Looking for a way to encourage in-kind donations? Amazon has two programs that can help you get in-kind donations with ease, and ensure that you get the items your nonprofit actually needs. With Amazon, donors can even send items directly to the organizations of their choice—a contact-free way to share the love.
With #GivingTuesday and the holidays on the horizon, we decided to compare two methods for collecting in-kind donations through Amazon: Wish Lists and AmazonSmile.
Exploring the Amazon (Wish List)
Using an Amazon Wish List is an excellent way to receive in-kind donations. Generally speaking, an in-kind donation is a non-monetary donation (for more information on in-kind donations, our friends at Charitable Allies have some great resources).
Whether you’re a homeless shelter in need of blankets or a food pantry in need of children’s snacks, Amazon Wish Lists can be a great option for your organization.
- Wish Lists allows donors to select the specific items you need and send them directly to your nonprofit, eliminating the cost of collecting donations from pickup sites. You can even choose the option that removes items from your wishlist once you’ve received enough of them so you don’t end up with too much of any item. And you don’t have to limit giving to office hours!
- Your organization’s address can be hidden, which can be especially helpful for organizations like domestic violence shelters.
- Unlike AmazonSmile (which we will discuss later in this article), your organization does not need to have its 501c3 status from the IRS to enjoy the benefits of Wish Lists.
- While AmazonSmile provides customizable landing pages you can embed in your website, Wish Lists do not have this feature, so you will need to share the link with your supporters. We’d be happy to help you create a strategy to get the word out!
- Collecting donations in this way may still be susceptible to obligations on donor reporting and tax deductibility. Check out this Charitable Allies article to learn more about tax deductibility for in-kind donations.
- Depending on your donor demographic, your supporters may not be familiar with online shopping or might prefer to give in-person. Your team will need to assess whether your Wish List should be the primary way to collect in-kind donations or if online giving should be a supplemental option.
If you’ve decided you’d like to set up an Amazon Wish List, the good news is it’s as simple as setting up a Wish List for an individual—with one extra step.
To set up your nonprofit’s Wish List, head over to Accounts & Lists, then go to Create a List. We recommend making your list name the same as your nonprofit’s name for easy searchability.
Once you’ve created your list, hover over More and go to Manage List.
The dropdown next to List For will let you choose between You or An Organization. Choose An Organization and then save your changes. Make sure your nonprofit’s address is the one connected to your account!
Now that you’ve created your Wish List, you can begin directing others to donate! Check out this example from Coburn Place, a transitional housing organization that services survivors of interpersonal abuse:
Their “Wish List Wednesdays” alert their supporters of what the exact needs of the organization are for each week. Some donors like to know their donations directly support certain programs, and this is a great way to show how donations tangibly serve the cause.
The Pros and Cons of AmazonSmile
You may have heard of AmazonSmile, which enables nonprofit organizations to receive donations from Amazon Smile shoppers. These donations can either be 0.5% of customers’ eligible purchases when they shop or physical items through AmazonSmile Charity Lists, which give customers the ability to order items and ship them directly to the nonprofit.
While setting up an AmazonSmile account is relatively easy for Amazon shoppers, organizations who want to be able to receive AmazonSmile donations have a few more factors to consider:
- Signing up with AmazonSmile puts you “on the map” for donors looking to give to your cause, free of cost to both customers and your charitable organization.
- The convenience of the Charity Lists allow donors to select items and send them directly to your nonprofit, similar to Wish Lists.
- You can get a link to a customized AmazonSmile landing page for your organization that you may use in email newsletters, on your website, or in social media posts.
- Your organization must have an EIN and be recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501c3 to be eligible for AmazonSmile—so if you’re awaiting your determination letter or don’t intend to file right away, this option may not be ideal.
- The 0.5% that gets taken out of AmazonSmile customers’ purchases most likely won’t amount to any substantial donation. According to Charitable Navigators, in order for an AmazonSmile shopper to contribute just $25 to your charity, they’d have to spend about $5,000!
- Amazon does not provide donation reports for AmazonSmile “percentage of proceeds” donations, so it’s difficult for you to send thank you letters or know who is supporting your nonprofit in this way.
If your nonprofit is still waiting for your 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS, Amazon wishlists can be a great way to easily accept in-kind donations. But if your nonprofit is fully established, AmazonSmile does provide the added benefit of being able to accept the monetary donations generated from purchases.
Looking for a little extra guidance this holiday season? Reach out to us. Our nonprofit experts can help with anything from 1 on 1 leadership coaching to creating a social media strategy for your charity.