What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
My biggest concerns are the second and third waves, as happened in the 1918 Spanish flu. [Regardless of the forthcoming vaccine rollout], the events of 2020 have changed the landscape forever. Sharing will become a key concept of all business, personal, and government relationships going forward. But that will not come without a struggle or negotiations. That makes Givz more relevant than ever—as a mechanism for making sharing happen—to remedy the underlying public health and racial discrimination problems, and as a result growing our cultural impact, which have become exposed to all of society. We have seen the silver lining of brands coming to us wanting to give back and “do their part.” For Givz specifically, COVID has accelerated brands’ understanding of what Givz can provide. An offer that used to read “Great news, $20 off jeans” in 2020 seems to land awkwardly, whereas “Buy jeans, get $20 to give to ANY charity you want—we know there’s a lot you care about” costs the brand the same, but encourages much more action and engagement.
The public zeal for social responsibility is getting more ingrained in companies’ core values every day.
We are finding that brands are hard-pressed to find anything that better engages a consumer than giving them cash to donate to a charity of their choice during times like these. Across our clients we have seen overall revenue increases in the double digits, and engagement rates at multiples of what they normally see.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
I was concerned that the very businesses that can benefit the most from Givz, putting them squarely in front of customers as a forward-thinking, socially helpful company, would fall victim to paralysis by analysis due to the uncharted waters we are in. Many are unsure of what to do next. That’s why we are proving the concept every day—as we have with our partner, H&M—that consumers will respond by opening emails and making purchases when they know a meaningful portion is helping the world the way they choose—because the world needs it, and consumers are feeling empowered to do their part. This is a time when people are looking out for each other and want to find convenient ways to contribute to the public good. Companies realize this, and that may be why we have consummated more agreements in the few months since COVID struck than in the previous year. The biggest charitable concerns are when there are spikes in giving behavior, and organizations that are not accustomed to receiving so much funding aren’t sure what to do with the influx of donations. My advice in these situations is to give to either (1) large, reputable, national charities or (2) smaller, local charities that you have done a little bit of diligence on—or someone you trust is involved with.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
2021 is shaping up to be a year of recovery from public health, economic, and social ills. The public zeal for social responsibility is getting more ingrained in companies’ core values every day. As brands try to recapture their markets, their focus on making things more equitable will depend on reallocation and redistribution of dollars. Givz is a premier mechanism to get customers directly engaged by giving them the power to apply corporate donations where they can help most, in communities in need.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
I have learned “This too shall pass,” so you have to just hang in there. Early on, my sports world came crashing down with a torn ACL in high school. I worked hard to recover and come back to play college football. That experience helped me to view major setbacks as a blip on the radar. Bad luck hit again when I graduated college right into a recession, which affected my first job. I learned to just keep going and adapt. This prepared me for the entrepreneurship journey, which is a consistent stream of small crises along with a large pivot about one year ago. I’m looking to avoid making the mistake of overcompensation—I feel people generally have a herd mentality and my goal is to never get too excited and never be too down.
Safe–and entertained–at home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
Morning routine? Without a commute I get a few extra precious minutes to wake up with my 18-month old—bedhead is one of the cutest parts of her day. I flip my shower schedule to nighttime—put on a collared shirt and jump right into my day of virtual managing, motivating, and making partnerships and development happen.
Currently binging? A lot of documentaries, from serious (13th, Filthy Rich) to the opposite (Tiger King), and just hearing about Babies (as a relatively new parent I guess this doesn’t surprise me … I’ll check it out).
Currently reading? Without sports it was tough. ESPN was my main source of non-news-related content. I’ve finally gotten a chance to start reading Sapiens, which I know I’m very late on.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with? Learning from old and young. I’m able to eat lunch with my daughter every day (which never would have been possible previously). I also spent the first six weeks of shelter-in-place with my wife’s family, and had her 91-year-old grandfather living with us. An age gap of 90 years at breakfast, lunch, and dinner was something to behold. We have been trying to play a lot of games—Monopoly Deal is a good new one for us.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically? Trying to actively take some time out to let my mind wander on non-work-related items. I’ve been trying to do at least 20 minutes of exercise a day (when all else fails I do a bodyweight workout with my wife in front of the computer screen). I’d say I succeed every other day on a good week.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal? Right here on the Hudson River to Chelsea Piers, where I play organized basketball. A bigger dream is to visit Greece where a family friend lives—see his classic home island of Aegina through a native’s eyes, and Athens—the birthplace of democracy plus the beauty of ultimate sunsets on the island of Santorini. Definitely looking forward to having a date night out at a restaurant in the hopefully not-too-distant future!