Season Without Swag: A Chat with Givsly’s Chad Hickey

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As we near our #AW2020 virtual event this fall, one of the experiences we at Advertising Week are most excited about is our partnership with Givsly. Through Givsly, we’re giving AW2020 attendees the chance to speak 1-on-1 with some of the best minds in the industry, with proceeds going to the Ad Council and other non-profits. Additionally, we’ve partnered with Givsly to promote their Season Without Swag program and had the opportunity to speak with Givsly CEO Chad Hickey about Season Without Swag’s origins and purpose.

Q: Among purpose focused companies, Givsly is already incredibly unique. Season Without Swag seems to double-down on that, presenting an idea that seems particularly relevant to the world today but also one-of-a-kind. Tell us, how did Season Without Swag come about?

CHAD: In January, we started hearing a lot of feedback from industry leaders about the excessive amount of inbound holiday gifts. As a former sales leader, the feedback about these duplicative gifts hit home because every company has the branded notebook and water bottle. The comments got me thinking about the amount of money that my teams and I had spent on unnecessary gifts like that throughout the years – especially at the holidays. It was a significant amount of money for just one company. It also got me thinking about the positive impact that could be made if companies in our space used that holiday money differently. Not only would it be better for the environment, but it could also help nonprofits in need. These were my sentiments even before the pandemic and racial injustices that have been brought to light within the last 5 months. In March and in the following months, Season Without Swag took on an even deeper meaning to create positive impact. This year has been a great wake up call to all of us about how we need to focus on and make a conscious effort to positively impact those around us. There are so many other important things that we need to prioritize doing with holiday gift budgets so that we can make a positive impact in the world around us.

Q: Swag has long been an even mix of the frivolous and the practical, but key to brands attaining mindshare at conferences and events. Do you feel that 2020 will permanently reshape that?

CHAD: I don’t. Season Without Swag is not meant to say that all swag is bad. I am in a promotional Givsly shirt right now and I love it. The goal of the movement is to get individuals and companies to think about the small changes they can make that can drive a big impact. There is $25 BILLION spent on swag each year. If every company could make minor changes to redirect 10% of that budget to nonprofits instead – think about how powerful that could be. That mindset is what I hope gets reshaped.

Season Without Swag is not meant to say that all swag is bad. I am in a promotional Givsly shirt right now and I love it.

Q: What sort of measurement do you use to determine whether Season Without Swag is a success?

CHAD: We will be looking at several things: 1) the number of industry leaders that rally behind the cause 2) the amount of companies that participate and 3) hitting our $1 million goal. We realize this may be ambitious for our first year, but we think it is attainable. I know from my own personal experience the types of budgets that are there, companies really just have to decide to take the different approach. Operating with more purpose is not going to be just a 2020 thing, so we expect this movement to gain momentum as we make this an annual event.

Q: What kind of impact would you like to see it have?

CHAD: I want the impact to be a change in how the industry thinks as a whole. If that happens, then it will be a catalyst for reaching all our other goals around purpose. Our company was formed with the belief that business professionals already have what they need to create impact. They just have to decide to think differently about how they use their time and money. Season Without Swag is just one piece of where we think business behavior can change.

Q: How can companies get involved?

CHAD: You can take your current holiday gift budget and make a donation to the nonprofit of your choice. It is that simple! Once you decide to do that, you can reach out to my team at and we can add you to our Season Without Swag site as a participating company. There are different packages to amplify your support through sponsorship opportunities but those are totally optional.

Q: Beyond the obvious, partnering with Givsly to allocate swag budgets to doing good, are there other ways in which companies could get involved?

CHAD: Definitely. Our core product is our Givsly platform at The Givsly platform is free to sign up and allows professionals the ability to volunteer a business meeting to someone who chooses to make a donation to a cause they support. It is just another shift in thinking that we are seeing happen. Professionals want to positively impact the world around them and this allows them to do it without adding another thing to their busy plate. Givsly gives you the ability to do that while creating a culture of giving for the company as a whole. Instead of taking a client to the typical happy hour or lunch – why not use those funds to support a cause they care about. You still get the time with them and you both connect in a more purposeful way.

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