Is it charity, or just a t-shirt?

Research | July 11, 2012

If you spend any time on Pinterest, you might have come across Sevenly, the hip t-shirt vendor with a charitable twist. Each creatively screen-printed t-shirt is for sale for 7 days, with $7 from the sale (average price is $22) going to a U.S. charity working in one of their 7 charitable focus areas.

Sevenly’s numbers are certainly adding up. Their website states they have donated $500,000+ to charity and have had 3.9 million social media “shares” in just a year (since they started in June 2011). Sevenly is making quite a name for itself for its use of social media, which drives a whopping 85 percent of its business.

Given their success with social media (and seeing who’s “pinning” their shirts), they’re obviously a hit will Millennials. Sevenly’s co-founder Dale Partridge claims that “Clicking the donate button on a charity’s website doesn’t work for our generation.” But is this the best use of this generation’s collective power and dollars? In the recently released Millennial Impact Report, it says 75 percent of Millennials donated in 2011. Chimp would be the first to agree that the way we give needs to change dramatically, but does that mean that I need a fashion-forward t-shirt with a questionable fair-trade pedigree dangled in front of me to get me thinking about charity? According to the Impact Report, the single biggest driver of Millennial giving is relationships and engagement with the charity – not t-shirts.

Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with donating part of one’s revenue to charity (and at approximately 30 percent, Sevenly is certainly ahead of the pack). But with approximately $1.3 million in revenue in their first year (not including the donations), Sevenly is a clothing company with a conscience, not a new model for giving.

Though Sevenly’s co-founder would like to see people become stand-alone givers, the model proposes nothing to move people to that stage – in fact, the lack of choice of charities from week to week compromises the charitable learning experience for purchasers. Instead, like other philanthropic e-commerce models, it socializes people to expect something in return when they donate. That doesn’t mean that the Sevenly teams’ hearts aren’t in the right place, but it doesn’t make it particularly constructive either.

– SM

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