I bought an amazon gift card last year from a local grocery store and got the credit, so yes buying gift cards at an authorized small business works!
Our local pet store had a "donate your $25" campaign last year, where you bought $25 worth of stuff for the local cat and dog shelters. The store just charged your amex for $25 of "goods" and then used the accumulated donations to provide credit to the shelters. I did that for card #2 last year!
One good thing about living in a region where retail chains are prohibited (aside from gas stations) is that every business in my town is covered.
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