Gift Giving Etiquette for Businesses 

In a survey taken of business gift-givers this year, 80% of respondents reported that they believe that gift-giving has positively impacted their relationships with clients and employees alike. 

Whether you are thanking a client for their support, or letting your employees know how much you appreciate their contributions to your company, it is important that your choice in gift does not violate the basics of gift-giving etiquette for businesses. 

Although it might seem overly cautious, gift-giving etiquette is different in matters of business than it is in personal relationships. By giving an inappropriate gift or giving it inappropriately, you may send the wrong message to your clients or employees, which could negatively affect your business. 

To show your appreciation the right way, follow these business gift-giving etiquette guidelines and tips we have outlined for you below. 

1. Follow Business Rules 

Chances are your business already has some rules regarding giving and receiving gifts. Before you do anything, check the standards that have already been laid out explicitly in business guidelines, or speak with your Human Resources representative. If the guidelines are lacking, read on before making your gift decisions. 

2. Consider the Context and Know Your Message

What exactly is the occasion for gift giving in question? Is this a holiday gift, or a birthday gift? Or, is this a gift just to say thanks to your loyal customers, employees, or other supporters? After you have determined the occasion for the gift, ask yourself what message you would like the gift to send. 

There are only a handful of messages that could be appropriate to send to clients or employees, which have already been mentioned. They are:

  • Thank you for your support 
  • Happy Holidays (be sure not to use exclusive language like “Merry Christmas” that could offend your diverse client and employee base)
  • Happy Birthday 

If the “message” you are trying to send in your gift is not one of the above, you should strongly consider if the message is appropriate. Anything that is too personal or intimate could make your clients and employees feel uncomfortable, and can have the exact opposite impact you intended. Further, be careful with humorous messages/gifts– some jokes may not be funny to everyone, and can actually be offensive or hurtful.

3. Know Your Audience

For any kind of gift, it is equally important to consider the interests and hobbies your clients and employees may have. If your clients are generally the type to enjoy sports or outdoor activities, you should not gift them something you would find in the beauty department. 

This can be tricky, because it is important to avoid engaging stereotypes when you read your audience. A good way to work around this dilemma is to find a middle ground between what your clients might like, and what your business offers regularly. For example, an office supply retailer might have an extremely diverse audience in terms of hobbies and interests, but they may tire of giving out office supplies at every promotional event. A neutral gift in this scenario would be something like a tote bag or water bottle— not exactly office supplies, but also not so creative and highly-specialized that it might only appeal to a fraction of people. 


4. Use Your Gift for Marketing

Gift giving is a great way to promote your brand! Anything with your brand logo is considered a promotional product. To kill two birds with one stone, incorporate your logo in your gift. Not only will this send the message intended with the gift, but it will also remind the recipient of your company every time they use or see your gift. 

5. Take Pride in the Packaging 

Packaging should not be overlooked. A poorly wrapped or packaged gift communicates to the receiver that you/your business, the giver, did not take the act of gift-giving seriously. It says to the client or employee that your gift was not given sincerely. Full packaging can be tiresome and costly, but there are other ways to present your gift. A simple bow or festive cellophane would do the trick just fine. For small gifts like gift cards or vouchers, taking the time to place them into envelopes and address them to the recipient individually will go a long way. 

6. Be Fair 

Sometimes you want to give each person, be they client or employee, a more individualized gift, rather than the same for everyone. This can be done appropriately, but it is extremely important that the gifts are equal in value. This is especially important when it comes to giving gifts to employees who all share a workspace. Unequal gifts can look like favoritism, and can actually make some employees feel unappreciated, rather than appreciated, and this could have very negative consequences. As a business, you must be even-handed and neutral when it comes to gift giving. 

7. Check Your Budget


Gift-giving is inherently costly, but it should not break the bank. Do the math beforehand. Estimate the cost with consideration of how many items you need, how much packaging you need, and whether there will be additional costs for shipping your gifts out to recipients. If the estimated cost is untenable, choose a more affordable gift. Everyone knows that when it comes to gift-giving, it really is the thought that counts. If your gift is given sincerely, fairly, and with good intentions, it will not matter to the recipient what the gift is worth. 

8. Consider Donating

Donating to a charity on behalf of your client or employee is a super safe gift-giving approach that not only frees you from the pressure of traditional gift giving, it is also sure to reinforce your company values to your clients or employees. Knowing that your business gives back to society in the form of charitable donations will make them all the more committed to supporting your business. 

9. Experiences Count Too

Like making a donation, gifting experiences, such as giving tickets to a show or a gift card to a nice restaurant, is a great way to say thank you to your clients and employees. By treating them to a fun experience, you are giving a gift and also creating a memory, and they will always associate that happy memory with your company. 

If this is your approach, keep in mind that you want to make sure the gift allows for flexibility. Instead of buying tickets to a specific movie at a specific time, get your client or employee a voucher for any movie or show of their choice, to redeem at their leisure. Further, do not buy your client or employee a gift that will require great travel or additional expense in order for them to enjoy it. 

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