Amazon: D.C. Philanthropy Is ‘Logical Next Step’ For The Tech Giant
Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) said it is bringing its philanthropy to the Washington region as “the logical next step” in its support of homeless communities.
The online retail giant is starting off with a $1 million match campaign for District-based Friendship Place. It’s challenging the nonprofit — which fights homelessness in the D.C. region — to independently raise that amount by the end of the year, bringing its funding potential to $2 million.
The private donation from Amazon represents the company’s first of its kind outside of Seattle and the largest in the D.C. nonprofit’s history.
Amazon, which has more than 2,500 full-time employees in the D.C. area, said it wanted to look for an organization where the company has “a large and growing presence,” according to a spokeswoman in its D.C. office, “and D.C. certainly fits that bill.”
It follows Amazon’s involvement with Seattle-based Mary’s Place, which provides emergency housing and services for homeless women and families. Last year, Amazon donated an empty building to the organization as a temporary shelter, before company founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, incited the nonprofit to raise $1 million in a day and personally matched it. This past May, Amazon announced it would give Mary’s Place a permanent home at its Seattle headquarters, funded in perpetuity by the company.
The next month, Bezos tweeted out that he wanted ideas for more philanthropic activity. “As one example, I’m very inspired and moved by the work done at Mary’s Place here in Seattle,” he wrote.
Amazon approached Friendship Place with this opportunity after the D.C. group presented at a national conference and caught the attention of Mary’s Place, which put it on the larger company’s radar.
For the D.C. grant, Amazon gave an initial $250,000 and will continue providing installments. It will fuel a new program that Friendship Place and Amazon developed together, slated to launch Aug. 15, to aid parents in finding affordable housing and long-term employment. The nonprofit also hopes to work with Amazon to place people in jobs at its fulfillment centers, said President and CEO Jean-Michel Giraud. Friendship Place has raised more than $173,000 so far and will have until Dec. 31 to reach $1 million.
Amazon said just as its support of Mary’s Place has grown, its work with Friendship Place could lead to more collaboration. “We would always be open to scaling this program and having other people model after it,” the Amazon spokeswoman said.
Giraud hopes it will incentivize other local donors. “Part of this model is also to really stimulate the business community, to inspire the corporations to follow Amazon’s example,” he said.
Friendship Place had $10.2 million in revenue — $2.2 million from private gifts — and $9.8 million in expenses for fiscal year 2016. The organization was founded in 2001 and, last year, helped nearly 3,000 people. It has more than 120 paid employees, with support from 26 congregations and more than 300 volunteers.