I just received the attached note from the folks at Amazon, announcing the demise of their Smile program. Obviously, this is disappointing news. Thanks to Amazon Smile – and to the many people on this page who designated mikeroweWORKS as their beneficiary – my foundation raised over $530,000 for our work ethic scholarship program.

I want to thank Amazon, sincerely, not just for the impact of their program on mikeroweWORKS, but for initiating such a great way for millions of people to direct their philanthropy to myriad causes they wished to support. It was an ingenious idea that funneled billions of dollars to lots of foundations doing good work in thousands of communities.
I am a little surprised, however, by the reason they gave for “winding things down.” From the attached – “After almost a decade, the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped. With so many eligible organizations – more than 1 million globally – our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.”

In no way do I want to suggest that Amazon has done a “bad” thing, or that they don’t have every right to do whatever they wish to do with Smile. But if the program in its current format isn’t meeting their expectations, then I have to say…Wow! Those are some pretty lofty expectations!

The impact of $530,000 on our work ethic scholarship program was huge! That money allowed me to assist no less than a hundred individuals get the training they needed to begin a career in the trades. Plumbers, welders, electricians, carpenters…A hundred tradespeople might not sound like a lot, but I can assure you – their families don’t feel that way. Neither do their employers. And neither do I.

Again – I don’t blame Amazon for doing what they think best with their own resources. But having a “big” impact is a pretty subjective thing, and from what I’ve seen of philanthropy, a bit of a trap. Every big impact starts with a small impact. In other words, every “macro,” starts with a “micro.” That’s what mikeroweWORKS is all about. One person at a time. One job at a time.
Today, I’m proud to say we’ve assisted over 1,500 people get the training they need to master a skill that’s in demand. I’d really hate for the people who chose mikeroweWORKS as their Smile charity, to think for one moment that their decision didn’t have an enormous impact on a lot of hard working Americans. It did, and I really appreciate your help.
Many thanks to Amazon, and many thanks to all of you for participating in this terrific initiative. I’ll miss it.


PS. This is the part where I ask you to share the hell out of this. I know for a fact a lot of people will miss this program, and a lot of foundations will suffer as a result of its demise. And who knows? Maybe Walmart or Costco or QVC, or The Home Depot, or Target, eBay, will pick up where Amazon left off…
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