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‘Tis the Season: Ethical, Appropriate, and Joyful Holiday Gift-Giving During COVID-19

‘Tis the season for business owners and executives to think about what gifts to give to vendors, top clients or customers, and employees. In a normal year, one criterion is that gift selection must comply with an organization’s policies and consider cultural and religious sensitivity. But 2020 is not a normal year. Coming off a fraught election season and with an ongoing, growing pandemic, the basics of ethical gifting haven’t changed much. There are, however,  a few additional factors to keep in mind this year. We’ve assembled a list of key dos and don’ts to help ensure a smooth, ethical holiday giving season.


Do: Follow Your Company Gift Policy to the Letter


Your company should have a policy in place around giving and accepting gifts, hospitality, and entertainment (GHE). Now is an ideal time to review your organization’s policy and ensure all employees do the same. This helps to eliminate the chance that anyone in your organization will give or accept a gift that could be construed as bribery, including cash gifts, overly lavish gifts, or gifts intended to influence business decisions or contracts.


Don’t: Choose Gifts Without Considering Economic and Social Realities


In past years, travel- and entertainment-related gifts (such as dining certificates, concert or movie tickets) may have been appropriate, provided they followed organizational policy. During a pandemic and related lockdowns, such gifts might be construed as weird, insensitive or inappropriate. The same reaction may apply to overly expensive gifts. While some organizations may budget more on GHE because they’re saving on travel and holiday parties, going over the top during an economically unstable time can be seen as fiscally irresponsible or off-putting. On the other hand, gifts related to the home or remote work (a cozy blanket, food items from local shops, beautiful or branded notebooks, etc.) are likely to be a hit.



Do: Consider Gifts with a Charitable or Social Impact


Due to COVID-19 and an increasing global focus on human rights and social and racial justice, more organizations are selecting gifts that support their community or an altruistic cause they believe in. According to Accenture’s 2020 consumer survey, 40% of respondents said they plan to shop at minority-owned businesses. The same percentage said they would shop at retailers who support the Black Lives Matter movement. You can follow consumers’ leads by buying gifts from local or minority businesses or that benefit charitable organizations and causes.


Don’t: Forgo Giving Entirely


It may be tempting to take this year off from holiday-giving. Budgets are tight, and the economy is depressed. However, now is an optimal time to find meaningful gifts that create a sense of connection between your company and vendors, employees, and customers.  According to the consumer research firm NPD, 40% of consumers indicated that, as a result of COVID-19, they would buy more presents to increase camaraderie and joy during challenging times. An inexpensive or homemade gift with a personal note can be just as festive as an expensive one and help you avoid being seen as the local Grinch!


Do: Prepare for Shipping Delays


According to Salesforce‘s research, up to 700 million packages could be at risk for not arriving in time for the holidays due to the surge in online shopping and COVID-related surcharges from traditional delivery services like FedEx and UPS. Make sure to plan and send gifts early or, if feasible, consider delivering gifts yourself (contact-free, of course).


Do: Be Mindful of Privacy Issues


With so many people working from home, including customers and vendors, it becomes harder to have gifts delivered to a home address while managing personal information privacy, such as asking for a home address. One solution is to use vendors who handle the delivery address matter between themselves and the recipient. This allows the recipient to provide a delivery address based on their comfort without you having to get in the middle of the matter.


May Your Days Be Merry and Bright


We hope you’ll follow our advice and adjust your gift-giving strategy for this year’s holiday season. Focus on being sensitive, personal, and in tune with current realities, but don’t miss the chance to infuse joy and meaning into a potentially difficult holiday season for many people in your orbit.

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