For all the technology, forward-thinking, and innovation in the business world, sending a gift should be on the easy list, right?
If you think about it, corporate gifts cover many occasions, people, and places. Even with the purest motive, there’s potential to unintentionally mix up office politics, or sound like you’re brown-nosing or feigning emotion to make a sale.
Then there’s the gift itself. What sends the right message? What’s an appropriate amount to spend? If a gift is intended for an organization, who’s the right recipient? And what if you’re the intermediary, sending a gift on someone else’s behalf?
These are questions we hear a lot from our corporate account holders at Spoonful of Comfort. And while every situation is (and should be) as individual as the sender and recipient, there is an etiquette to corporate gifting.
Unlike the days of Emily Post, it’s hard to find an official source of the do’s and don’ts surrounding gift-giving in the business world. So here are our 5 W’s of corporate gift-giving (Who, What, When, Where, and Why) with principles to help guide you.
1. Why should you send a gift in business?
There are endless reasons to give a gift within or on behalf of your company. Holidays. Birthdays. Work anniversaries. Weddings. New babies. Promotions. Retirements. Sympathy. Get well. Good luck. Thank you.
All of these are acceptable and appropriate … as long as you are sincere. Your sole purpose for sending a gift should be to share a meaningful sentiment. (“Hey! I’m so happy to hear about the new addition to your family.” Or, “We are thinking of you while you’re in the hospital and wish you the best.”)
If instead your deep-down objective is to bring attention to yourself, earn some brownie points, or get a foot in the door, you’re not giving a gift, you’re advertising. People can sense it—and they may not appreciate it. Let’s be clear, advertising yourself or your company is not inherently a bad thing. But it’s a different thing than gifting. Don’t try to combine both in your message. (For example you wouldn’t say, “Thanks for your business, we hope you’ll remember this when our contract comes up next year.” Ew.) Be judicious about your purpose. Be clear about your intentions. Be sincere with the sentiment your company is sharing.
2. Who should receive a gift at a company?
For many occasion-specific gifts, the recipient is obvious. You send a wedding gift to your co-worker, the bride. You send a thank you gift to the executive assistant who went above and beyond to make your presentation a success.
What about in-office gifting on holidays or birthdays? Etiquette expert and author Jacqueline Whitmore suggests keeping things level. Celebrating co-workers’ birthdays as a group prevents people from feeling left out, or avoids putting someone on the spot for not bringing a gift when others do. This is especially relevant when giving to someone with more authority than you. Group gifts steer clear of perceived favoritism and can make gifting more affordable.
When it comes to sending gifts on behalf of your organization, consider again the purpose of the gift. If you are thanking a client company for their business, send a gift to the company (not an individual) that can be enjoyed and shared by many people. If that client has one person who is the key decision-maker and point of contact for your business, it may be appropriate to send something to him or her individually.
Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Is that person alone the focus of your gifting purpose? Would that person feel recognized and valued, or potentially uncomfortable for being singled out? How would surrounding colleagues react?
Again, it helps to be mindful of the core reason you’re sending a gift. That might affect your choice of recipient and the type of gift itself.
3. Where should you send a corporate gift?
Is it ever appropriate to send a business gift to someone’s home? Is it too personal to send a gift to the office? That depends.
It all comes down to the recipient. Your gift should suit their needs, preferences, and situation. What will be most comfortable and convenient for them?
You might think that gifts that support work relationships should be sent to the workplace. For the most part this is true, and it could avoid eyebrow-raising scenarios. However, consider what works for the recipient.
If you are wishing a client a speedy recovery, a gift sent to his or her home will be seen and appreciated during recovery, not upon return to the office. An engaged couple may have selected a delivery address for registry gifts for their convenience. At Spoonful of Comfort, we deliver meals of soup—and often that means sending to less expected places where the recipient can use the meal: the hospital, a care facility, a family member’s residence.
If you’re not sure where to send a gift, ask someone in the company who is close to that person, like a manager, team member, or assistant. If they don’t provide a home address or other information, respect the recipient’s wishes for privacy. Rather than risk treading on someone’s personal space, ask a recipient’s co-worker if it’s appropriate for them to pass along the gift, or if not, shift to something that can be sent to the office and perhaps wait for the recipient’s return.
4. What should you give as a business gift?
First, choose a gift that is appropriate for the situation and the person. That’s often a matter of common sense, but don’t go on autopilot here. Does it send the right message? Are there cultural sensitivities or limitations? Does the recipient have any allergies (this might go beyond food or flowers; it can apply to fur, scented items, latex balloons, and more).
Next, be thoughtful. Can you give something that is meaningful to the recipient? Is it useful? Memorable? Can you add an extra touch that shows you are not just going through the motions, but really thinking about who that person is?
Finally, explain why you selected the gift and why you thought it would be appreciated. Help your recipient know you made an effort. Showing your personal investment helps build trust—what all strong business relationships rely on.
5. How much should you spend on a corporate gift?
Ah, the golden question. And while there’s not one answer for everyone, here are a few standards to consider.
- Draw names for team holiday giving: one gift to give and receive.
- Set a common gift budget. Etiquette experts suggest a max of $25.
- Give a group gift to an employer/boss. If this person “has everything,” consider something his or her family can enjoy together.
Client/customer or vendor gifting:
- Be aware of tax deduction limits (currently $25/person in the U.S.).
- Weigh the value of that company’s contribution to your business.
- Avoid going overboard; it can give the impression you’re charging too much.
Forbes suggests these guidelines for corporate gifting based on the recipient’s position in the company. The majority of corporate givers make the most purchases in the mid-range for managers and director-level associates.
|Junior or Administrative associates||$50 – $65|
|Manager/Director level associates||$75 – $100|
|Executives and Most-valued clients||$140-$160|
My golden rule for gifting has a lot less to do with price than purpose.
When you show sincere care to a person, it makes a connection and it is remembered. That might be as simple as writing a personal note. It might be choosing an extra touch to make a gift feel even more personal.
I started Spoonful of Comfort on the idea that people genuinely want to be good to each other. It’s as true in business as it is in personal relationships. When you concentrate on showing care to the people behind the company, you’ll create partnerships worth keeping.
How about you? What tips do you have for corporate gift giving? Any great success stories (or even slip-ups) you can share?
By the way, Spoonful of Comfort has corporate specialists dedicated to business gifting. If you’d like advice or have questions about how we’ve helped other organizations handle corporate gifts, we’d be happy to share our experiences with you.