Bye Bye, Chia Pet: For Holiday Office Parties With Heart, Shop Commerce For A Cause

The coworker gift exchange is typically a sad march of meaningless and forgettable trinkets–Chia pets, coffee gift cards, vanilla-scented candles. But the spirit of giving is entirely the point of startups like CharityGiftMarket and DoGoodBuyUs.

Bye Bye, Chia Pet: For Holiday Office Parties With Heart, Shop Commerce For A Cause

Gift cards? iPad cases? Coffee mugs? When shopping for holiday gifts for those awkward workplace exchanges, it’s usually hard enough to figure out what to buy a coworker you barely know without also having to worry about whether your purchases serve a greater good. Wouldn’t it be great if you could find something that’s truly meaningful and helps support great causes or charities?


Lots of larger charities already have online storefronts. The challenge is finding them and then actually finding the right items for the people on your list. That’s where startups such as CharityGiftMarket and DoGoodBuyUs come in. Their e-commerce stores offer goods created and produced by charities, with proceeds returning to the charities to support their work.

Shoppers benefit by having a bunch of charities housed under one roof. Charities benefit by accessing additional marketing and promotional support that might not otherwise have been possible, raising both awareness and revenue. By offering products instead of relying solely on monetary donations, charities are also able to reach a different audience. “Someone might not want to give a $20 donation to an organization they haven’t heard of before but they’re generally more likely to make a purchase. The charity benefits from that purchase and it can help open the door for future engagement” said Lindsey Markelz, CharityGiftMarket cofounder and CEO.

Searchable by product or cause, each item includes a brief description of how and where it was made and which organization their proceeds will benefit. What I like most about the platforms is that they make it that much easier to “do good.” With everything else going on around the holidays, the idea of saving a little extra time can definitely be a huge plus.

“People should feel good when they purchase products from charities. Our goal is to engage the shopper around the story of their product, to help them understand that they can leverage something as simple as shopping and gift-giving to truly make an impact on the lives of others,” Markelz added.

Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of workplace gift exchanges. I’ve received Chia Pets, picture frames, and a myriad of other items that I’ve long since forgotten. With sites like CharityGiftMarket and DoGoodBuyUs, coworkers can give gifts that are truly meaningful and charities can receive some much-needed funding. I’d say that pretty much captures the essence of a gift that keeps on giving.

Looking for workplace gift exchange ideas that support a cause? Here are five options that are sure to make you the hit of the party:

  1. Soapstone Coasters – Empower women to rebuild their lives after conflict or disaster in their home regions
  2. Glass Water Bottles – Provide clean water to schools in Uganda and South Sudan
  3. Fair Trade Coffee – Help women in the U.S. facing chronic unemployment to gain job-readiness skills
  4. Candle Sets – Empower women to rebuild their lives after conflict or disaster in their home regions
  5. Baskets – Help communities in Uganda to support orphans in their communities

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Shawn Graham is a marketing and brand strategist for startups and small businesses. Find Shawn at or continue the conversation on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user drewsaunders]

About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning.