Guidelines for Gift Giving During the Holiday Season

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Private School News

The holidays are in full swing and gift giving may be top-of-mind for many in your school.

Administrators, teachers, and families give and receive gifts at this time of year. It’s in your best interest to establish policies and procedures that define acceptable gifts, amounts that can be spent, and more.

Accepting Gifts From Students and Families

Only your school can determine what constitutes an appropriate gift from students and families. There can be concern that those who give extravagant gifts are angling for preferential treatment in the form of influencing grading, positive recommendations, or other benefits.

School administrators should establish a policy that defines when a gift becomes more than a token of appreciation and creates a conflict of interest. Below is a sample that can be altered to align with your culture and values.

Sample Policy

From time to time, faculty and staff may be offered gifts by grateful students, parents, or other family members of students. you do not want to discourage the kindness of our students (such as offering handmade items to express appreciation for their teachers).

However, due to the potential for conflicts of interest—as well as the potential for mission-inappropriate “competition” among parent gift-givers—faculty and staff members are not permitted to accept gifts that are estimated to be worth more than $ ___. For example: A $__ gift certificate to a bookstore may be acceptable. An all-expenses-paid vacation and use of a summer house may not be.

All gifts from students or parents that appear to exceed the $____ limit must be reported to the School Head.

Exchanging Gifts Within Our School

Gifts don’t only come from families. If administrators, faculty, and staff want to exchange gifts in alignment with your culture and mission, here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Make participation voluntary. Not everyone wants to exchange gifts at work—they may not celebrate the holidays or are on a tight budget where even low-cost gifting isn’t an option. If you’re organizing an exchange, let participants choose to be involved.
  • Don’t solicit financial donations for a group gift for the boss. This falls in line with the advice above—some people may not be able to participate and worry it will impact how they’re perceived by their superiors.
  • Avoid gifts that are too personal. Use your best judgment when purchasing gifts. No matter the intention, a gift that seems innocent to you may offend someone else.

From all of us at ISM, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Private School News Vol. 11 No. 7 Celebrating the Holidays on Campus
The Source for Private School News Vol. 13 No. 11 Gift Giving at Private Schools

Additional ISM resources for Gold members:
I&P Vol. 38 No. 6 Developing a Gift Acceptance Policy Manual


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