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Chad Hickey, of Givsly, on giving brands a sustainable alternative to “swag”-style gifting

How many branded T-shirts are in your bureau drawer? How many promotional tote bags, water bottles, coffee mugs, baseball caps, or embroidered beanies linger your closet? How many times have you gone to a trade show, scored lots of swag, and left it in your hotel room?

“The swag industry is a $60 billion business,” notes my guest, Chad Hickey, Founder and CEO at Givsly, “and only 21 percent of that swag is kept. So you’re talking about $50 billion in waste.”

That’s a lot of waste, and Chad is trying to eliminate much of it by giving brands an alternative to creating promotional swag. He explains: “there are things that people give that people do not want. Or there are things that people give that are really duplicative of what people already have. I was at an agency, speaking at their sustainability conference, and I asked their head of investment, ‘how many S’well water bottles with logos do you have?’ And the answer was ’40.’ So unless that person was really thirsty, which I don’t think was the case, there’s a lot of waste and duplication there. So what we have found is that people who use our platform can opt out of those moments, so they’re like ‘hey — I don’t need another S’well water bottle — I’d rather that $25 go to feeding America or the American Cancer Society’ so that the waste is eliminated but they are also able to redirect those funds into something good.”

Chad and I chat about Givsly’s origin story, how cutting down on physical swag can save brands money, and what Chad expects to achieve by attending the Cannes Lions Festival. We explore whether it’s better for a brand partnering with his platform to curate a short list of non-profits and non-profit categories from which consumers can easily choose, and chat about the degree to which brands are attracted to the Givsly platform because of money-saving potential vs. concerns relating to sustainability. “We don’t see people focus on one or the other,” says Chad. “I think that people are starting to acknowledge that they have to broadly think about how they impact climate change.”

Chad and I discuss his experience enrolling nonprofits as Givsly channel partners, whether donation amounts in the Givsly platform can be programmed to increase proportionately to a user’s engagement, the degree to which gamification is being used, and Chad’s hopes for 2023 and beyond.

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