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Local nonprofits affected by end of Amazon funding program

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After 10 years, Amazon has announced it will end its 'AmazonSmile' program, which has provided many local nonprofits with a reliable source of funding.

Leaders at places like Wild Instincts in Rhinelander and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin are now forced to find ways to fill the gap.

"It's kind of a shock," said Dave Woods, a board member for Lost Dogs of Wisconsin. "It came out of nowhere for all these local charities and animal rescue groups."

Mark Naniot of Wild Instincts said the program was likely popular among nonprofits because it was easy for all parties.

"What you did was logged on to AmazonSmile instead of Amazon and bought your stuff, you chose your charity, then part of your purchase would go to that charity," he explained.

In an email to nonprofits that was shared on Wild Instinct's Facebook page, Amazon says it could not make as much of an impact as it wanted to with the program. In the same post, Wild Instincts says it's "disheartened" by the decision, as it took in thousands of dollars per year through that service.

"Last year, we made over $2,300 on it. Over the last five years, it has been over $5,000," Naniot said. "We've been building it up as time has gone on, and it's very sad to see it go."

Lost Dogs of Wisconsin had used those funds to send microchips to Humane Societies across the state. Like many other small operations, they will now need to find alternative funding.

"The Humane Societies, they can get by with their wish lists of dog and cat food, kitty litter, things they use every day that Amazon carries. Our problem is that our items, Amazon does not carry," Woods said.

Once the last of the Amazon funds are used, nonprofits will have to be get more creative to garner funds.

"Especially with COVID the last couple years, of course, all our fundraisers went down the tubes. That's why this is another big kick in the pants, because some of those have gone by the wayside, and we have to rejuvenate those," Naniot said.

Amazon will send out the last of its "Smile" dollars in late February.

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