As part of its holly jolly makeover, Amazon this week wrapped up a season of philanthropic giving locally and abroad.
PREVIOUSLY: What gives? Tech giant Amazon finally boosts its philanthropic reputation in its hometown
The last stop was at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where the online retail and cloud computing giant provided gifts that were distributed by one of the patients, Giomoni “Gio” Caro. Gio, whose family is homeless and being sheltered at the nonprofit Mary’s Place — another beneficiary of Amazon’s charity — has faced multiple health conditions since birth. In addition to lung disease and scoliosis, Gio, who is 6, has undergone seven heart surgeries and is preparing for a back surgery.
Dressed as an elf, Gio handed out gifts this week to fellow patients and Make-A-Wish families at the hospital.
Amazon shared news of the gift giving and other charitable Christmas events on its blog. Worldwide, about three-dozen nonprofits in cities that are home to Amazon offices or fulfillment centers received gifts this year, including Amazon wish-list items and Fire tablets. Donations were worth roughly $10,000 to $15,000 per organization.
This December’s celebration of charitable giving marks a striking change from holidays past, when Amazon either didn’t make donations or made less of a fuss about it and targeted fewer groups. For many years, the company — which has grown to 230,000 employees internationally and reported $32.7 billion in revenue in the third quarter of this year — has been criticized for its lack of community engagement and philanthropy.
But as GeekWire reported last week, Amazon has in recent years made a marked change, publicly announcing donations to Seattle area nonprofits, including Mary’s Place, the University of Washington, Rainier Scholars, which helps racial minority students attend college, and other groups. Amazon leadership, however, maintains that the company has always been charitable, but that they haven’t promoted it well.
“In many regards, we’re a bashful company,” said John Schoettler, Amazon’s director of global real estate and facilities and a 16-year employee, in an interview with GeekWire. “We haven’t necessarily told our story very well.”
Those in the philanthropic world say a change is taking place — and they welcome it.
“We are definitely hearing from more Amazon employees interested in engaging with nonprofits,” said Ben Reuler, executive director of Seattle Works, a nonprofit that helps facilitate volunteer activities and preps people for serving on nonprofit boards.
Compared to other companies where there’s strong philanthropic leadership from the top, “it’s so much more decentralized,” Reuler said. “But there is a lot more momentum from teams and employees. It’s getting better.”