Life&Style Writer Romana Essop discusses a new phenomenon where online shopping companies donate a small amount of money to charity every time you make a purchase
The British public are often commended for our generosity when it comes to charity donations, with upcoming annual events like Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day (15th March) raising millions for various causes. So, when websites like AmazonSmile and GoRaise claim that we can now make ‘free donations’ to our favourite charities, why aren’t we all doing it? Is it too good to be true?
Well, strictly speaking, donations are not free since they require customers to buy products online which then results in a small donation, the size of which often depends on how much is spent at which retailer. However, the process is relatively simple and requires little more than signing up to a site for free, choosing a charity, then clicking a link to visit your chosen retailer’s online website and shopping as usual. No additional cost is added to your products at checkout and the donation comes from a commission the retailer pays to whichever donation site you’ve chosen. So, if we’re going to buy £50 of stuff from ASOS anyway, why not let a charity benefit at the same time?
Unfortunately, the terms and conditions on popular ‘free donation’ websites complicate things slightly, especially for us students. After looking at five of these sites, it seems most prevent the use of student discounts or other promotional codes if we want our online shopping to have a positive impact to balance out the breaking of our own bank accounts. GoRaise, The Giving Machine, Give as you Live and others also discriminate between new and existing customers, with some retailers offering smaller donation percentages for existing customers, and others excluding them all together. What’s more, some retailers, through sites such as Easy Fundraising, require minimum spending amounts often far above the expected total of a budgeting student’s online basket.
With such restrictive and complicated T&Cs and a donation percentage usually no more than 5%, it seems a lot of effort having to essentially shop around on these websites for the sake of less than a couple of quid. And of course, these ‘free donations’ are only available for online shopping. In this case, maybe we’re better off using our student status (often granting us at least a 10% discount), shopping direct wherever we want, and just dropping a pound into the next charity donation pot we see in Starbucks.
Perhaps AmazonSmile would argue that they are the solution to such problems, since they do indeed work slightly differently to the other websites previously mentioned. The most obvious distinctions (and arguable disadvantages) are that ‘free donations’ are only applicable to products bought on Amazon, and the donation amount is a mere 0.5%, which is small even compared to the amounts offered from other similar schemes. However, existing Amazon accounts (and thus, existing customers) can be used to sign up, there is no minimum spend requirement, and with such a wide range of products eligible (easily recognisable from the product descriptions), chances are, we’ve been seriously missing out on making a difference to thousands of causes.
It’s easy enough to use this Amazon initiative, but others like GoRaise have introduced ‘donation reminders’ which can help users ensure that they shop via them to make the most of their shopping. Give As You Live and more have also invested in apps for mobiles and tablets to support donations on multiple device types, which perhaps places them above AmazonSmile, who are yet to transfer their services to the Amazon shopping app.
Any percentage under 5% may seem too minute to make a difference to anyone, but user accounts and donation alert emails provided by many of these websites allow customers to keep track of their personal donation amounts which can quickly add up. Some sites also have statistics available which showcase the collective impact of all their users, claiming to have donated millions to charitable causes since they began.
So, maybe it’s worth a little of more of our time and effort; just a couple more clicks on our phones and laptops could massively help a local, national or even global cause. In the same way we continue to donate to our favourite causes month after month or year after year, a little more can’t hurt, especially if it technically won’t cost us a penny.
Websites and schemes mentioned in this article (featuring some of their best donation offers):
- Use your existing Amazon account to log in via smile.amazon.co.uk and shop as usual
- 5% of price of eligible products donated (only for products sold on Amazon)
- Occasional promotions which result in higher donation amounts for certain products
- PrettyLittleThing 1.5% existing customers (2.5% new customers)
- Boots up to 1.25% existing customers (up to 4% new customers)
- ASOS 3% new/existing customers (not available with student discount)
- Boohoo 2% new/existing customers (3.5% for boohooMAN)
Give as you Live
- New Look 1% existing customers (3.5% new customers)
- Urban Outfitters 3%
The Giving Machine
- Topshop 2.8% existing customers (4.2% new customers)
- Argos 1.05% (excludes Click&Collect and voucher codes)