How donating at the checkout line inspired an idea

Sunday is my grocery fetch day. I wake up early, hop into my car and drive down to the nearest store. My list of groceries are carefully inputted in Google Keep and I execute shopping like Terminator.

Last Sunday, I finished up my grocery collection and rolled into the nearest checkout line. The cashier bagged my groceries and uttered the phrase that makes any man fumble their response: "Would you like to donate to the hungry families in need?"

I glanced down towards the floor with deep shame and resentment and muttered 'yes'. Unfazed, the cashier rang up the additional dollars to my receipt and handed it to me. I grabbed my grocery cart and pushed out the front door with my head bowed down.

Asking for donations at the end of the checkout line is a constant source of misery for many shoppers – even if it's for a good cause. But that Sunday, it became a source of inspiration for me.

Thoughts about monetizing online purchases began pouring in. I felt that donating at checkout made sense since people were already shelling out for their grocery purchase and a few bucks more would make no difference. Could this replicated online?

What if people could support their favorite projects when making a purchase through Amazon? I already support my favorite charities with AmazonSmile, but many projects are not 501-c registered and have no intention of becoming one.

My gut instinct was to focus on open-source projects. I'm an engineer and all of my applications have some foundations built on open source software. I have a few projects that I donate to, but I'd love a different avenue of supporting them.

Donating right after checkout would reduce friction between the charitable act and purchasing. It makes it easy. But how could I implement this?

Strategizing implementations

My first idea was to inject a Patreon link into the confirmation page. It would be styled and bold to catch the attention of the user.

Idea #1 Breakdown

1. User can donate any amount directly to the project owner.
2. Doesn't interfere with the purchase process.
3. Non-invasive to the user.

1. Possible legal implications with Amazon. I don't know what the rules are around content injection, but is this in a gray area or frowned upon?
2. How likely would people donate? I don't know the answer to this but I assume it wouldn't be often.

Idea #1 was promising and almost ended up being my first MVP, but I decided to sit on the idea for about a day before jumping into any kind of coding. A eureka moment hit me. Is it possible to donate a percentage of proceeds just like AmazonSmile does for non-profits? What if we could use affiliate commissions to donate to projects?

Idea #2 Breakdown

1. Frictionless donation. Immediate money to the OSS owner upon checkout.
2. No cash comes directly from the user.
3. Non-invasive

1. OSS owner has to sign up for an affiliate account

I had this vision in mind to allow people to effortlessly donate to a project when making a purchase. These two implementations would work great but I decided to jump into Idea #2 because it had the least amount of resistance towards the consumer.

A simple chrome extension could execute this idea well with auto URL tagging – every time the user opens an Amazon page the affiliate tag is auto appended. And thus, my first iteration was born!

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