoting Goodsearch about two years ago. The amount of money coming in through Goodsearch is not huge, but she said the organization is appreciative of all donations, and using Goodsearch allows people to think of The Night Ministry whenever they shop.

The Holiday Season Is a Good Time to Get Started

Sorensen and Massey say the end of the year – when lots of people are both shopping and making year-end charitable donations -- is a good time to take advantage of Amazon Smile and Goodsearch, although the donations will keep coming year-round.

“This is a great buying time so if people keep it in mind and use Amazon, it’s great for us,” says Michele Chausse, communications director for Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in Boston that uses Amazon Smile.

Tips to Get the Most of Amazon Smile and Goodsearch

  • Send frequent email reminders to supporters to shop using these services, especially around the holidays. Chausse says she also has been promoting Amazon Smile on her organization’s website, at fundraisers, and through the annual holiday newsletter.
  • Promote the services on Facebook and Twitter. Sorensen says creating an infographic or photo directing people to the site (rather than just posting plain text) is especially effective, since images are more frequently shared on social media.
  • Include an insert about the services in every thank you letter sent out to donors.
  • Create a promo to use up space in a program booklet or when there isn’t something specific to post about on social media.
  • When promoting Goodsearch, mention particular retailers your supporters are likely to shop from. The familiar retail brands make donors more likely to try the service out, Massey added.

Learn more about Amazon Smile for charitable organizations.

Learn more about getting started with Goodsearch.

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