Corporate Gift Giving: Guidelines for Compliant Policies

It’s that time of the year again — the holiday season is coming upon us and your B2B sales reps are working longer hours to close last-minute deals. 

Your marketing team is busy too — fully entrenched in messaging and plans for the upcoming year. It seems like there’s not enough time in the day.

Yet, there’s one last thing to consider before taking a well-deserved break for the holidays — corporate gift giving. There are many instances in the business world where gifts are appropriate, welcomed, and even expected. 

But, it’s important to be cautious — corporate gift giving can go very wrong.

The Importance of Corporate Gift Giving 

As a tradition both in and out of business, gift giving strengthens associations and creates positive connections between organizations, clients, and employees. 

Gifts keep your company top-of-mind, even when engagement with the recipient has been low. In the long-term, gift-giving can increase customer retention, improve ROI, reduce churn, and boost brand reputation.

Gifting has long been a marketing strategy, but your company’s community is just as important as your clients and employees. Giving back to local partners and organizations benefits everyone involved.

Corporate Gift Giving Best Practices

Whether you’re in charge of choosing the company gift or just looking for a way to thank your team, corporate gift giving is tricky territory. What’s appropriate? How much do I spend? What do my coworkers expect? Is this weird?

Don’t stress, we have you covered! Here are our top tips and best practices to guide your corporate gift giving:

1. Check Compliance Laws

In many industries, gifting is governed by a very specific set of compliance laws. Yes, you read that right — giving the wrong gift to the wrong person can land you in hot water. These laws dictate what types of gifts are appropriate and what types aren’t.

Here’s a quick guide borrowed from Thomson Reuters that explains general compliance surrounding gift giving:

Generally Acceptable

  • Gifts of nominal value bearing the company logo
  • Meals where the gift giver and the gift receiver are both present
  • Perishable gifts
  • Gifts that fall under applicable legal and company gift limits
  • Gifts approved by a supervisor

Generally Unacceptable

  • Gifts to government officials
  • Multiple gifts
  • Requests for charitable donations
  • Gifts of more than nominal value

Definitely Unacceptable

  • Lavish gifts
  • Gifts of high value (grossly exceeding company threshold)
  • Gifts intended to influence business decisions
  • Gifts to government officials for expedited service
  • Gifts that may be considered bribes
  • Solicited gifts

As always, if you’re not sure whether your gift is compliant — ask a compliance officer or HR representative before going through with the purchase.

2. Buying for People Outside Your Company

Typically, when it comes to buying gifts for people outside your company, it’s appropriate to buy for clients, prospects, service providers, and business partners. In fact, gift giving can be an excellent relationship-building tool and can even generate more business for your company.

In this instance, the recipient of the gift isn’t as important. Rather, it’s the nature of the gift that can trip you up. Play it safe and select something relatively small. Be sure the gift and any additional messaging are holiday-neutral.

If you’re not sure what to give, consider sending a small branded gift. Read: small, not cheap! A branded gift is a great way to show your appreciation in a way that can’t be misconstrued as inappropriate.

3. Buying for People Within Your Company

Buying for employees or coworkers is a little more difficult. To start — if you’re in charge of selecting a company-wide gift, select something genuinely useful that your employees will appreciate. It’s safest to buy the same gift for all employees, regardless of their role.

But, if you’d like to switch it up, be sure you’re operating under the guidance of a documented gifting strategy. Some companies choose to buy bigger gifts for employees who have been with the company longer — this is fine! Just be sure the value and nature of the gifts are consistent.  Before purchasing your gifts, take a step back and consider whether your picks seem fair. If not, go back to the drawing board.

If you’re not buying for the entire company and want to purchase gifts for your team or coworkers, there are a few important factors to consider: 

Generally, if you’re buying for just one person and it’s not your boss, you should give the person the gift on your own personal time. 

If you don’t see this person outside of work, that’s a good indication you shouldn’t be buying them a gift.  But, if you are buying for your boss or a superior, a small card or token of your appreciation is generally acceptable.

If you’re buying for your team, just be sure that your gifts are of the same nature and value. This goes without saying, but also be sure you don’t leave anyone out. If you’re buying for a few team members, it would be inappropriate not to buy for the entire team.

Before giving a gift, ask yourself: is this going to make the recipient uncomfortable? Will this gift make other employees uncomfortable? Is this gift workplace appropriate? Will this be seen as favoritism, bribery, or anything else unsavory?  If you have any doubts, it may be best to skip the gift giving.

4. Don’t Go Overboard

Buying a gift that’s too extravagant can send the wrong message — no matter who you’re giving it to. To a customer, prospect, or partner it can look like you’re trying to buy their business or influence them in some way. Giving an extravagant gift to an employee or co-worker can seem like favoritism or even make the other person feel indebted to you.

Keep your gifts small and practical to avoid a corporate gift giving snafu.

5. Consult the Company Handbook

One final piece of advice — when in doubt, consult your company handbook. If you don’t have access to one or your company’s handbook doesn’t discuss gift giving, take your question straight to HR. After all, that’s what they’re there for!

Your HR team would much prefer to answer your questions and prevent trouble rather than handling an issue after it’s already occurred.

Your Responsible Corporate Gift Giving 

Although gift giving is often done with nothing but good intentions, it’s still important to cover your bases. A small token intended to spread holiday cheer can quickly turn into an issue of favoritism, ethics violations, or workplace tension.

Don’t let this dampen your holiday spirit! It’s relatively easy to be smart about your gift giving. And, the practice can actually improve employee morale, reduce employee turnover, and even increase productivity.

To wrap this up, we want to commend you for your generosity. Small gifts are an excellent way to show employees, clients, partners, and coworkers how much you appreciate them — as long as you go about it correctly.