Silicon Valley Tech Firm Donates School Supplies in Lieu of Conference Swag
Conference attendees go into these events expecting to learn more information on their field, size up the competition and maybe make a few key connections with peers. But there's one aspect of conferences and trade shows that stands out more than all of this. We're talking, of course, about promotional giveaways. There's a reason that most trade shows and events give you a bag to carry it all at the door.
Attendees at San Francisco tech company Okta's annual conference may have been initially disappointed to learn that they wouldn't receive any freebies, but once they learned that the company would instead donate more than 13,000 items to the San Francisco Unified School District, it was hard to be upset.
EdSurge reported this month that thousands of students in the school district received items like school supplies, furniture, iPad cases, HDMI cables, white boards, college prep materials, crayons and more.
In lieu of swag for our #Oktane19 attendees, this year we partnered with the @sfedfund to help local schools + fulfill over 13K items on teachers' wish lists 🎒 Thank you for helping to make this possible! pic.twitter.com/8qs2QLi6wx
— Okta (@okta) April 2, 2019
For some added context here, it's worth noting that Okta's previous tech conferences lived up to the reputation of tech companies going nuts on swag. In 2018, Okta gave conference attendees YETI water bottles worth 50 bucks a pop, Corkcicle water bottles worth $35, and gave folks the chance to design their own T-shirts and sweatshirts.
The idea came from Twitter user @suzie_mae, whose idea about donations rather than promotional giveaways went viral.
Picture it: A tech conference where they give out 7,000 winter jackets to the homeless instead of 7,000 backpacks to people that already have 7,000 conference backpacks.
— Suzie (@suzie_mae) September 27, 2018
Anna Currin, global program manager at Okta and leader of its partnership with the San Francisco Education Fund, said the tweet prompted Okta employees to start thinking about "extending [their] outreach and doing something with more impact.
"Some [schools] have really heavy needs in technology," Currin told EdSurge. "Some needed pens and paper. Some needed non-conventional items like washers and dryers. We just decided to support whatever ways they needed us."
"I felt so grateful," Leslie Hu, a social worker at MLK Middle School in San Francisco, said in the video produced by Okta. "The teachers were excited that there are people out there who are looking out for our children together."
It's hardly the first instance of a promotional products-adjacent business donating time and money to those in need. We've reported on companies helping out local nonprofits as well as donating to local schools.
But it's nonetheless interesting to see a company so ingrained in the Silicon Valley world pull something so fundamental about its events—free stuff—and allocate the funds to building the local community.