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Amazon Cuts AmazonSmile, Angering Nonprofits and Customers

When Laura Hogue, who works at an animal fostering non-profit in Louisville, Kentucky, read the email about AmazonSmile discontinuing, she was “offended.”

“The program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped,” Amazon wrote in a Wednesday email that announced the cancellation of the program, which will begin on February 20.

“With so many eligible organizations—more than 1 million globally—our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin,” the email added.

Hogue, a full-time paralegal, also works as the (unpaid) treasurer and director for Pit Bulls of St Francis (PBSF) Dog Rescue in Louisville, Kentucky. While PBSF does not have a physical facility, it connects dogs at risk of euthanization to foster homes.

Hogue tells Entrepreneur that PBSF brought in about $600 from AmazonSmile last year. “You could say that’s not really a lot of money,” she said. “But that $600, for us, saves one or two dogs, and to me, that’s a significant impact.”

AmazonSmile donates 0.5% of eligible purchases made on to a charitable organization of the shopper’s choice. Nonprofits would also encourage supporters to choose their organization while using AmazonSmile.

Hogue said the email “made us feel diminutive.”

“I just felt was really insulting for them to say they don’t feel like they’re making enough impact,” she added.

AmazonSmile began in 2013, and the company said Thursday more than $500 million has been donated to charities since it launched. It has also faced public relations issues with the program, like when it had to remove militia groups from the platform in 2021.

Amazon likely axed the program as part of an ongoing effort to reduce costs. The company began layoffs Wednesday expected to impact some 18,000 people, the largest in all of its company history.

Related: ‘Important Information About Your Role’: Amazon Delivers News of Layoffs via Email

In its Wednesday statement, Amazon said it would give charities that have used AmazonSmile a donation “equivalent to three months of what they earned in 2022 through the program,” and highlighted other charitable initiatives it would continue to support.

Amazon pointed to its statement in response to a request for comment, which says the company plans to invest $2 billion in “affordable housing” in the cities where it operates, for example, and that removing this program would help it focus on other philanthropy.

Still, several nonprofits across the country are expressing shock and anger at Amazon for abruptly discontinuing the program late Wednesday.

Another animal-related nonprofit, a sanctuary in New York called Crouton & Friends, Tweeted that the donations (it’s unclear what the timeline was) “meant the world.”

“I’m so sad to see the donations go,” Genna Nessel, wrote in a Facebook group connected to The Amputee Connection of Redlands, a California nonprofit that supports people who have experienced the loss of a limb.

“NO, NO, NO!!!!!! You do not realize HOW VERY MUCH Amazon Smile has helped us small non-profits!!,” Facebook user Barbara Weber Seaman wrote, who appears to be one of the founders of Felines Under Rescue nonprofit in Alabama.

Customers seemed to be frustrated, too. One user wrote on Amazon’s public Facebook page, “every bit helped our local charities. Shame.”

Eli Coen, CEO of Lero, an e-commerce consultancy, told Entrepreneur via text: “Amazon got greedy.”

Hogue also says she used Amazon to shop for supplies or dog food, even when it was a bit more expensive because she liked how they gave back with Smile. But now she plans to cancel her regular Amazon biweekly order for her dog food on her personal account — and sign up for one with Chewy, an online pet retailer. (Several users have commented on the company’s most recent Facebook post that they will cancel services like Amazon Prime.)

PBSF also has an Amazon wishlist.

“Now I think I might just cut that out.. and ask people to send us gift cards,” she said.

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