Hi! You found our comprehensive list of virtual gift exchange ideas, which outlines everything you need to know about hosting virtual Secret Santa exchanges, white elephant parties, and Yankee swaps!
This article explains what each type of exchange is, how to hold them, and suggests gift ideas worth under $30 for each event.
Let’s get to it!
Virtual Secret Santa
Here is everything you need to know about virtual Secret Santa exchanges.
What is a Virtual Secret Santa?
A Virtual Secret Santa is an online gift exchange where participants buy a present for an assigned recipient. The identities of benefactors are a secret until the day of the exchange. In a remote Secret Santa, the gift giver ships the present to the recipient’s home, and participants open gifts during a video call.
How to Run a Virtual Secret Santa
Remote Secret Santas may seem more complicated than in-office versions, but online exchanges are actually easy to execute. Here are six basic steps for planning a successful virtual Secret Santa.
Step #1: Pick a date for the exchange
The first step in the Secret Santa process is to pick a date for the exchange. Because shopping online and mailing packages can take longer than purchasing presents in-store and swapping in person, leave enough time for your participants to secure presents without paying for rush shipping. One months notice is typically a good timeframe, so announce your virtual Secret Santa around Thanksgiving.
Step #2: Set a budget
To encourage maximum participation and avoid leaving out coworkers on a budget, set a price limit on gifts. Typical budgets for Secret Santas tend to range between $10-$30. Since virtual Secret Santa participants pay for shipping too, account for this extra expense when setting the budget or offer a stipend to cover mailing costs.
Step #3: Collect sign-ups
Once you settle on a date and budget and announce the activity, begin gauging interest by sending out a sign-up sheet. To help employees who may not know each other well buy gifts for each other, ask participants to compile a wish list. Many Secret Santa websites and apps have wish list features, but if they do not, then use a team Google Doc or Google Sheet to share present requests.
Step #4: Assign pairs
The easiest way to draw names for a virtual gift exchange is to use an online Secret Santa generator like Giftster or Elfster. These sites manage sign-ups, collect gift suggestions, generate pairings, and email assigned names to participants. If you do not wish to enter your employees’ data into these sites, then you can use an open source match generator and manually email pairings, but this approach is a more labor-intensive process.
Step #5: Mail gifts
Next, participants buy and select gifts. When products arrive, gift-givers wrap and mail presents to recipients. To keep their identities concealed until after the unwrapping, participants can use the organizer’s address on the return label.
Step #6: Exchange gifts during a video call
When the date of the swap arrives, hop on a video call together. You may choose to incorporate an online Secret Santa into your virtual holiday party, or you may hold the swap as a standalone event. Either way, determine an unwrapping order and invite participants to open gifts on camera. Each player guesses the identity of the gift-giver after opening the present.
Virtual Secret Santa Gift Ideas
From AirPods cases to cozy socks, here is a list of crowd-pleasing gift suggestions for your next virtual Secret Santa.
1. Two Minute Mornings
Two Minute Mornings: A Journal to Win Your Day Every Day is an interactive self-care journal that guides the reader through mindfulness exercises. Short prompts such as “I am grateful for…” “I will focus on…” and “I will let go of…” help the reader center themselves and enter a positive and productive mindset. Though simple in structure, these repetitive exercises teach readers to de-stress and express appreciation on a daily basis.
2. Bombas Socks
Kids may dread unwrapping clothes instead of toys on Christmas morning, but most adults enjoy receiving a sturdy pair of socks for the holidays. Bombas socks are well-made and stylish. The moisture-wicking fabric keeps feet dry, and the cushioning makes the socks extra comfy. This piece of apparel aims to eliminate common sock annoyances, such as fabric bunching around the toes or elastic slipping down the heel. In addition, for every item you buy, Bombas donates a pair of socks to a community organization that helps the homeless.
Buy Bombas socks.
3. Airpods Case
This case from the British Museum is the ideal gift for the colleague who wears AirPods to every Zoom meeting. Cat lovers and Ancient Egypt buffs will love it, too. Inspired by the goddess Bastet, the design features a black cat with gold scalloping or ankhs. Made of high-quality silicone, the case is scratch resistant and easy to clean.
4. Reusable Shopping Tote
As more stores adopt bring-your-own-bag policies, more folks will need to switch to reusable shopping bags. Not only are reusable totes environmentally friendly, but you can also carry all sorts of stuff in them. The above pictured bags are durable, machine-washable, and water resistant, and come in several artful animal designs, including dogs, elephants, penguins, and hedgehogs.
