UPDATE: This link is no longer functional. We're leaving up this post as a record of the project, and so people can still view the comments.

If you shop on Amazon in the countries listed below, you can earn a substantial commission for charity by doing so via the links below. This is a cost-free way to do a lot of good, so I'd encourage you to do so! You can bookmark one of the direct links to Amazon below and then use that bookmark every time you shop.

The commission will be around 5%, though it varies by product category. This is substantially better than the AmazonSmile scheme available in the US, which only gives 0.5% of the money you spend to charity. Amazon's 'Associates Program' pays this commission for referring purchasers to them, from the unaltered purchase price (details here). The money goes to Amazon accounts that I've set up for this project, and from there I'll always direct it only to GiveWell-recommended charities. For ease of administration and to get tax-deductibility, I'll send it to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative until further notice, though if you make a large purchase which yields over £50 of commission you can ask me to donate it to another charity.

If you'd like to shop for charity, bookmark the appropriate link below now:

I'll add other links here and on the main 'Shop for Charity' page later, including for France. I'd love to hear suggestions for good commission schemes in other countries. If you'd like to share these links with friends and family, please point them to this page or even better this project's main page, as this is the safest way to ensure that the commission gets earned.

Happy shopping!

'Shop for Charity' is a Charity Science project

26 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:20 PM
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Update: I've been accepted to the German affiliates program! Ich hoffe dass dies viel Geld für einige der besten Wohltätigkeitsorganisationen der Welt zu erhöhen.

And I've now extended this to Austria, which appears to also run off Amazon.de - any Austrians can correct me if I'm wrong.

When shopping via this link, I see no indication of a commission going to you. Could you confirm that this is still working?

Yes, I can confirm that - there's simply no visual feedback that it's worked, but once you visit Amazon via one of our links any purchases you make in that shopping session get 5% commission.

We've put a fair bit of thought into how to structure this project to minimise or negate the chance that at some point down the road Amazon decides they don't want Charity Science as an affiliate, as people have discussed in comments. This does seem to be the most plausible downside, though we think that it makes sense to deal with it if and when it arises and it likely wouldn't be that bad. Given that other individuals and non-profits have promoted similar affiliate links, often presented as a way to support them or their charity, it is improbable. Nonetheless to make it clear that we're directing fresh sales to Amazon, we've redone the 'Shop for Charity' page to feature a bookstore with selected books relevant to EA. You can see the new copy there, which is well within the space that Amazon has allowed in the past (we haven't changed this post to keep the comments making sense, and it'll be off the Forum front page soon, with the Shop for Charity page itself what people link to in future).

Charity Science does have an advantage in running an affiliate account as the commission goes to it (as Amazon intends), and only gets passed through to other charities because all unrestricted money going to us does, as a matter of policy. So it's not like we're an individual saying "If you buy through me I'll donate some money to charity"; it's a standard case of the money going to the entity that has the affiliate account.

Seems as good as it's going to get. I like the pivot toward becoming a shop to drive novel sales. Thanks for your hard work on the issue.

Is there any way this is a violation of the Amazon affiliates agreement?

Hey Topher, I couldn't see anything that it violates in the 'Associates Programme Linking Requirements', and I've run similar schemes on other websites for years without problems (though for non-altruistic ends!) Scott Alexander likewise suggests people bookmark his own Amazon associates address in the sidebar of http://slatestarcodex.com/ to support his blogging. Though I'll talk to AlasdairGives about whether it's safest for people to bookmark the 'Shop for charity' page on my website instead, given his comment about this.

It violates rule 14 on this page:

14 . You will not offer any person or entity any consideration or incentive (including any money, rebate, discount, points, donation to charity or other organization, or other benefit) for using Special Links (e.g., by implementing any “rewards” or loyalty program that incentivizes persons or entities to visit the Amazon Site via your Special Links).

Well spotted Ben! I'd looked at their linking requirements document, with which we comply, but hadn't seen this. It's odd, because the links comply with their terms except for the fact that we're donating the money rather than keeping it for ourselves. Were it only implicit that we'd give our earnings to charity it seems we'd be OK; this may be a good approach to take. We're planning to have someone email Amazon to ask about the general approach of giving earnings to charity, and we'll see if they object since they've already approved our application and linking domains. I'll continue the conversation with you/anyone else by email.

Update: here's our ultimate decision. As I say there, Charity Science does have an advantage in running an affiliate account as the commission goes to it (as Amazon intends), and only gets passed through to other charities because all unrestricted money going to us does, as a matter of policy. So it's not like we're an individual saying "If you buy through me I'll donate some money to charity"; it's a standard case of the money going to the entity that has the affiliate account.

