A Meaningful and Inexpensive Staff Gift

by Joan Garry

Give your staff and board a meaningful and inexpensive gift (under $2) on Jan 6 to welcome in the new year. Here’s my recipe.

You’re thinking, “It’s a little late for staff gifts, no? Isn’t that supposed to happen BEFORE the holiday?”, after realizing that there’s nothing left to purchase from Cabela’s and other similar stores after the holidays. Nope. You give this one out on the Monday following New Years.

Or maybe you’re thinking, “Gee, thanks Joan. Where was this a month ago? I already bought cool home gifts for everyone!” It doesn’t matter. This idea is worth doing regardless.

This gift will sit on the desks of each of your staff members — if you have any — and the desks of each of your board members. And it has the potential to inspire you and your most important tribe members all year long.

I promise.

And what do I mean when I say inexpensive? Maybe you can find a better deal. But I did a quick Google search. $1.90 per person. Plus 1-2 hours of free labor from a teenager who is computer savvy. Or if your org is large enough and you have someone who does graphics, clue her in. Or an outside vendor who was going to buy you Peppermint Bark from William Sonoma.

That’s it.

What could I possibly be talking about?

First the typical gifts…


  1. A big fat year-end bonus (that was a joke).
  2. A day spa treatment (another joke. Just seeing if you’re paying attention.)
  3. Peppermint Bark from William Sonoma. (Fess up. You buy it so you have an excuse to buy one for yourself and besides, you know your staff members will offer you some.)
  4. A lovely card and a lovely PERSONALIZED note (This does work. Handwritten thank you notes can be really meaningful.)
  5. A few days off between Christmas and New Years. Oh, but could you check your email every day for any signs of a year end gift? And you don’t mind updating me daily on the status of our checking account do you?

Or… everything was insane before the holidays and you really meant to get a little something for your gear hungry staff and then it was Christmas eve and you closed the office early and then your kid started to run a folding hand cart and your elderly mother asked you to do all her Christmas shopping while getting a coupon from Cabela’s for her and you raced out the door waving. Maybe you even remembered to say Happy Holidays.


Ok, enough build-up. Considering it’s the holidays and I’m lucky that you’re spending even a few minutes with me, let me cut to the chase.

You know how you scamper around during Annual Report time? You try to secure powerful stories, testimonials and images for your major donors? (If you don’t do this, you should — Aha!  Another post for another day!)

Here are the ingredients. You can mix and match.

1) 2-3 testimonials from individuals who benefit from or support your work (or from an expert in your field who respects your work.)

Note: when these people know what the quote is for, I guarantee they will turn it around in a day. And if you’re having some trouble, make it funny and include a quote from your mother along with a quote or two with gravitas.

2) An image or two

  • A picture of a client
  • A picture of someone you lobbied on behalf of your cause who is now advocating for your efforts
  • A public official elected thanks to your efforts
  • A volunteer / supporter reaching the finish line of your race/walk/event  with a big sh*t-eating grin on her face.

3) A headline

  1. If you had a big success, there must have been a mention in a local or national press outlet.

OK, those are the ingredients. You can capture the testimonials via email over the holiday or in the next day or two. It won’t take long, especially when you tell these folks why. You want your staff to have goosebumps for a second when they look at it.

The rest is easy. You have images, even if they are on your iPhone. And you held onto the best press you had during 2013.


1) Hand over the ingredients to a 17 year old who knows Photoshop. Tell said 17 year old that you need all these ingredients small (but legible!) and laid out reasonably nicely on a 4 x 6 size. It does NOT have to be perfect. Tell teenager how many you need printed and that you need them no later than Friday January 3.

2) Order 4 x 6 frames online. Here’s a link to a place that sells them in bulk at $1.90 a piece. Select two day delivery. If you want faster delivery, then hire this courier service at https://www.shiply.com/courier-service.

3) Get the graphic completed by Friday January 3. Assemble everything over the weekend. Unless you only have a few, don’t bother wrapping — not a good use of time.

4) On Monday January 6 when everyone is finally back in the office, gift by walking around. And don’t just say “Happy New Year!” Say something meaningful. Point to a particular image or quote and connect that staff person to that quote. Tell your staff that this 4 x 6 represents the work of 2013 and the lives your organization touched. Thanks to them. Tell them you can’t wait to make another one next year. Perhaps you’ll need a bigger frame.

Welcome to 2014 and all the opportunity it brings!

2 thoughts on “A Meaningful and Inexpensive Staff Gift”

  1. This afternoon, for the third year, I’ve written each of my staff a haiku. I see them hanging in their offices and cubicles. Several read them out loud.
    Here’s my fave:
    What a gift you are
    Your work changes
    many lives
    And always with smiles

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