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Back to school supplies aren’t getting any cheaper. The National Retail Federation estimates that this year parents with children in elementary school and college plan to spend an average of $696.70 (up from $684.79 in 2018) and $976.78 (up from $942.17), respectively. Economically disadvantaged families will necessarily lean on philanthropic givers to bridge the gap, which is why Amazon this week rolled out a way for customers to donate supplies via Alexa.

Starting today — as part of the Seattle company’s Happy School Year program — saying “Alexa, Donate to Happy School Year” within earshot of an Alexa-powered device will kick off the donation flow, which will walk customers through a $25 backpack order for students in need. Each pack will be filled with school supplies (including pencils, pens, a ruler, and a notebook) before it’s shipped directly by Amazon to the nonprofit Communities In Schools.

Amazon says donations will be accepted through September 9 and that it will match the first $200,000. The donations are tax deductible, and donors will receive a thank you message via Alexa from former NBA star and member of the Communities in Schools National Board Shaquille O’Neal.

“Alexa creates convenient time savers for busy customers and their families, whether they are building a back-to-school shopping list, asking questions about products, purchasing items for their family, or making donations to the community,” said Alexa vice president Chuck Moore. “Alexa makes it easy for customers to brighten the start of the school year for children who need it most. Donating is simple — just say ‘Alexa, Donate to Happy School Year.’ We can’t wait to see the generosity of our customers this back-to-school season.”


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Amazon says it will also team up with O’Neal and Zappos for Good (Zappos’ charitable arm) to organize back-to-school donation drives throughout the summer. And the ecommerce giant says later this year it will team up with pop musician Ciara to host a Happy School Year block party, where attendees will be able to donate school supplies at an Alexa Donation Station.

Collectively, and thanks in part to donations from Yoobi, Pentel, Hasbro, 3M, JVC, Panasonic, and AmazonBasics, Amazon anticipates the donation drives will deliver school supplies to 5,000 students.

“Education is an important foundation for success,” said O’Neal. “With the Shaq-to-School program, we provide classroom essentials to kids who need them most, allowing them to concentrate on their studies. Thanks to Amazon and Zappos, we’ll reach even more kids with our donations this year.”

This latest donation effort comes after the launch in December of Amazon’s Toys for Tots program, which let Alexa users choose items from a preapproved gift list for Amazon to ship directly to the charity. Earlier in the year, Amazon also rolled out Alexa Donations, which lets users support dozens of charities with a voice command (e.g., Alexa, donate $10 to UNICEF USA) through Amazon Pay.

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