Passive Income for Nonprofits: How to replace AmazonSmile

February 20, 2023
6 minutes
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Remember AmazonSmile? The slightly-oddball giveback program that ended on February 20, 2023 marked an era of mostly-small donations from one of the world's largest retailers.

Let's reflect on the time since AmazonSmile shuttered; no matter whether your nonprofit cashed in loads o’ dough or just enough for a personal pan pizza party for one, its closing offered a great opportunity to rev up the ol’ rev gen engine with passive income ideas. Most of these ideas required a little effort to set up, but if you put them into motion when you waved goodbye to AmazonSmile, we’ll bet our monthly donation money that they’re now yielding as much or more than AmazonSmile did—and they're less of a PITA.

When should I set up passive income for my nonprofit?

Well, if, like many nonprofits, you didn't have time to set up any passive income streams (since Amazon gave us basically no notice before they shut AmazonSmile down), this is a new dawn, a new day, a new fundraising goal—and you can do this. Just bear in mind that passive income streams require some effort to lift, need time to gain momentum, and are meant to supplement more active fundraising streams, not replace them.

So our answer to the above question "When should I set up passive income for my nonprofit?" is now. Today. Pick one of the ideas below and just get started.

Easy 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.

Cameron Bartlett, expert in digital fundraising and marketing for nonprofits like IJM, New Story, Compassion, Cure, World Vision and Stop Soldier Suicide has this to say:

Make sure your donation platform makes it easy for one-time donors to seamlessly give monthly instead. It’s more than just having the binary option to give once or monthly, but tested and optimized upselling tools like you’ll find with Funraise. And simply turning these on could help you passively start converting more people, before you change anything else.

And Andrew Webb, one of Funraise's resident Fundraising Specialists, echoes Cameron:

Having a call to action and steps like Funraise's recurring upsell incentivizes people to commit to a recurring gift versus a one-time gift.

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.

More nonprofit passive income ideas

Ok, now for the ideas that’ll require a bit more work on the front end. You got this!

4. Add a donation button to socials

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!

Bonus! Strategic partnerships are one fundraising trend we're seeing a lot of these days. As Funraise's Chief Product Officer and Co-founder, Tony Sasso, says,

Strategic partnerships increase IRL brand awareness and confidence in your nonprofit, allowing you to become a real part of your supporters' lives by connecting your mission with brands that supporters already love and trust.

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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