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John Daly: Gift Exchange Ideas for the Holidays

Most everyone is familiar with Secret Santa and White Elephant gift exchanges at office and holiday parties. For the season, I wanted to search around and find some unique or fun ideas to offer up and get everyone’s creative juices flowing. It’s not always easy to come up with new ideas, so here are some I gleaned from Business News Daily to share with you.

Charity Exchange

Of course I would think of this first, and so did my resource. In lieu of presents, get everyone in the office to share their favorite charity, along with their names, and put it in a hat. Have everyone select a name. The outcome? Each employee gives a small donation with a money limit to the charity drawn.

Gift Auction

This can instigate some fun competition. Each employee brings a gift that is put on display in the office. Each employee is assigned a number of points (like 100 or 200) to bid on gifts as each is presented.

The auction should go as long as it takes for each employee to use up the allotted points given and everyone has won a gift.

This can be done as a live or silent auction. With a silent auction, have employees bid points on clipboard forms placed in front of each gift. The final bid (bidding is timed) wins.

Silent auctions can also be done with small ballots in boxes in front of each gift so no one has the advantage of seeing what others have bid.

Gift Grab

Have everyone bring a small, wrapped gift within a certain price range and place it in a specified area. Assign a number to each person participating and put the numbers in a hat. Ask each person to draw a number to determine the order in which they may select a gift.

However, a gift grab allows people to steal gifts after they have been chosen by others. For instance, once the first person has gone, anyone after that can choose to either take another person's present or choose from the pile. The person whose gift is stolen can do the same — either steal another’s gift or pick a new one — but they cannot steal back their gift.

Play until there are no gifts left to exchange.

Coffee Mugs

Because almost everyone has a use for a coffee mug, limit your employees to exchanging funny or decorative coffee mugs. Everyone can draw names from a hat. Set a price limit. To make it even more fun, suggest employees fill their mugs with treats (like candy, teas or hot cocoa packets.)

Book Exchange

Have an office filled with people who love to read? Have each employee bring in a copy of his or her favorite book, or a book by his or her favorite author. Draw names from a hat to decide who gets which book.

To make this even more meaningful, have employees write a note to the recipient explaining why the particular gift book is so special to them. This is inexpensive but allows employees to learn more about one another and perhaps discover similar interests.

Recipe Baskets

Almost everyone has a favorite recipe. Exchange your favorite recipes instead of actual presents. Suggest employees make a gift basket with instructions and the ingredients to make the dish. Again, to determine who should get each basket, simply draw names out of a hat and let individuals take the basket belonging to the name that has been drawn.

Co-worker Trivia

This is a great way to help your employees learn even more about each other. Have everyone bring a wrapped gift under a certain price limit and put them in an area where you will all gather later.

Ask each employee to write down a little-known fact about himself or herself on an index card. Have the president of the company draw the cards one at a time and read the fact aloud. The first person who guesses the name of the employee to which the fact belongs gets to select a present.

Keep this going until all presents have been collected. And, everyone will know each other better as well.

Hopefully, you can take these ideas to your office manager as suggestions to liven up a gift exchange. In addition, keep the following in mind:

» Involve the entire office. This should apply to the entire staff.

» Cap the cost per gift. Decide beforehand on the maximum dollar amount ($10-$15) to be spent on gifts, which will spare your employees budgets during this expensive time of year.

» Give advance notice. If you’re involving your office in an organized gift exchange, inform people well in advance so everyone has time to shop.

» Schedule accordingly and before people leave early for holidays. Rather than during a holiday celebration when clients might attend, consider a small pre-holiday reception in the office.

» Urge common sense. Suggest gifts not be inappropriate, sexually suggestive or otherwise problematic. Instruct employees to take extra care.

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or to get his book. If you have questions about business or social etiquette, just ask John at [email protected]. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook. Follow John Daly on Twitter: @johndalyjrClick here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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