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Those of you who have nothing better to do than read MillersTime may have seen my post last week (Shameless Promotion) where in I touted my wife’s Sunlight Foundation. I wrote about how anyone can designate her organization to receive 0.5% of the cost of all eligible purchases from Amazon (or these contributions could be directed to any of the more than one million organizations participating in this Amazon Smile ‘give back’ program).

A number of you objected to supporting Amazon in any way, writing that this mammoth organization’s business practices among other things contribute to putting independent bookstores out of business, hurt local taxation, and take traffic away from local businesses.

My view was that as long as people are buying from Amazon, why not have some of the cost of those purchases, even though it is a very minor amount, be contributed to local or national charities?

It did not take long for one of my daughters (ERM) to set me straight on Amazon’s Smile Program and this issue. In an email the day I posted Shameless Promotion, she told me to read the first four paragraphs of a post by Lucy Bernholz of Philanthropy Wonk, which I quote here:

I’ve been on a bit of break from my years of pointing out the foibles of #embeddedgiving – or what the industry calls cause marketing. Two things bring it back to my attention:

1. Amazon’s gotten into the game. This is huge because Amazon is, well, Amazonian. Earlier this week the online retailing behemoth announced that it’s AmazonSmile program would let shoppers donate 0.5% of their purchase price to the charities of their choice. That’s nice. But why don’t they just give you the discount, let you donate the money to the charity of your choice, and let you keep the warm glow, credit, and tax break for yourself? By funneling it through Amazon are you making your life easier or are you just letting Amazon take credit for your largess?

Why do you need an intermediary to give away your money? Just about any organization you want to support has a Donate Now button of their own.

When you take Amazon up on its 0.5% donation, guess who gets credit for the donation? Amazon. Credit for your spending your money. Hmmm. And the costs Amazon incurs to run this program? Where do you think they’ll show up and to whom will they be passed on? What an irony – call it a discount, take all the credit, and pass on any additional costs for running the program to customers somewhere else. This is what really happens with embedded giving.

Guess my “I have a deal for you” wasn’t such a deal after all.

Guess it makes more sense to contribute directly to those efforts in which we believe, either by clicking on their contribution buttons or making direct donations.