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Alexa Harnesses Voice Technology to Make Charitable Giving Easier

4 April 2018 at 6:48 pm
Wendy Williams
Users of Amazon Alexa can now donate to nearly 50 charities using just their voice, with the launch of a new feature that aims to make charitable giving easier.

Wendy Williams | 4 April 2018 at 6:48 pm


Alexa Harnesses Voice Technology to Make Charitable Giving Easier
4 April 2018 at 6:48 pm

Users of Amazon Alexa can now donate to nearly 50 charities using just their voice, with the launch of a new feature that aims to make charitable giving easier.

Alexa Donations, which was unveiled on Monday, allows users to donate up to $5,000 to the charity of their choice by saying “Alexa, I want to donate to [charity name]” within earshot of the digital assistant.

No set-up is required with payments handled via Amazon Pay using the customers’ preferred payment method associated with their Amazon account.

Amazon Pay vice president Patrick Gauthier said they were thrilled to launch the new feature to millions of Alexa customers this year.

“For the first time ever, Alexa customers can donate to charities like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital hands-free using just their voice,” Gauthier said.

“We can’t wait for customers to try this out while donating to great causes like this.”

Amazon currently has nearly 50 charities in the US that users can donate to including  ProPublica, Doctors Without Borders, The American Cancer Society and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Richard Shadyac Jr, president and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organisation for St. Jude, said the donations would help fund groundbreaking research.

“We are incredibly grateful to Amazon and its generous customers who will harness the power of voice technology in support of the lifesaving mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” Shadyac Jr said.

“Every dollar donated through Alexa Donations will help fuel the groundbreaking research and pioneering treatment at St. Jude that are increasing survival rates and making a difference in the lives of countless children and their families.”

While Alexa launched in Australia in February, the charities partnering with Amazon for the latest feature are currently limited to US charities.

Fundraising Institute Australia CEO Rob Edwards told Pro Bono News it created another avenue for charitable giving which would likely be welcomed by charities in Australia.

“Online fundraising has taken off in Australia generally as it has the rest of the world,” Edwards said.

“I think the NAB charitable index that was released earlier this year showed something like 60 per cent of all donations and gifts now come through the online environment. So I’d say what they’re doing with Amazon is just another extension of that. It’s another way of facilitating giving.”

However he raised concerns that the model bypassed the “ask”.

“There’s still a body of evidence that shows that people, and I hate to use that hackneyed phrase, but people don’t wake up in the morning and decide to give. The reality is people have to be asked to give,” he said.

“The Amazon model assumes that people decide one day they’re going to give to a charity on the spur of the moment. And the channel that they set up facilitates that and that’s a good thing. But I still think that there’s an issue there.

“I’m not suggesting for a minute that it won’t work. But how can we overcome that issue around having to continually ask people to take that next step and give to charities without being prompted is the big question for everybody I think out there at the moment.”

He said it would be “very brave” for a charity to move away from donor acquisitions.

“There are some now that are spending more and more energy around their existing donors but sooner or later you have donor attrition, you’ve got to top up the pool from somewhere and how you get those is an issue and you have to do it by asking,” Edwards said.

“Australians are generous and charitable giving has gone up over the past few years and that’s a good thing. But… it’s how all these channels or applications work together to make it more sustainable in the long term [which] I think it is going to be the challenge for everybody.”

He said the challenge was to develop a relationship with donors in an online environment.

“I think that cohort that was direct mail responsive and telephone responsive is a cohort that is fading,” he said.

“The fact is that landlines aren’t in great use these days as well and the Generation X and Y are not direct mail responsive either.

“So the challenge for charities is how do they develop a longer-term relationship with these people that locks them into the holy grail of regular giving by engaging with them in the online media environment, where in fact people don’t want that, and aren’t so keen on that relationship.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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