By Michele Herrmann, Epicure & Culture Contributor
Laura Hertz has worked on both sides of the business sector – nonprofit and corporate – yet recognized they share a common objective: being fiscally sustainable.
During her time with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps service program, she saw how nonprofits had to be more inventive with raising funding, and were often dependent on donations and grants. Then as an employee within financial services at one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, Hertz noticed how much money was being spent on holiday gifts for colleagues and clients — and how the tchotchkes and company water bottles they were given ended up in junk drawers.
In 2016, Hertz co-founded Gifts for Good (and became its CEO) with Jerry Eisenberg (its CFO). The company was born while the two were students at University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. What they realized was that both nonpofits and for-profit businesses began creating more sustainable fiscal strategies in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
How does Gifts for Good fall into these strategies? By acting as a marketplace liaison that curates meaningful items and uses product sales to fund the social missions of nonprofits. Additionally, it helps scale up the impact and reach of social enterprise cause brands.
Hertz spoke further with Epicure & Culture about this venture, and explained how it aids both sides of the coin.
1) How does Gifts for Good select participating cause brands?
Gifts for Good focuses on six main causes:
- economic development
When a cause brand submits a proposal to work with us, they have to demonstrate they produce quality products appropriate to the business gifting space. Additionally, they have to provide detailed information on their impact strategy and metrics.
We prioritize meeting in person at their location, ask for references and verify the information through third-party sites likes Charity Navigator and other sources. If a cause brand meets our stringent standards for both the cause and the product, we invite them into our community.
2) How do you pick gift items that cater to various budgets and personal tastes?
We have over 150 SKUs (stock keeping units) on our site to ensure everyone can find a gift they enjoy. From handmade soaps and candles to fine leather goods, you can sort by category, cause, recipient interest or price.
We have plenty of items under $50, but also a collection of luxe products for our clients who prefer very high-end gifts. We have also done very custom gifts through our gifting concierge to tailor towards a client’s particular interests and preferences.
When sourcing products for our site, we actively seek products that cater to a wide variety of people, budgets, social causes and occasions.
3) How do you select charities that will benefit from these product sales? Do you know how much money has been raised and/or donated to these causes?
Every product has a different model. Several of our partners directly employ marginalized or disadvantaged groups; whether it’s those transitioning out of homelessness, human trafficking or abuse, we’re helping those in need to redirect their lives and become contributing members of society.
A number of the enterprises we work with follow a buy-one, give-one model of giving. For example, we have audio products that donate a hearing aid to someone who has never been able to hear before for each earbud or speaker purchased; or we have wood products that plant a tree for each product purchased. Other partners donate a material amount of each sale to charity.
We stringently vet each cause brand’s social impact model for our site, but each of those cause brand’s has their own model with their own percentage. In some cases, the cause brand is a charity – so that’s a different model then some of the social enterprises who have a model that supports a charity. Under each product we have an impact section where we work to define how that product is supporting the cause.
4) To date, what kind of return on investment has Gifts for Good produced?
We’ve had a lot of impact in a short period of time. For example, from November 9th through December 9th, we provided funding for one year of clean drinking water to 857 people in the Central African Republic; provided 18,000 children with enough Vitamin A for a year; funded 450 days of job training for women transitioning from homelessness in downtown L.A.; gave the gift of hearing to 20 individuals in developing countries who would otherwise not be able to hear; and provided 188 days of schooling to children in need in Honduras.
In the first month of our official launch, we had about 100 orders. Many of these orders were large-scale bulk orders from some of the world’s most valuable brands, and the majority of sales in our first month were from people and companies we did not know. We realized that we clearly tapped into a market need.
We’ve consistently heard from clients that they were looking for a site like ours and that they were so happy to have found us. Our team knows this is only the beginning!
5) How does your Gifting Concierge service aid in company holiday giving?
Our free gifting concierge service helps companies and professionals find the perfect gifts for their industry, company size and demographic, corporate social responsibility initiatives, recipient, occasion and budget. We work closely with our clients to identify their top needs, and curate the perfect gifts for them that speak to the causes their company cares about most.
This service is highly beneficial for the companies who work with us. Not only do we help them give their employees and clients more meaningful gifts that are better remembered, but we also help them to save time and money throughout the year. We offer companies complete outsourcing of their corporate gifting needs year round.
Through our gifting concierge service we also offer custom gift curation. We can design a unique gift for a specific occasion that’s tailored towards a client’s particular interests and preferences.
6) Since your beginning, what trends and/or developments has Gifts for Good been seeing with philanthropic giving?
We are extremely excited about the trends we have been seeing in the realm of philanthropic giving, particularly when it comes to corporate philanthropy. More and more, companies are actively exploring ways to bring social impact into their day-to-day operations. They’re also looking to further support social and environmental causes that are increasingly important to their employees, customers and other stakeholders.
Corporate social responsibility is playing an increasingly important role at most major companies — particularly those that recognize the vital importance of attracting and retaining Millennial talent, who has a strong interest in working for and with companies helping to make the world a better place.
On the other hand, consumers are increasingly using their dollars to support brands who align with their values. It’s so encouraging to see such a rise in activism among both companies and consumers looking to use their dollars as a force for good.
7) Can you tell us what types of corporate clients you have? What products seem to be most popular with them?
We have a variety of different clients that include family offices, private equity firms, foundations, movie studios, real estate agents, recruiting and events companies, celebrities and some of the world’s largest international brands. We’ve really resonated across the board in terms of industries and professions.
As for products, they include holiday gift baskets, water bottles, candles, leather journals and bags, and backpacks.
8) How can both companies and nonprofits get involved with Gifts for Good?
Companies and professionals looking to utilize our free gifting concierge service can call us at (877) 554-1550 or e-mail us at [email protected] We ask nonprofits and social enterprises who want to work with us to visit the Partner With Us page.
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