A Small Tweak to Holiday Corporate Gifting Could be a Boon for Social & Environmental Causes

December 16, 2022
A Small Tweak to Holiday Corporate Gifting Could be a Boon for Social & Environmental Causes

According to the National Philanthropic Trust, one of the most trusted sources of philanthropic data, corporate giving, is on the rise.

U.S. companies spend more than $10 on branded items and gift cards for every $1 they donate to charity.  Last year, according to an article in Forbes magazine, U.S. companies collectively spent $242 billion on their corporate gifting. According to a report from Coresight Research that number is projected to increase by 6% annually through to 2024.

It begs the question, what would happen if companies gave recipients a choice between receiving the corporate gift they queued up to drop ship and a donation with the money instead? What would the collective social & environmental impact be if this practice was pervasive? Would companies fall short of meeting their business objectives by offering this choice?

If across all corporate gifting, recipients collectively choose to transform 20% of the ‘stuff’ they have received into charitable donations, $48B would be added to corporate giving in America next year. That’s a whopping 3x increase over 2021.

Is this a small tweak worth rolling out at scale? For the sake of our environment, communities, and future generations, I say, “Absolutely!”

It’s worth noting that the mountain of corporate gifts that companies send to employees, clients, and event attendees are likely contributing directly and indirectly to exacerbating the very social & environmental challenges like climate change that companies are attempting to address through their corporate giving.

For those concerned about meeting business objectives through charitable donations as gifts, recent research from Incentive Research Foundation indicates that receiving charitable donations as gifts has a positive impact on performance and engagement when compared to cash equivalent gifts. A company that wants to experience the full benefit of gifting may therefore want to run certain appreciation campaigns that consist exclusively of charitable options, ensuring that all recipients in that campaign feel the warm glow of creating a social impact through their gift.

The data we’ve collected over the last two years at Unwrapit suggests that recipients first and foremost appreciate being given a choice.  We’ve seen consistent “digital high fives” from gift recipients regardless of whether the gift options they are offered are strictly charitable, a mix of charitable and non-charitable, or strictly non-charitable. In other words, there really is something to the saying, “it’s the thought that counts”.

The Unwrapit dataset illustrating recipient choice is interesting when we estimate the growth in corporate giving if recipients are consistently presented with a choice to trigger a charitable donation or receive a regular corporate gift.

Not surprisingly, gift value has a big impact on whether recipients choose a charitable option over a non-charitable option. The higher the gift value, the less likely recipients are to choose one of the charitable options.

Nevertheless, even just a small number of people choosing to make a donation on a high-value gift can produce more charitable dollars than a large number of people choosing the charitable option on a low-value gift.

Our data on Unwrapit gift campaigns suggests that anywhere between 3% to 50% of recipients will choose the charitable gift option on a gift value over $100. (We know that's a very wide range... but that's what the data shows.) A similar range occurs on gifts between $50 and $100. At this tier, we see more than 10% of recipients choosing the charitable gift option more frequently compared to the over $100 tier.

Gift campaigns with a gift value of between USD $5 and USD $50 can see as high as 88% of recipients choosing the charitable gift option.

It would take a supercomputer to fully model the effects of blurring the line between corporate gifting and corporate giving but more simply, common sense applied to Unwrapit’s data would suggest that the potential is high.

In 2021, corporate gifting increased by 23.8% from the previous year to a total of $21.08 billion dollars. This generosity is commendable at any scale. With a small tweak to how companies approach their corporate gifting (think branded hoodies, corporate gift baskets, boxes, and gift cards), this number could see an order of magnitude increase in just a few years.