Skip to main content

While the adage, “It’s the thought that counts,” remains true, putting a little extra thought into group gift etiquette can make the experience better for everyone. Organizing and gifting as a group can be a great way for friends or coworkers to get the recipient a great present, whether that means affording a big-ticket item from a friend’s wedding registry , or acknowledging a colleague’s important life event for a shared cost of only a few dollars per coworker.

At the same time, the process from planning to gifting can be challenging for everyone involved—from the organizer to participants—and that stress can ripple through and affect everyone, even the gift recipient. You want your group gift to promote a positive feeling and spark happy memories for all parties involved, and there are steps you can take to make group gift collection easier on everyone.

Rules of Thumb for Easy Group Gift Etiquette

When arranging a gift pool to split the cost among friends or coworkers, the most important things to consider are fairness and inclusion. While it’s important that everyone is welcome to participate in the special occasion, it is just as important to recognize that not everyone has the same amount to spend—and participation in group gift collections is not a condition of employment or friendship.

  1. Be open to responses you might not have expected.

It’s totally reasonable for someone to turn down your gift pool collection. Someone may be close friends with the recipient and want to give an individual gift. Someone else might be experiencing tough financial times. Think ahead and make some space for alternative ways people can take part besides splitting the cost—like taking care of the shopping or gift wrapping—and not be left out just because they don’t have the extra 20 dollars (or five, or 50) this time.

  1. Encourage participants to contribute at a level they feel is fair and comfortable.

As the gift organizer, it can be tempting to prescribe a dollar amount for everyone to contribute. But it’s important to consider individuals’ unique financial circumstances. To be compassionate and fair, you can either select and purchase a gift in advance and accept that you may end up contributing more than you’d planned after everyone contributes, or you can accept contributions of any amount and purchase an appropriate gift using the proceeds.

  1. Make a deadline for contributions, give people advance notice and let everyone know when you plan to give the gift.

Folks on a tight budget might need a few days to come up with the cash for your money collection. And, unlike buttonholing your friends or coworkers for money, giving them a deadline of a week or so shows caring and respect for everyone. You can also use a coffee cup or flowerpot to collect the funds discreetly. This allows participants to give without having their contribution amount scrutinized and also keeps it a secret from the recipient.

  1. Workplace collection? Make sure your plans comply with company policy.

While a little workplace socializing can be fun, office gift-giving etiquette can vary from workplace to workplace. Some companies have policies in place that ban money collections at work. Make sure you’re aware of any policies on workplace gift-giving before you start a collection. In place of a group gift, some coworkers take time to get together for lunch out of the office.

  1. It is okay to politely decline.

If you’ve been approached for a gift pool and you need to (or want to) turn it down, the most important thing to remember is kindness. You might have your own gift idea in mind, or you’re low on funds and unable to contribute by the deadline—your reason doesn’t really matter, and you’re under no obligation to take part. What does matter is that you recognize the thoughtfulness of the organizer for including you in the group gift collection and acknowledge the importance of the event in your friend’s or coworker’s life.