The Case for Charity AND Chocolate

The Case for Charity AND Chocolate

As the holidays approach, we as business owners must consider how we want to show our appreciation for clients and friends. Should we do what we did last year, or should we possibly revisit what worked well many years ago?

When I first began my career in 1998, it was common to send clients a nice assortment of chocolates, nuts, cheeses, or all of the above. As far as I knew, they enjoyed receiving these tokens of appreciation (I certainly did). Then one year, I received an email from a vendor saying “… in lieu of a gift this year, we are making a donation on your behalf to the following charity.” What a cool (and socially responsible) idea! At that point, I was tripping over tins of popcorn anyway and this really stood out as remarkable. The thought of someone in need getting something critical to them instead of me getting more junk food made me feel good. So good in fact that I (you too, right?) started doing this the following year. Now we all receive more of these emails around the holidays than we can keep up with.

The first year I did this, I received responses from over 20% of my clients thanking me for doing this. Last year, I only heard from 1% of the recipients. Interestingly enough, I didn’t receive so much as a small loaf of fruitcake. This past Thanksgiving, I received numerous cards and emails with similar messaging. Then I received a box of delicious gourmet chocolate from one company. I couldn’t tell you who sent me cards or emails, but I could definitely tell you who sent the yummy candy (so could my team at the office). I think we’ve come full circle, where now you have a chance to stand out and be remarkable by sending a nice gift while everyone else is clogging up your clients’ inboxes.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should stop making valuable charitable contributions (I certainly won’t). Especially if you only have a small budget to work with, by all means continue to support the causes that are important to you. (If you need some suggestions, take a look at NFTEBack On My Feet and Code Now). You should even still let your clients know you’re doing so (although it’s likely they will not read your email).

For those of you who have the budget to make charitable donations AND send your clients a nice gift, there are plenty of great options out there. One of them is On Sale Promos, which recently sponsored our inaugural un-networking event by providing a special offer for attendees. Their CEO, Josh Frey, has set up a special cadre page at, and as a reader of this blog you will receive a 10% discount on all purchases.

Please keep in mind that my point is not that you should ditch your charitable giving in order to fatten up your clients. In fact every single one of us, if asked, would tell you they would rather have the money go to charity than chocolate. I am merely suggesting that if you want to show your best clients that you’re thinking about them, the message of a charitable donation made “in their name” may fall on deaf ears. Remember, I went from a 20+% response rate to 1% in 5 years. I believe you have an opportunity to stand out and be remarkable this holiday season by sending a small gift to show how much you value your client relationships, ideally in addition to your continued support of organizations that could use the help.




  1. by Gale Paige on December 7, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Derek, I love getting your notes. An even better suggestion is to give the charitable gift and send a yummy treat in January when nobody else is. Gifts to your loved ones and clients mean a lot more when “you are thinking of them” instead of at traditional times like birthdays or holidays.
    Other good times: March 15th, Ides of March, I’ve got your back. April 1st, I’m no fool I was thinking of you. June 25th, happy half holiday, Memorial day, labor day and any time the weather or time changes.
    The corny sayings can be whatever you wish to convey.

  2. by Derek on December 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks Gale! These are some excellent ideas. Have you used any or all of them in the past?

  3. by Matt Bergman on December 8, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Derek – I truly believe that you hit the nail on the head with this blog. We all strive to stand out from the ordinary and be the extraordinary. When it comes to holiday cards, what was once extraordinary has become ordinary. If you can follow me on this one, what we, as successful business owners, need to do is bring back what was once ordinary and make it extraordinary again. I, for one, welcome the tangible gifts – I’m ok if it is a smaller gift so that charities continue to be on the receiving end of gift giving as well. With that said, I want to apologize in advance for sending you an electronic holiday card listing all of the charities who have benefited from my firm’s efforts this past year.

  4. by Derek on December 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Matt- Thanks for your comments! As I was reading your thoughts, I thought of fashion cycles. This is pretty much the same thing, eh? I will be right there with you on the e-card front. I didn’t have this epiphany until the charitable email was already set in motion (Again!). 🙂

  5. by Joey Coleman on December 8, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Spot on as usual Derek! A few years ago I got to help design an interesting variation on the “a donation has been made on your behalf” holiday gift. It’s called the Good Card and is run by the amazing folks at Network for Good. The Good Card ( is a gift card you purchase that has a value from $10 to $250. You then send the card to your client who can donate the value of the card to any non-profit THEY choose. It’s a great way to have your gift be charitable, tangible, interactive, and personal. Regardless of what you give, acknowledging your client is always a great way to reinforce your brand experience and something to be thinking of year round – not just during the holidays.

  6. by Derek on December 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for your feedback, Joey! The Good Card concept is brilliant! What a great way to combine both. Obviously, being proactive with your clients year-round is huge, and I imagine you have been responsible for creating many remarkable experiences in this department when working with your clients (the things you help them put in place)!

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