For exhibit and event professionals  

Dilemma: Am I a Grinch if I Nix St. Nick?

November 1, 2011 By Editor

Each year, we do a secret Santa at work. I’d prefer all of us putting the $15 we’re allowed to spend on gifts into a fund we could donate to a food bank or charity like Toys for Tots. Would it be OK to make this suggestion? If so, to whom and how?

— Juanita, Events Manager

Not as long as you’re Santa to someone

The holidays are a time for giving. But when it comes to the office, the question can be giving to whom? Our readers say:

  •   Keep the secret Santa.
  •   Be Santa to those in need.

Keep the secret Santa

Although, on the surface, the secret Santa seems like simple gift giving, it can be a good deal more.

Rebekah Lawrence, Tradeshow and Events Planning for American Airlines, reminds everyone of the real purpose of the tradition.

“The secret Santa increases interaction in your group and provides holiday fun. A charitable donation is commendable. But unless it’s done in a way to incorporate the team doing something together (like working in a soup kitchen or wrapping gifts for The Salvation Army), it doesn’t replace the secret Santa. It can also make people feel ‘forced’ to give to charity, which they may already do on their own anyway.

“Consider doing a silly gift exchange instead of secret Santa, and include it with a holiday lunch or afternoon party. Make it really cheap by requiring all items come from a dollar store or setting a low spending limit. This brings everyone together for some fun, without spending a great deal on gifts. I hope you find a perfect solution through someone’s response!”

A sales director believes this year the secret Santa may be more important than in the past.

“People have little to be excited about these days. They’re overworked and worried about their job security and increasing bills. Taking a little time away from the stresses and enjoying a small gift exchange with co-workers is a nice way to bond. Keep the gift exchange, and let people donate to charities in a separate event.”

An anonymous reader thinks it’s downright un-Christmaslike to dump Santa.

“You’re definitely a Grinch! If you want to suggest contributing to a food bank or charity, do it as a separate function. Don’t take away the fun traditions that go along with the holidays.”

Be Santa to those in need

Other readers are of the opinion that giving to those less fortunate is more in keeping with the spirit of the season.

Steve Chasin, senior graphic designer at MC2, explains how to present the idea of this new tradition.

“Make your suggestion to the head of HR and allow that person to send out a mass email for a vote. (An anonymous vote will prevent anyone from knowing who voted for what, so no one is named the Grinch.)

“Broadcast the results of the donations via photos or short, recorded messages from the recipients. Seeing a child receive a toy or hugging a new stuffed animal is much more fulfilling than seeing the expressions on people’s faces when they open secret Santa gifts that are neither wanted nor appreciated. Giving for the holidays should focus on children, instead of adults who think it’s fun to purchase either gag gifts or just ‘anything’ without thought, to get through the process.”

An anonymous reader also has suggestions on how to sell the concept.

“I can’t imagine anyone having a philosophical problem with giving to charity in these uncertain times. Try to get some support among your co-workers, and then go to the boss with your idea as a group. Even better — make him think you got the idea from him in some way. He’ll love getting to look like the charitable guy.”

Deborah R. Herr, writer/consultant with Deborah Herr Marketing, shares her experience with a shift in giving.

“As an independent consultant, I stopped tearing out my hair to find just the right gift for each client. Let’s face it, they really didn’t need what I was giving them, but they were polite. I now send a donation to Heifer International, a nonprofit that helps people around the world feed and clothe themselves and others with a gift of animals — think chicks, ducks, sheep, etc. Everyone on my list has applauded this choice. Speak with your HR department as a start toward a gift-free holiday.”


  • Although secret Santas can be fun, the presents are all too often things no one wants or ever uses. I have to weigh in on the side of giving to an established charity. Another option would be “adopting” a local family. This way, people who enjoy buying small gifts could do so. The difference is these presents would be appreciated and used.

    Do you have other alternatives to the secret Santa?

  • Write a Reply or Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

    The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this. Review Privacy Policy here