Passive Income for Nonprofits: How to replace AmazonSmile

February 20, 2023
6 minutes

When Amazon Smile ended on February 20, 2023, it marked the end of an era. No matter what you’re thinking or how you feel, no matter whether your nonprofit cashed in loads o’ dough (we feel for you losing that income with basically no notice! 😞) or just enough for a personal pan pizza party for one, this is a great opportunity to rev up the ol’ rev gen engine with passive income ideas.

Most of these take a little effort to set up, but we’ll bet our monthly donation money that they’ll yield as much or more than AmazonSmile did—and be less of a PITA.

Passive income fundraising ideas for nonprofits

Come with us down the path of least resistance—but most donations.

1. Donors Cover Fees

We’re gonna start with one that is easy, obvious, FREE, and a little controversial (although it shouldn’t be): asking your donors to cover processing fees. You’ve already made the ask. They’re already onboard to donate. Donors Cover Fees expands their impact in a tangible way—with no additional effort on your part.

2. Recurring donor programs

The next one is another one that we think will be obvious, so please excuse us if you’re already all set with a smart, predictable, buildable recurring revenue stream. If not, take this as your sign to start a membership program that’ll bring in recurring donations—it can be as simple as setting up your donation form to prioritize recurring options and then highlighting the ongoing impact on your website.

3. Corporate donation matching

Yet another low-labor lever to pull is corporate donation matching. Funraise’s integration with Double the Donation is easy to implement and taps into a pool of up to $7B in unclaimed matching gift funds each year.

4. Add a donation button to socials

Ok, now for the ideas that’ll require a bit more work on the front end. At the top of our list? Add a donation button or CTA to all of your social profiles: Facebook, IG, TikTok, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter. Some social platforms have their own donation widgets or ways that they facilitate giving, while others allow a link in your bio or in your post comments. But take it from us… make sure to send those clicks straight to a donation page. Not your homepage, not a “Ways to help” page, not a page explaining your donation levels. A donation page. A donation button leading to a donation form. Where people can make a donation.

5. Small change for big impact

Get donors to give big without feeling the pinch! Try a sneaky little app like our friend RoundUp App that makes a big impact with donors’ spare change. Just like a lot of these ideas, it requires getting the word out, but once it’s rolling, it’s easy peasy lemon squeezy.

6. Write the book on… something

If you’re itching to get some money through Amazon, there are other ways. Like… write an ebook from your nonprofit perspective on animals or your best recipes for lasagna and self publish through Amazon. Yes, it’s an initial outlay to set up the account and write the book, but there are tons of tutorials online, and once it’s done, it’s there basically forever. Or until Amazon pulls a Smile and yoinks your income.

7. Create a digital download

Does the idea of writing a book scare the boogers out of you? Us too. Fortunately, that’s not the only digital property that can bring in passive income. Create an electronic resource like a knitting pattern and put it on Etsy, design a logoed home textile design and put it on Spoonflower, or mock up logoed swag and sell it via on-demand printing. Whatever your strength is, there’s someone out there who needs it.

8. Affiliate links

Another way to bring in cash directly from Amazon is using affiliate links. If you’re linking to an Amazon Wishlist, get a commission on items your supporters purchase—the percentage is usually more than what you would have gotten through AmazonSmile. And if you’re divesting from Amazon, there are lots of other affiliate programs and affiliate guides for beginners that’ll help you find the right program for you.

9. Cross posting on socials

If you’ve got profiles on social platforms that you’re not posting on… why not? These days, there are many tools that can take care of the cross posting for you. Even combined with the donation buttons you put on your social profiles, it still may not bring in a lot of additional income—but we’re just trying to replace that $40 you received from AmazonSmile each quarter, remember?

10. Get to Googling

See what the internet has to say. Let’s be honest, as we researched this article, we obviously googled “passive income for nonprofits”. In between the listicles and ads, there were a few things to explore, like ShopRaise. Obviously, we can’t comment on that or any other, similar program, but taking an hour to investigate and another hour to set something up sounds reasonable to us.

11. Local partnerships

An oldie, but a goodie. Set up an ongoing partnership with local businesses. Anytime "your" beer or "your" dog food is purchased, a small donation goes to you. Sounds good to us!

12. Stay ready

There are lots of companies that have little-known programs that you can join, apply for, or ask your supporters to investigate on your behalf! Think NextDoor Sell for Good, web extensions that make donations for every search, or credit cards that make a donation for every purchase. So stay ready and keep your eyes peeled for opportunity!

How to set up passive income for your nonprofit

So… do all those things above and just wave goodbye to your AmazonSmile money?

Kind of, yes. How about we give you a lil’ checklist to make it easy?

  1. First, cheer that you won’t have to deal with explaining to anyone that they have to purchase through the smile.whatever link or you won’t get the donation. Feel the sweet relief of not having to break it to your donors that unless they spent $300,000 through AmazonSmile, they didn’t actually donate $1500 to your organization. And bask in the realization that you’ll never have to tell a donor, “No, AmazonSmile donations are not supposed to be on your tax receipt.”
  2. Then, get down to business. Find and remove any links to your AmazonSmile account. Look on your website, your email template, your social media profiles, and idk, your business cards. If it screws up the way your site or emails look, just replace what you have with a(n affiliate) link that directs to your Amazon Wishlist and make sure the copy clearly states exactly where your supporter will be taken.
  3. Keep your Wishlist up to date for folks that come through for your organization by buying the physical items your nonprofit needs. To note: If your Wishlist was created in the Smile program, you may be required to start a new Wishlist outside the program.
  4. Choose one or more of the passive income ideas above. Get busy setting it up and remember that the effort you put in right now will pay off in the months and years to come.
  5. Start promoting your new passive channels to your audience. Remember that it takes more than one mention to get people on board with a new idea, so don’t stop talking about corporate donation matching or your sweet new members-only program or your powerhouse local partners.
  6. Let it go. That extra $37.46 you got last year isn’t worth it. Invest in yourself, your organization, and your impact.

Passive Income Ideas for Nonprofits: Takeaways

  • AmazonSmile wasn’t as easy or comfy as you’re remembering right now. It was even kind of a frustrating burden sometimes.
  • Passive income is always a good idea for your nonprofit. And there are countless ways to tap into low-effort, long-term revenue streams.
  • Take the time to set up your new passive income revenue plans properly. If you want these to be truly passive, do your future self a favor and document what you did, how long and how much you put into it, and check on them every so often.
  • Give it a chance to ramp up. Your new revenue stream probably won’t be bringing in bank the first day. Let it do its thing. In the meantime, your role is to let everyone know (over and over) about your program or partnership or path or product.
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