Use Amazon Alexa for Donations to 48 Charities by Voice
Amazon Alexa will now accept donations to 48 select charities using only your voice. Users simply need to say, “Alexa, donate twenty dollars to [insert charity name here],” or “Alexa, make a donation.” In the latter case, it will ask you what charity you wish to support. After it confirms the charity it will also confirm the donation dollar amount in the range of $5 to $5,000. The user must speak their PIN in order to complete the transaction. The transactions take place using Amazon Pay and appear to only be available in the U.S. I have asked Amazon to clarify this and will update here when I receive a response.
Among the 48 approved charities are Wounded Warrior Project, St. Jude’s Hospital, NPR, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. I have also reached out to Amazon to clarify what criteria will be used to determine what charities are eligible in the future.
The introduction of online giving greatly streamlined the process for charities to receive donations. Anyone with a credit card could make a donation whenever they had access to a web browser. Donations by text message made this process even easier starting around 2008 which allowed users to text a specific donation amount to certain charities. The only thing easier than giving by text message is making a donation by voice. Now that tens of millions of consumers have access to Alexa-enabled devices, you can imagine that this will create an incentive for charities to tie their fund raising campaigns to voice donation. This will be good for the charities while further entrenching Alexa into societal habits forming around voice interaction.
A New API is Needed for In-Skill Transactions
This new donation feature is what is called a first party (1P) skill. A user accesses the feature directly from Alexa. Third party skills (3P) are developed by organizations other than Amazon. These developers currently cannot accept donations directly while a user is accessing their skill. The user would need to ask Alexa to make the contribution which would take them outside of the skill the 1P service. This breaks the process the third-party skill initiates and removes visibility into whether the transaction was completed and if not, what errors may have occurred.
I bring this up only to point out that the next logical step is for Amazon to make the charitable contribution feature an API service callable by third party skills so users can complete the entire transaction without leaving the skill. This would motivate more charities to build Alexa skills and provide a comprehensive user experience that highlights their charitable works. And, they would be able to have visibility into the transaction through completion even if the actual payment information was obfuscated. Today, the charities could only approximate this by first enabling some sort of account linking and executing the process through another channel. Keep in mind that these donations are only tax deductible if they are attributed as opposed to anonymous. If users want documentation for tax purposes, then this API approach would also enable the third party charity skill to execute processes to provide additional information about the donation before the user leaves the skill.