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Myth #1 - AmazonSmile is the only Amazon school fundraiser open to PTOs, PTAs, and other school groups
Truth: AmazonSmile is better known, but schools and related non-profits are also welcome to participate in the Amazon Associates Program, which pays MUCH more.
Started in 1996, the Amazon Associates Program is Amazon’s affiliate marketing program comprising millions of businesses and non-profits worldwide. Associates can earn up to 10% of sales that they refer to Amazon.com or Smile.Amazon.com, plus special bounties. Bounties are fixed payments for specific events (e.g., $3 for each visitor who signs up for a free trial of Amazon Prime).
AmazonSmile is a charitable program where the AmazonSmile Foundation donates .5% of qualifying purchases made through its Smile.Amazon.com website to U.S. charities designated by shoppers. Amazon has promoted this charitable program widely to U.S. non-profits and their supporters since it started the program in 2013. I think that’s why many PTO / PTA volunteers assume it’s the only Amazon school fundraising option for them.
Myth #2 – Your group must be a registered 501(c)(3) charity to raise money for your school with Amazon
Truth: AmazonSmile is restricted to U.S. charitable organizations qualified under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. However, the Amazon Associates Program is open to businesses and non-profit organizations, regardless of whether they are recognized 501(c)(3)s.
Basically, all you need to join Amazon Associates is a federal tax identification number (for PTOs and PTAs, that would be your EIN), a website, and a bank account to receive payments.
Myth #3 – School groups are only raising small amounts of money (like around $100 a year) through Amazon fundraising
Truth: PTOs, PTAs, and other school groups across the country are using the Amazon Associates Program to raise hundreds to several thousands of dollars a year.
Our PTO was only raising about $130 per year through AmazonSmile. So, I was very surprised to learn that schools were raising far more money with Amazon Associates for the same amount of effort. I’ve found over 350 school groups fundraising with Amazon Associates, and I have been contacting them to collect fundraising results and tips for success. (To see the list of the Amazon school fundraising results I’ve collected found so far, click here.)
Myth #4 -- Amazon School Rewards is closed
Truth: Okay, this is partly true.
Amazon stopped offering the School Rewards program, which was a small part of the Amazon Associate Program aimed at schools, in 2013. However, you will still see many school groups using Amazon School Rewards graphics and text on their websites. School groups and other non-profits are welcome to raise money for their schools by participating directly in the broader Associates Program.
Amazon confirms that this includes using the Amazon School Rewards banner ads that are available in Associates Central, the resource area for Associates. As you can see, the Amazon School Reward banners, like the one on the left below, make it more clear why parents should click compared to the more generic home page banners available in Associates Central, so it's a good option to have.
Myth #5 – With Amazon fundraising, you can “set it and forget it”!
Truth: Amazon Associate fundraising is as easy as it gets, because your group is getting paid for something it’s already doing: shopping. Still, as with any ongoing fundraiser, you must promote it regularly or your families will be the ones who forget it, and earnings will run dry. Your Amazon Associates coordinator should also check now and then to make sure links are working properly.
One thing is for sure. If you want your Amazon Associate earnings to add up fast, you have to be ready for the holiday shopping season. That’s something the highest earning Associate school groups have in common. They send out regular reminders to families even over winter and summer school vacations. (Tip: If your group has a Facebook fan Page, you can use “Publishing Tools” to schedule a batch of reminders ahead of time so you don’t have to bother with it over vacation. Although, I do hear that Amazon Associate coordinators enjoy logging in over the holidays to see the results ;)
Ready to start your own Amazon Associates school fundraiser?
Be sure to check out these resources:
Amazon Fundraising Challenge – Free email course steps you through the process of starting your own profitable Amazon Associates fundraiser. Course delivered in 6 emails.
Amazon school fundraising results – Real-life Amazon fundraising results from schools across the country.
Infographic – Amazon Associates v. Amazon Smile Comparison Guide – How they work, how much they pay, and how to get started.
Care to share your thoughts? Have questions? Comment below or send me a note by clicking the email icon below. I would love to hear from you.