The intent of the rule is to stop you from doing anything that incentivizes people to click on your links instead of going through Amazon the normal way. Amazon doesn't want to give its affiliates money unless those affiliates actually bring new traffic to Amazon, rather than just routing existing traffic through their affiliate tag. But Amazon can't say "we'll only pay you if the person wouldn't have gone to Amazon otherwise", so they instead make rules to ban the common cases of this. Even if you only winked and nudged people rather than declaring explicitly that you would donate the earnings to charity, it would be against the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules.

Does this treat you as a 'referrer', and then give you 5%, which you are offering to donate to charity? It would be good to be clear about how exactly this works.

Seconded. The post seems to imply he's setting up a non-profit for this purpose, but it would be nice to have details.

Thanks guys, it's helpful to know that that was unclear. I've added this sentence to clarify that the commission scheme works rough as I understood: "The 5% comes from Amazon's 'affiliate' scheme, and goes to affiliate accounts which I've set up for this project, the money from which I'll always direct only to GiveWell-recommended charities." Let me know if there's anything else you'd like me to make clear.

I'm afraid I don't quite understand the clarifying sentence (what's an 'affiliate account'? why do they give it money?).

I'd actually like a few paragraphs on exactly what's going on, perhaps in a details section at the end so it's obvious people don't need to read it if they're happy with the overview.

Hi Owen, they pay the commission for referring purchasers to them (as opposed to a competitor), and an affiliate account is what they pay the commission to. I've expanded the brief description in the post to this effect, and linked to Wikipedia's description of this, for anyone who wants to follow the links from there to see more detail. For anyone interested who's reading more detail in these comments, here is the best description from Amazon I can find, though it's less clear than Wikipedia and the pages that it links to.

I've now created a Wikipedia page on this program ('Amazon Associates'), for people wanting more detail on it.

The post seems to imply he's setting up a non-profit for this purpose, but it would be nice to have details.

Yes, I've created the 'Amazon Associates' accounts for Charity Science, the (already established) EA non-profit that I work for. Our policy is to always regrant any money which isn’t specifically earmarked to cover our operating costs to GiveWell-recommended charities, and this will always apply to commission earned through Amazon.

In light of Ben's points below it might be better if you instead promised to hold onto all of the money generated through this scheme.

In light of Ben's points below it might be better if you instead promised to hold onto all of the money generated through this scheme.

We've discussed this suggestion of the commission staying with Charity Science, but felt that it'd raise less money, and we really only want to be fundraising for end charities from the public; people can see the approach we settled on here.

Good idea, but some comments:

  1. I think you should remove the direct affiliate links from your post and link to your website. As I understand it, to prevent spammers you are only allowed to put links on sites which you directly own, not third party sites.

  2. More transparency about how the money travels from amazon -> charity is needed, and more transparency about when/if the program stops (so people know they are not going to start benefiting your pocket in 6 months time!)

  3. Google chrome extensions exist which automatically insert an affiliate link into a page (I don't know if these are a violation of the agreement) but they might be more convenient for users if they are.

Thanks for these helpful comments. Taking them in turn:

  1. I'd added effective-altruism.com as one of the domains which could send links, and it got accepted (though people going via the main 'Shop for charity' page on my website as you suggest is not a bad idea.) I think including the links in this post will increase the chance that people'll actually bookmark them, and Amazon do seem to let bookmarks work (e.g. those from the sidebar of http://slatestarcodex.com/ ).

  2. Yes, people can indeed rest assured that this money'll never benefit me :) Hopefully the edit I made in response to Ryan and Topher's suggestion makes the process transparent: "The 5% comes from Amazon's 'affiliate' scheme, and goes to affiliate accounts which I've set up for this project, the money from which I'll always direct only to GiveWell-recommended charities. "

  3. This extension appears to be http://bit.ly/1ruTdZA

Is this scheme still running? This page suggests the scheme is closed (https://eahub.org/actions/shopping/intro). Should we therefore all be using Amazon Smile instead?

Either way, it would be nice to see a short update, in particular how much this scheme moved to top charities (and how much effort it was to set up). Thanks!

For Amazon Smile, there are extensions to have it set up a redirect so that whenever you type in "Amazon.com" it goes to "smile.amazon.com". Is there something similar for this, or do I just have to always remember to use the link I bookmarked?

Is there a way, like in Amazon Smile, to designate the charity it goes to? Can any charity set up a "shop for charity" link like the ones you have for Charity Science?

For Amazon Smile, there are extensions to have it set up a redirect so that whenever you type in "Amazon.com" it goes to "smile.amazon.com". Is there something similar for this, or do I just have to always remember to use the link I bookmarked?

A volunteer looked into this, but alas no, you have to remember to use the bookmarked link.

Is there a way, like in Amazon Smile, to designate the charity it goes to?

Anyone interested in this can message me privately.

It seems like this Chrome extension should do the job: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/content-creator-amazon-af/lhkondlcphocjdifpdkpopdjjlinodcm

Tom, are you still running this?