5. Hokusai: The Great Wave Desk Sketchpad
Though your remote colleagues may spend hours in front of a laptop while working from home, chances are, they still scribble notes on paper from time to time. Doubling as both a tool and decoration, this stylish sketchpad features Katsushika Hokusai’s famous Under the Wave off Kanagawa on the sides. The set contains six colored pencils in a handy built-in holder, so recipients can stay organized, even amidst a tidal wave of work.
6. Pet Portrait Necklace
One of the best parts of Zoom meetings is that occasionally a sassy cat or an eager pup crashes the call. Interruptions or not, your coworkers love their pets, and a gift that pays tribute to furry friends is sure to strike a chord. The level of etching detail on these handcrafted pet portrait pendants is remarkable. Simply send the artist a picture of the animal, and you will receive a striking likeness within a week or so. Most likely, you can find a photo of your coworker’s animal companion on social media, but if you cannot track one down, then you can sneakily get your mitts on a picture by initiating a “share a photo of your pet!” team bonding challenge on Slack or group email.
7. U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence Glasses
These glasses add a touch of class and history to virtual happy hours. Partial document text of the U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence lines each glass, giving a whole new meaning to the term “free drinks.” These American-manufactured glasses are high-quality, fade-resistant, and dishwasher safe.
Virtual Yankee Swap
Here is everything you need to know about virtual Yankee Swaps.
What is a Virtual Yankee Swap?
A virtual Yankee Swap is an online gift exchange where participants can steal presents from each other.
How to Run a Virtual Yankee Swap
To run a virtual Yankee Swap, instead of opening presents, players select a picture of the present from a slide. The gift-giver then opens the present and displays the contents. Once revealed, other players can swipe any open present during the game. The gift-givers mail the presents once the exchange concludes and final owners are decided.
Virtual Yankee Swap Gift Ideas
From gift wrap cutters to fondue mugs, here is a list of great gifts your coworkers will be eager to swipe.
8. Mug Warmer
A mug warmer is a highly practical and desirable item for a virtual holiday gift exchange. Though your remote colleagues may work just a few steps away from the kitchen, chances are, your teammates get so bogged down with Zoom meetings and focused on answering emails that they wind up drinking coffee that has gone cold. A mug warmer keeps beverages toasty, so recipients can sip at leisure. The pictured Mr. Coffee model is cost-efficient and compact, and comes with a long cord, on/off switch, and light up indicator that alerts you when your drink is hot.
Buy the Mr. Coffee mug warmer.
9. Sichuan Chili Crisp
This Sichuan-style chili sauce is non-GMO,organic, vegan, gluten free, and sugar free. Derived from a slew of spicy peppers, this condiment adds a dash of heat to any dish. Unlike other hot sauces, Sichuan Chili Crisp has a crunch and texture. Inspired by hole-in-the-wall restaurants in China, these chili crisps take the taster’s taste buds on a trip across the world.
Buy the Fly By Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp.
10. Infuse and Pour Alcohol Kit
These kits are sure to add flair to your next virtual happy hour. Expert mixologists carefully crafted and tested the flavors to perfect the most crowd-pleasing combinations. Each kit contains a mix of dried fruit and herbs in unexpected flavor combinations, like strawberry jalapeño, blueberry lavender, or pineapple and cayenne. To enjoy cocktails, giftees just need to add spirits, like gin or vodka. Nondrinkers can enjoy the flavors, too, by infusing the kits with water or seltzer!
11. Gift Wrap Cutter
A gift wrap cutter makes clean, crisp lines when carving through pretty wrapping paper, making the cutter the perfect gift for anyone who procrastinates on gift wrapping, or Type-A teammates who re-wrap boxes until the edges line up perfectly. Recipients no longer need to struggle with scissors and unwieldy rolls. The circular cutter snaps onto wrapping paper rolls and glides effortlessly from one end to the other. An ingenious invention, the Little Elf gift wrap cutter saves time and prevents frustration.
12. Caffettiera French Press
Art snobs and coffee snobs alike will enjoy this chic french press. Inspired by a design from the 1950’s, the contrasting metal body and pops of color is both cheery, yet understated. A high-quality tool built to last, this press churns out years worth of craft coffee, 34 oz at a time.
13. Shark Bottle Opener and Can Coolie
If you always lose your bottle opener, then give this shark bottle opener a try. Since this trusty bottle opener doubles as a keychain, it will always be easy to find. Not to mention, the tool is so cool that recipients will not want to let it out of sight! The keychain is shark-shaped, but the bottle opener section resembles a bite mark. Pair the gift with an awesome shark can coolie, and recipients will be ready to enjoy beer and sharks all winter long.
