Give Something Back Business Products

Give Something Back Business Products

Give Something Back Business Products (GSB) is an Oakland, California based, for-profit business, was established in 1991 by Mike Hannigan and Sean Marx to sell business products for less while donating a significant share of profits back to the community in the form of charitable contributions. GSB has strong catalog and e-commerce operations, which cater to small businesses and corporate clients. In its first eleven years, Give Something Back amassed over 13,000 customers and contributed nearly three million dollars to charitable community organizations chosen by its customers and employees. The company is now the largest independent office supplies dealer in the Western United States.

Business model

Beginning in 1991, the founders of Give Something Back envisioned a business plan for the firm based on an existing model, that of Newman's Own food products, a business model pioneered by actor and activist Paul Newman. Since incorporation in 1993, GSB has grown from being a local, Northern California business to the point where it has expanded its operations nationwide, doubling in size about every two years. Whereas Newman's Own has continued to donate 100% of its profits to charities since its inception, GSB usually donates something over half of its after-tax profits to Community Based Organizations (CBOs), thereby allowing greater flexibility for expansion, reinvestment, and other business and philanthropic opportunities. Even so, the firm contributes almost seventy times the national corporate average to philanthropic causes.

“There is no question that some of our customers do business with us because they like what we stand for,” says Marx. “But we think that we actually lose more business than we get because of our social mission. That’s because buyers who don’t know us well often assume that, if we give away so much money, we must be charging them higher prices — in effect, making our donations at their expense. So we have learned over the years to approach new customers on a strictly business basis and to earn their business on the basis of competitive prices, great service, and a better buying experience.”


Give Something Back donates to a range of charitable causes, including organizations concerned with public health, human services, the arts and culture, the environment, and education. With more than $3 million in donations, GSB ranks among Northern California's largest corporate donors.

GSB's customers and staff collaboratively choose how charitable funds are allocated through an annual balloting process. The non-profits that receive the most votes get the largest donations. Customers and employees are encouraged to nominate new beneficiary organizations. Each year new non-profit organizations appear on ballots. To be considered for a Give Something Back Community Fund grant, a non-profit must be a registered 501c3, not organized with the specific goal of political lobbying or of supporting a particular religious group or institution.

Included among the numerous non-profits which have received donations from GSB since 1991:
* [ Girls Inc.]
* [ Loaves & Fishes]
* [ Sierra Adoption Services]
* [ East Bay Agency for Children]
* [ Family Service Agency of San Francisco]
* [ Pets are Wonderful Support] (PAWS)
* [ Boys & Girls Club of Greater San Diego]
* [ Home Start, Inc.]


GSB has achieved wide recognition for its business success and its philanthropic mission. "Inc. Magazine" named the company one of the 50 fastest growing city-based companies in the nation for three years in a row, beginning in 1999, and as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in the US. In 2002 and 2003, Give Something Back was recognized as being among the San Francisco Bay Area's "Largest Corporate Philanthropists" by the "San Francisco Business Times".

External links

* [] - Homepage
* [] - 'Give Something Back', Terry O’Keefe, "Common Ground Magazine" (November, 2004)
* [] - 'Tides Center/Social Venture Network Interviewee: Sean Marx', W. K. Keller Foundation(October, 2003)

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