In 2014, I was in a meeting with one of my team members and a group of partners. At the end of the meeting we handed them some branded swag to say thank you for joining the discussion. I’ll never forget when one of the attendees looked at us and said, “a branded notebook and water bottle. How innovative!” While I was originally a little annoyed, in hindsight, the person was right. It wasn’t innovative and our industry is inundated with generic gifts like this. This should have been my first sign of what needed to change. 

Fast forward to January 2020 – I made a stop at UM one afternoon to meet with Joshua Lowcock and update him on the launch of our Givsly platform. At the end of our meeting, he made a comment about the amount of duplicative swag gifts his office receives during the holidays. It reminded me of that comment back in 2014 and immediately got me thinking about the connection to what Givsly evangelizes on a daily basis. We strongly believe that businesses already have the budget and time they need to create a positive impact on the world – they just have to choose to think differently about how they spend that money and time. We have already introduced this for client entertainment, team building and business meetings. Why wouldn’t this also apply to swag? 

From that moment, Season Without Swag was created. The ultimate goal of Season Without Swag is to continue to encourage and push this change in thinking. If every company made a commitment to move those holiday budgets to nonprofit donations as a sign of client appreciation instead, then we could make an extremely powerful difference. 

When 2020 took a turn starting in March, this brought a whole new meaning to Season Without Swag. The magnitude of the COVID pandemic, with all the associated negative externalities and the senseless murders of Black people continuing to happen at an alarming rate, truly served as a wake up call. Now, individuals’ drive for change and purpose is stronger than ever. Consumers and employees are beginning to hold brands and companies accountable; they demand transparency and want to know how businesses use their resources to drive change. This scrutiny is extremely valid and important. We shouldn’t be reacting just because consumers and employees are suddenly holding us accountable, we should be proactively using our resources to foster positive change in society because it is the right thing to do. Season Without Swag is a turn-key and creative way to begin proactively driving change and send a meaningful message around the holidays. 

Most importantly, Season Without Swag is about how big of an impact we can make in the nonprofit sector during a critical time. While some larger and well known nonprofits organizations are experiencing an abundance of support throughout these past months, other organizations have been struggling tremendously. In the same way that small and medium sized businesses are hurting, so are many small and medium sized nonprofits. They have lost critical resources from corporate volunteerism and fundraising events that raise a majority of their donations. Season Without Swag is now more relevant than ever as we call on our industry to make a commitment to purpose and give back during the holidays.

The New York Times recently wrote an article stating that the pandemic brought “a big correction” to the ad industry. From the beginning, Givsly has always strived to serve as a resource for companies who desired that change. Now it’s time for the industry as a whole to come together and become a catalyst for that change. The launch of Season Without Swag creates an efficient outlet for companies in our industry to step up and help create an impact for the community that needs it the most. This is not a call to ban all swag – if you need branded notebooks I can give you the number for a great promotional guy :). Rather, this is a movement to make a small shift in our actions during the holidays that can make a big impact with everyone’s support.