Does Amazon’s charitable giving match its success yet?
Exactly five years ago, The Seattle Times ran an investigative series “Behind the Amazon.com smile” – a deep-dive into the soul of city burgeoning online retail monopoly. One specific aspect examined Amazon’s charitable giving and concluded that the Seattle-based company was a “virtual no-show in hometown philanthropic giving.”
A half-decade later and there is still a prevailing thought that Amazon is tight with its money. But Jeff Bezos’ record-setting, $35-million donation to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center indicates that notion may not be fair.
Whether or not The Times’ series is responsible for showing Amazon the way to giving, though, is unknown.
The Times story indicated that, despite 18 years of business and sprawling South Lake Union campus, the Fortune 500 company had an “astoundingly low profile in the civic life of its hometown,” especially when compared to the other local behemoths – Microsoft, Boeing, and Nordstrom. The story also scrutinized CEO Jeff Bezos, who didn’t comment for the story, specifically for Grinch-like tendencies, contrasting him with Microsoft CEO (and all-around Saint?) Bill Gates.
However, as the Times reported in Thursday’s announcement, the Bezos family donated $500,000 to Fred Hutch in 2007, $10 million two years later and another $20 million in 2014. But Bezos and Amazon have been giving back to more than just cancer research.
When contacted March 21 for a story about Amazon’s philanthropy and the impact of the Times’ 2012 series, an Amazon spokesperson responded with a link to a page that lists stories of the retailer’s philanthropy and another that explains some of the company’s initiatives. The company, according to its website, supports several local organizations and initiatives, including sponsorship of the Fourth of July fireworks on Lake Union and South Lake Union block party, hosting and mentoring Girls Who Code, endowing professorships in the University of Washington Computer Science Department, and more.
Compare that to the previous 2012 Times story that said Amazon is not on the rosters of major donors to local nonprofits including Alliance for Education, Seattle Art Museum, and United Way; and had no record of donations for the Seattle Symphony, Washington’s Special Olympics, YMCA of Greater Seattle or Forterra, a prominent conservation group formerly called the Cascade Land Conservancy.
While the list appears to be growing, so has the company itself.
Could the company do more?