14. Fondue Mug
Fondue is a delicious, yet elaborate dish. This fondue mug makes setup and cleanup a breeze, enabling you to hold impromptu fondue-for-one feasts. Recipients place a tealight candle in the hollow of the mug and stir chocolate or cheese in the basin. Each set contains one mug, one candle, and two fondue forks. While fondue is the original use for the cup, you could also warm up caramel for apple slices, dip marshmallows into cocoa without the fear of instant melting, or dunk mini chocolate chip cookies into a mug of warm milk.
Buy Fondue Mug.
Virtual White Elephant
Here is everything you need to know about virtual white elephant exchanges.
What is a Virtual White Elephant?
A virtual white elephant exchange is an online version of the popular holiday gift swap where participants swap wacky and impractical gifts. During these exchanges, participants steal presents from other players. The aim of a white elephant exchange is to entertain.
How to Run a Virtual White Elephant
You could run a virtual white elephant swap one of two ways. Either you could execute the exchange like a virtual Secret Santa with gag gifts, or you could structure the event like a virtual Yankee Swap by using a slideshow template.
Virtual Secret White Elephant Gift Ideas
From magic mugs to murder mysteries, here is a list of wacky and wonderful white elephant gift ideas to delight your crew.
15. Van Gogh Disappearing Ear Mug
The Unemployed Philosophers Guild manufactures mugs that change designs according to temperature. This Van Gogh mug shows a complete self-portrait when cold, but when hot, the painter’s ear disappears and a bandage appears. If your museum buff coworker is more interested in history than art, choose instead the Henry VIII mug with disappearing wives. Other magic mug designs revolve around subjects, like science, civics, and literature, meaning you are sure to find a cup that interests the intellectual in your life.
Buy the Van Gogh Disappearing Ear Mug.
16. Dollhouse DIY Kit
This dollhouse kit is ideal for model makers and people who are kids at heart. The kit contains miniature furniture and decor, an LED light, assembly tools, and detailed instructions. If you squint, then you will notice the Mona Lisa and other famous works of art on the walls. By building this kit, recipients can construct their own mini-museums. Not to mention, the activity is a great way to practice patience and hone attention to detail!
Buy the Rolife Dollhouse DIY Craft House Kit.
17. Edible Glitter
Edible glitter is the perfect gift for the colleague that sparkles at work. This garnish is safe to consume, and is vegan, dairy free, and gluten free. Though tasteless, the glitter adds pizzazz to food and drinks and is a great conversation starter for your next virtual happy hour. Fancy Sprinkles Fool’s Gold Prism Powder Fine Edible Glitter comes in a slew of colors like rose gold, rhinestone silver, ruby red, and aquamarine blue, and enables recipients to add extra flair to this year’s Christmas cookies!
Buy Edible Glitter.
18. Nerd Wax
Nerd Wax is a roll-on balm that prevents eyeglasses from slipping down your nose. To use, first clean the glasses, then apply the product to the bridge. The wax creates friction between the glasses and skin, stopping slippage without the use of unwieldy accessories. With this pesky problem solved, your colleagues can stop adjusting eyewear twenty times a day, and reply to your emails or plan a museum trip instead.
Buy Nerd Wax.
19. Da Vinci Magnetic Poetry
Whether stuck to a fridge or a desktop metal stand, magnetic poetry offers a fun diversion and helps kickstart creativity. The Da Vinci pack contains words relevant to the famous European academic and inventor, such as “imagination,” “renaissance,” and “vitruvian.” The set contains over two hundred magnets that your colleague can rearrange into their own masterworks.
20. Murder Most Puzzling
If the last virtual team building event you attended taught you that your crew is a consortium of super sleuths,then consider gifting Murder Most Puzzling: 20 Mysterious Cases to Solve. This collection presents murder mystery challenges for readers to unravel using deduction and clues. The book features lush illustrations and detailed descriptions, offering hours of entertainment.
Buy Murder Most Puzzling.
21. Dinosaur Taco Holders
Eating tacos without spilling the contents is not an easy task. Tacosaurus Rex or Tricerotaco hold two tacos apiece and are dishwasher safe and are a fun rest for your favorite hard shell treat. Great for kids or kids at heart, these Dinosaur Taco Holders add fierce fun to mealtime.
Virtual gift exchanges require coordination to pull off successfully, but if planned well, then these exchanges can serve as a solid morale booster for your team. These online swaps offer a chance for unacquainted coworkers to bond and get to know each other better, and create a shared holiday experience that lays the foundation for future positive working relationships.
Just because your team cannot gather for the holidays, it does not mean you have to forgo this common office tradition!