PTO Guide to Amazon School Rewards

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Amazon School Rewards was replaced by two online fundraising options for schools: Amazon Associates and AmazonSmile


I have noticed quite a bit of confusion about Amazon fundraising in Facebook groups and online forums for PTO / PTA leaders. This article aims to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Amazon School Rewards, Amazon Associates Program, and Amazon Smile for schools. I’d be happy to answer more, so if you have Amazon fundraising questions, please comment below or email me.

If you're ready to start and grow your own Amazon Associates fundraiser, click here to check out the resources at the bottom of this page. 

Amazon School Rewards

In 2013, Amazon stopped offering Amazon School Rewards, a fundraiser for schools that was part of the larger Amazon Associates affiliate marketing program. However, as you can see from these school-related Help topics on the Amazon Associates website says, schools are welcome to participate directly in the Amazon Associates Program.

Amazon Associates Program policies  "Can I sign up my non-profit for the Associates Program?  Yes, your non-profit organization can join the Associates Program. Other organizations that have joined the Program include charities, churches, schools, alumni associations and many others. Please be aware of all Participation Guidelines, especially those relating to offering incentives.  I saw a school website that said they’re part of the Amazon School Rewards Program. How do I sign up?  We're no longer offering a School Rewards program through the Associates Program. However, your school is welcome to participate directly in the Associates Program and earn advertising fees for qualifying items that are sold through your Associates links."

The Amazon Associates Program is open to businesses and non-profit organizations around the world. If your school group joins the Amazon Associates Program, you will become an “Associate,” which is also known as an “affiliate,” and your group will earn fees for sales that result from web traffic you refer to Amazon through special links on your website and social media. Associates earn referral fees up to 10%, plus special fixed fees for various shopping events (e.g., Amazon Prime trial sign-ups).

Amazon School Rewards participants that continued as Associates earn money the same way that they did before the Rewards program closed in 2013. The Associate Program fee schedule has changed many times since and will continue to do so, but schools still get paid for referring traffic to and, since 2013,

Amazon Associates Program just as profitable for schools as Amazon School Rewards

Amazon says that “thousands of schools and other organizations” participate in the Amazon Associates program. Not only that, but they’re raising hundreds to several thousands of dollars a year through Amazon Associates fundraising. (For a long list of Amazon fundraising results, see the table in this previous article).

When you visit the websites of schools that are Amazon Associates, like the one shown here, you’ll notice that many of them are still featuring Amazon School Rewards fundraising links, text, and graphics. 

Amazon School Rewards example: Mt. Washington Elementary School Amazon online fundraiser.

Schools can still use Amazon School Rewards fundraising links

The good news for all schools that are Amazon Associates is that they can still use these school-themed banners, even if they joined after Amazon School Rewards was closed. I have confirmed this several times with Amazon Associates Customer Service, including in this exchange:

We are a school group participating in the Amazon Associates Program. We noticed the SchoolRewards banners under Product Linking in Associates Central. We have also noticed other school groups using those banners on their websites. Our understanding is that Amazon is no longer offering a School Rewards program. Can we still use the SchoolRewards banners on our website?    We're no longer offering School Rewards through the Associates Program as you mentioned in your recent email. Our banners are still on our website and you as an affiliate can still use them but just like a normal affiliate.  However, thousands of other schools and organizations participate directly in our Associates program and will continue to earn advertising fees for the sales that their sites generate.

This is good news for schools because Amazon School Rewards banners make it much more obvious that the school will directly benefit from families clicking on the Amazon fundraising link to start their shopping than a typical home page banner does.

Amazon School Rewards fundraising link examples

SchoolRewards - Fundraise while you shop at amazon.
Amazon SchoolRewards - You shop. We earn.

Amazon Associates fundraising link examples - general home page banner

Amazon Associates home page banner fundraising link example
Amazon Associates fundraising link banner example

AmazonSmile launched the same year that Amazon School Rewards was closed

The same year that Amazon discontinued its Amazon School Rewards program (2013), it also launched AmazonSmile. AmazonSmile is a charitable program where the AmazonSmile Foundation donates .5% of qualifying purchases made through its website to charities designated by shoppers. It is only open to registered 501(c)(3)s in the United States. If your organization is an eligible charity, you can register for both programs and earn AmazonSmile donations as well as Amazon Associates referral fees.

Amazon Smile for schools confusion

I have heard from a number of PTO / PTA volunteers who are still with schools that previously participated in Amazon School Rewards. They said that when Amazon notified them about the School Rewards program closing, they were told about Amazon Smile, but did not receive much information about the Associates Program. So, they just switched to Amazon Smile, which, unfortunately for them, pays much less than Amazon Associates. Others continued using their original Amazon School Rewards links and graphics and earning referral payments set by the Associates Program Fee Schedule.

One of my goals for this blog is to help clear up the confusion about Amazon Smile and the Amazon Associates Program. Far more PTO / PTA volunteers are aware of Amazon Smile than Amazon Associates, and think Amazon Smile is their only Amazon fundraising option. I’m trying to change that, so feel free to help me spread the word by sharing this article ;)

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.

Amazon School Rewards was replaced by two online fundraising options for schools: Amazon Associates and AmazonSmile. LEARN HOW TO START AND GROW THE BEST AMAZON FUNDRAISER FOR YOUR SCHOOL. #PTO #SchoolVolunteersShare