As conspicuous consumption has been giving way to more conscious consumerism in recent years (Kardashians aside), applying that conscious consumerism to holiday gift-giving can still present a challenge. On the one hand, there are gifts of stuff that may be fun to receive but are likely to end up collecting dust. On the other extreme is the kind of noble, “a donation has been made in your name” giving made famous on Seinfeld by an irate George Costanza: “I got him Yankee tickets. He got me a piece of paper saying I’ve given your gift to someone else!” Well-intended, sure, but fun and festive -- no.
Thankfully, an increasing number of brands are offering ways to give that brings joy to the recipient and benefit the greater good. Warby Parker donates a pair of prescription glasses for every pair of frames or shades purchased by its hip clientele. TOMS famously does the same with shoes and has expanded into similar giving models, including a line of coffee -- perfect for casual, intra-office gifts -- that supports clean water initiatives.
Feed has provided educational opportunities and more than 85 million meals for children around the world through the sale of its bags, accessories and apparel. Sarah Oliver, a lesser-known startup, has a mission of empowering older Americans by re-engaging them in the economy. The company sells fashion-forward handbags, all of which are hand-knit by seniors (average age of 88) at the Redwoods Retirement community in Northern California.
At my company, Charitybuzz, we call this kind of gifting, “givting.” Official dictionary status is pending, but we hope the idea helps fuel a movement to add meaning to our holiday gifts. If even a portion of the billions we spend on holiday shopping is diverted to gifts that benefit the greater good, the opportunity to make a difference is huge. Our holiday GIVT auctions include playing golf with Ian Poulter and Todd Wagner to benefit Dreamflight, Graff Diamonds & Beats by Dre headphones to benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, lunch with Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton to benefit the Gabrielle's Angel Foundation for Cancer Research and a chance to meet soccer stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to benefit the Forever Dream Foundation.
There are dozens of other once-in-a-lifetime GIVTs up for auction, from meetings with business leaders and casting agents to walk-on roles and vacations in celebrity homes. Last year, our auctions raised over $6 million for our charity partners and created countless unforgettable moments for the lucky winners.
While admittedly, most Charitybuzz auctions fetch a hefty sum, I’m thrilled to see other organizations making the same model work at a variety of price points. Prizeo allows users to contribute as little as $10 and be entered to win incredible celebrity encounters (how great would a Caddy Shack-inspired round of golf with Bill Murray be?) benefiting worthy causes. For slightly larger donation amounts, entries come with a fun T-shirt or other gift-worthy swag. It's definitely a more interesting and purposeful contribution to your office gift exchange than a bunch of lottery tickets.
So, as you do your holiday shopping, keep in mind that charitable gifts don’t have to be boring. Fun gifts can still be purposeful, and in 2015, it’s not just better to give than receive -- it’s better to GIVT than to gift.