If you shop on Amazon regularly, you've probably encountered the AmazonSmile program. That lets you select a charity and then donates 0.5 percent of the purchase price of select products to the charity you picked. It's a nice program, if you've selected an effective charity, albeit pretty small in scale: $5 to charity for every $1,000 you spend isn't a particularly big ratio.
Luckily, there's another way to translate Amazon purchases into giving, one that's 10 times more effective than AmazonSmile. A group called CharityScience has a program called Shop for Charity, through which a highly effective charity gets around 5 percent of whatever you spend on Amazon.
Shop for Charity is set up through the Amazon affiliate program, which offers commissions to websites that direct users to buy products at Amazon. To use it, just add "?tag=charity48-20" (in the US; the codes for other countries are different) to the end of whatever Amazon product page you're on. Press return, then purchase the item. It's that simple. Even easier would be to just drag the following link to your bookmarks bar, so that when you click on it you automatically have the right URL: Amazon.
The commissions vary in size (up to 10 percent for some items, lower for others), but the average is around 5 percent. Normally, affiliates just pocket the money; it's a common way for bloggers to supplement their income, for example.
But CharityScience earmarks all of its affiliate earnings for the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, a fantastic charity that works with sub-Saharan African governments to create or scale deworming programs, which assist children with parasitic infections. Deworming is cheap (only about 50 cents to $1.25 per person treated) and quite effective, with treated children growing up to work and earn more than untreated children.
So if you were to spend $1,000 on Amazon through Shop for Charity, $50 would go to SCI, paying for dozens of children to get deworming treatment. Better yet, you can double up Shop for Charity with AmazonSmile, so another $5 can go to SCI (or another effective charity of your choice).
Shop for Charity isn't a replacement for giving a decent share of your income to effective charities every year (10 percent, say). That'll always be a higher-impact way to direct money to good causes. But if you're using Amazon anyway, Shop for Charity and AmazonSmile provide a pretty simple way to increase your charitable impact in the process.