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Food shelf uses Amazon for fundraising

The Two Harbors Area Food Shelf has recently signed up for AmazonSmile as a way to raise money. The funds raised will go toward serving the food shelf's mission. (News-Chronicle file photo by Adelle Whitefoot)

The Two Harbors Area Food Shelf is hoping to take advantage of holiday shopping as a way to raise funds.

THAFS recently signed up for AmazonSmile, a service offered through Amazon that allows charitable organizations to raise funds while committing little to no time and effort. For every eligible purchase made through AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5 percent of the purchase price to a customer's charity of choice.

"It doesn't add to the person's cost; it's not added above and beyond what they purchase," THAFS Director Michelle Miller said.

To sign up, visit and sign in to Amazon. Search for "Two Harbors Area Food Shelf" and select it as your charity of choice.

Every time a customer makes a purchase at, 0.5 percent of the eligible items' price will be donated to the customer's charity. THAFS receives a quarterly check from AmazonSmile.

Once charity is selected, AmazonSmile will keep track of how much that customer has generated for their charity. Merchandise will indicate on its description if it's eligible for an AmazonSmile donation.

To generate funds for a charity, the purchases can't be made through the Amazon mobile app — an internet browser such as Google Chrome or Safari must be used.

Miller said it's "exciting" that potentially sustaining opportunities like AmazonSmile are available to help the food shelf budget its annual income.

"That really, really makes a nonprofit function better, when you're not always wondering if you're going to be able to pay rent," she said.

Miller said the THAFS has been focusing on using volunteers and employees more efficiently and on finding more sustainable funding sources so she's not scrambling to apply for grants every quarter.

"Fundraising can take up so much of a small nonprofit's time," she said. "You can put 1,000 hours into something that is only going to reap $500. So I'm really excited about this because it's not a time-consuming effort. I sent the three minutes signing up for it and now all I have to do is cash the check when it comes."

According to Miller, there is nothing more disheartening in the nonprofit world than when organizations have to start budget cuts.

"We're not going crazy budgeting all kinds of fancy stuff, anyway. Whatever we've budgeted for our next fiscal year are items that we deem absolutely necessary for us to serve our mission," she said.

Miller, who admitted she has never shopped on Amazon before, said she heard about AmazonSmile through one of her "really active" volunteers.

"The volunteer that told me about it bought something — and I hadn't even promoted it yet — and I got a check for $24.97," Miller said. "That was just one person buying a couple things, so just think about people doing their regular shopping, especially during the holidays for gifts or if they're decorating or for school — so this should be great."

Miller said the food shelf needs at least one or two years of consistent income from AmazonSmile to determine how much it should budget.

"So we need to get a really good kick start to this, to give us an idea of what to expect, and not just around the holidays, but year-round, and then we can look at this as a legitimate item," Miller said. "It's such a simple way for anyone to support the food shelf, so that's why I'm super excited about it. It really is one of the most effortless ways to truly make an impact for your neighbors in need."

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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