Ten years ago this month Amazon.com established its Amazon Associates programme, allowing anyone with a website, including charities, to earn a commission for linking to and delivering paying customers to Amazon. It was truly one of the easiest early online fundraising initiatives, but it took many years for UK charities to cotton on to the income stream. Even now, you can find many charity websites without this DIY bookshop (and source of income) on their websites.
Amazon.co.uk set up its UK associates programme in November 1998, and within nine months had reached 10,000 associate partners. UK Fundraising, having been an Amazon.com associate from its earliest days, was an early associate with Amazon.co.uk - number 219. Indeed, on 20 July 1999, Simon Murdoch, managing director of Amazon.co.uk commented on how UK Fundraising was leading the way in showing charities how to use Amazon Associates as an easy online fundraising tool: "The Associates Programme is a great way for any Web site to participate in e-commerce and the success of charity associated Web sites such as UK Fundraising emphasise the impact and the value that can be added by being part of the scheme."
Amazon's associates programme was always likely to produce diminishing returns over the longterm, as Amazon communicated directly with all the customers that its associates were producing for it. Still, in its time it offered a very valuable source of new and easy income, if only enough UK charities had taken the minimal risk of implementing it on their websites.