Amazon cuts credit for charities to access web services

Cloud giant will spread its largesse more widely – and thinly – amongst non-profits


Exclusive Amazon has halved the amount of credit it offers charities to access IT services operated by Amazon Web Services, sources have told The Reg.

The cloud wing of the megacorp has for several years offered a grant of $2,000 in AWS Promotional Credits to eligible non-profit organisations, brokered through a non-profit network called TechSoup Global in the US and via an organisation called Charity Digital in the UK.

Through this AWS Credit Programme, non-profit outfits had access to selected AWS cloud-based services, such as Amazon WorkDocs, Amazon WorkMail, and Amazon WorkSpaces.

However, when some UK charities came to renew their credits this time round, they found that the grant on offer from AWS that they could claim had been reduced from $2,000 to $1,000 at some point during the past year, leaving them to pick up the remainder of the bill for services that they have now come to rely on.

We were alerted to this by Reg reader John Pipal, an IT freelancer who says he has offered support to London NGOs and charities for 20 years. Pipal told us that two London-based charities he is currently working with have both been taking advantage of the AWS credit scheme to run EC2 Windows server instances for operating Remote Desktop sessions, which has apparently proven very useful during the pandemic.

One of the charity clients moved their remote desktop server onto AWS and also decided to make use of Amazon's cloud storage, as its bills for all this were completely covered by the AWS Credit Programme.

Short notice

Amazon is entirely within its rights to change the terms of any credit programmes it offers to non-profit organisations, as these are provided entirely at the company's discretion. However, it appears that at least some charities were not aware of the changes, only discovering it when they came to renew their grant.

It also means that such organisations may now have to spend more of the money they accept from donations on operating costs.

"My particular gripe is that organisations that have taken up this offer could reasonably have expected that it would continue, given the behemoth's recent success, and that it will be expensive for them now, no matter what they do – leave or stay," Pipal said.

A spokesperson for Charity Digital told The Register that AWS had changed its non-profit credit programme to help more charities by providing more licences to a wider pool of customers.

The credits had apparently been oversubscribed in the past, often running out quickly. To address this, AWS decided to lower the value of the credits in order to make more credits available. Admin fees that the non-profits pay have also been lowered.

In other words, it appears that the cloudy giant wants to extend the benefits of its charity programme to a larger audience. A nice idea, but tough if you happen to be a small charity and suddenly find you don't have as much to spend on IT services as you had banked on.

Amazon reported operating profit for AWS during calendar Q4 of 2021 of $5.293bn, which saw its cloud services division finish 2021 with total operating income of $18.532bn, up nearly 37 per cent year-on-year.

We asked Amazon for an explanation of the changes to the AWS Credit Programme, and the company sent us the following statement:

"Globally, the amount of AWS credits we provided to non-profit organisations increased last year. We offer a variety of programs to help non-profit customers access and experiment with the latest cloud technology. This includes grants and funding to drive modernisation and innovation, as well as free training to help upskill employees.

"We continuously review and evolve these programs to ensure the right mix of offerings are in place to support our customers."

The company did not reveal the amount of the increase in the total funding pot. ®

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