Contributing to the common good is one of the very best reasons for becoming more tech savvy. It’s even better when your use of tech helps people in need (or the planet) at no cost to you, and via a process that makes your donations automatic and effortless. Once you set up your participation, you’ll ask yourself, “Why wouldn’t I do this?”

In the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the massive earthquakes in Mexico (can these disasters stop, please?), many of us logged onto rescue organization websites such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army and World Vision to give money. That’s good.

Yet some of us may have been left with a slightly unsettled feeling. We see the news, we are moved to help today, but we know that individual catastrophes affect many thousands of people every day with no media fanfare. Yes, we wish we could give more on an ongoing basis to all people in need.

 
 

How Can We Help?

Technology has made it possible for you to help people every single day – and without even pulling any more money out of your own pocket – simply by shopping online. How? By using shopping or search portals that bring companies and consumers together for good causes.

Let me explain how it works.

Thousands of companies now implement Corporate Social Responsibility into their business models. This is a commitment to use a part of their profits or resources to help people rather than sell to them.

One way they do this is by partnering with organizations that send customers their way in exchange for a small percentage of sales proceeds. The organizations who run these programs distribute the money to good causes.

When you choose to use one of these shopping or search portals, a part of what you pay for your purchases (and you will pay normal regular prices) goes into a charity’s kitty instead of the merchant’s coffers.

Here’s one example:

AmazonSmile

Shopping through Amazon’s special portal guarantees that all of your purchases automatically generate money that’s donated to a charity of your choice.

Do you pay higher prices than on the “regular” Amazon.com? No. Do you have fewer products to choose from? No. The product lineup is exactly the same.

Why doesn’t Amazon simply make this donation feature a part of their “regular” site? I don’t know, but it’s available only for those who log in through the “smile” door. And if that’s all that’s required, why not do it?

AmazonSmile donates 0.5% of your purchases to a charity of your choice. It costs you nothing, and it takes no extra work on your part, save for selecting your charity one time from a drop-down list. It’s worth mentioning that you can change your preferred charity at any time.

But, you might protest, half of a percent isn’t much, is it? Well, no, it isn’t. For example, say you spend $5,000 in a year on Amazon. What will that $5,000 worth of shopping generate for your charity?

Answer: $25.

Yes, that’s not much, but it’s something, and it costs you nothing.

Think of the bigger picture: if a million people shop on AmazonSmile, that’s $25 million dollars, right? As of August 2017, the cumulative contributions received by all charities supported by AmazonSmile totaled $62,069,818.82. That’s over 62 million dollars for the good, all generated with a single click.

How to Use AmazonSmile

Go to smile.amazon.com and sign up. If you already have an Amazon account, log in to AmazonSmile using your regular amazon.com user ID and password.

The website will prompt you to select a charitable organization.

Now, when you want to shop on Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com instead, and shop like you always do. You’ll have the same range of choices and the same pricing as on “regular’ Amazon, but your purchases will result in a donation of 0.5% of the total spent to the charity of your choice.

Other Ways to Give to Charity by Shopping

You can find several other websites and apps that give to charities when you shop through them. Some give larger percentages of your spending dollars than AmazonSmile does. And some, like Giving Assistant, also give cash back to the shopper, so you benefit directly, too.

Check out GoodShop and iGive for similar programs.

Increase Your Charitable Donations

I’m not suggesting that you substitute charity-linked shopping for your usual charitable giving. Keep giving to the charities of your choice as you usually do – at holiday times, in response to catastrophes or as a monthly contribution.

But, you can always add a little extra all year round by shopping on sites or using tools that add a charitable component to your spending.

Learn More

If you’re attending Women At Woodstock this year, I’ll be sharing more details at my tech workshop on how you can use these online tools to create donations out of thin air.

I will also cover free apps that save you considerable amounts of money and time as well as some cool computer tips and shortcuts that help you save your sanity when you’re at the keyboard.

Do you use other programs similar to AmazonSmile, Giving Assistant, GoodShop or iGive? If you use services like these, how much money have you generated for your favorite charity from your purchases? Please share your experiences below.

Ann Voorhees BakerAnn Voorhees Baker is a writer, website designer and SEO and social media marketing specialist. She is also Founder and Organizer of Women At Woodstock. She produces two annual events – a workshop and a mastermind weekend for women over 50 and a writers retreat for women of all ages. Both are held in Woodstock, NY.

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