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Do Your Event Gifts Keep Giving?

By Shawna McKinley
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Tired of sending the same old holiday gift box to clients? Feeling bored with your typical speaker gift? Want to strike a special chord with attendees or a sponsor you value? This post provides busy event professionals with CSR-themed event gift ideas that help you give, while also giving back.

Do Your Event Gifts Keep Giving?

Meaningful Materials and Manufacturing Show How Much You Care

Buying gifts from social enterprises not only makes you feel good and the recipient feel happy, but also helps address diverse community needs that make the world a better place. So if it’s important for you to give a physical item, consider something that gives back by doing so.

There are a myriad of social enterprises that empower disadvantaged individuals to improve their lives through meaningful employment. Some of these enterprises even address environmental issues by manufacturing items from discarded materials. For example: Looptworks makes bags, tablet cases and wallets from discarded textiles, including their recently released LUV Seat Bags, made from upcycled airplane seat covers manufactured with the help of people with barriers to employment.
In addition to these enterprises, you can also consider buying gifts from organizations that fight poverty through fairer trade, such as Traidcraft.

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Gifts to Important Causes That Illustrate Your Values

Some gifts may not be made by vulnerable groups using upcycled materials, but instead provide unique opportunities to support causes near and dear to your recipient’s heart. Look for a cause that aligns with something your customer or event participants care about, such as health, education, conservation, water, climate change or the arts. Finding the right charity gift may involve researching groups that operate locally to your recipient or event destination. Local government offices or convention and visitor bureaus may have a list of local charities you can draw on that have fundraising items for sale.

Other ideas might include:
- Symbolic gifts of food, clothing, shelter or education: Visit UNICEF and Oxfam to connect to your national store where you can purchase these symbolic gifts that benefit those in need on behalf of your gift recipient.

- Help with health and healing: Contact your local hospital foundation, where gift stores may provide unique gift items that raise funds for patient care.
- Support for conservation: Many creative conservation groups offer unique gift-giving ways to conserve wilderness, and protect endangered species.

And if you’re paralyzed by the options and unsure what to choose, consider this: you can let your gift recipient choose for themselves! Charitable giving sites like Global Giving allow you to purchase gift cards that your recipient can redeem to support preferred charities.
One of my favorite all-time work gifts was a gift card from KIVA that I received a few years ago. The gift provided $50 in my name that I could invest in microloans of my choosing. Since receiving the initial gift I’ve reused it three times to support small businesses in Peru, Cambodia and Lebanon. So it has indeed been a gift that has kept on giving! And I love getting updates on the projects I’ve opted to support.

Clever Awareness-Raising Gifts That Provoke Action

Looking for your giveaway to spark awareness of an issue and possible solutions? Consider how participant gifts can cleverly highlight a problem customers and attendees can solve.

For example there is increasing concern about drought in many regions of the world. Consider providing attendees with a shower timer and challenging them to conserve water. If you’re looking for larger water-themed gifts for sponsors, speakers or VIP guests, consider water restoration certificates. These work similar to carbon offsets, balancing event or personal water use with specific projects that protect and preserve freshwater ecosystems.
Another creative variation on the water theme from Fairware and UNICEF: dinner mints that promote awareness of the need for safe drinking water.

Back to the Basics - Elegantly Simple Gifts

In today’s busy world of electronic messages and online connectivity, there’s also a lot to be said for rediscovering some old, lost arts. Like homemade cookies affixed with a cherished family recipe. Or a thoughtful thank you card. Perhaps even hand-made cards, featuring hand-written messages from your staff and photos they have taken. Or if you’re not the arts and crafty-type, consider a cause-oriented card produced by a charity, printed on recycled content paper.

In Conclusion

Viewed simply, gifts are an important way to say thank you at events: for sponsorship, business or just simply for coming out. The type of event gifts you give can reinforce your company values in a way that makes the recipient proud to be aligned with you, and more likely to share those good feelings with others. What great examples have you seen of event gifts that also give back?

about the author

Shawna McKinley
Shawna McKinley is a sustainability specialist who believes in the power of events to make the world a better place. She helps eventprofs take practical, smart steps through zero waste and carbon-conscious choices that generate social good, business value, and happy event participants.She is an accomplished sustainability consultant, event planner, author, and instructor. Read more on her blog, Eventcellany.
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