Why We're Doing "Philanthropic" Secret Santa this Year


For many of us, holiday traditions abound and gift-purchasing is in full swing this week. Last year, those of us at USEED participated in a traditional Secret Santa gift exchange, in which we got to find and deliver gifts to our randomly chosen colleagues.

We had such a great time doing this last year, so we began planning to do it again. But one of our developers thought to add a twist to it: What if, instead of buying physical gifts, we made a donation to a charity, group, or cause in our giftee's name? Even better, what if we gave to something based on what our chosen colleague deeply cares about?

Yes! Yes! Yes!!! Everyone's in, and here's why:


It aligns with our mission

This one's simple:

We believe in the power of philanthropy, and we believe our generation is a strong ally for causes that could change the world. So if that's a consistent value we hold across the team, why not renew our commitment to it this holiday season by giving in a way that aligns with it? Instead of giving to get something, let's just give for the sake of giving!


It's financially accessible to everyone

With most Secret Santas, the group will put a dollar amount on the gift, usually to the tune of $25 or so. Now, this isn't a ton (and it's not meant to be), but when you multiply this by how many gifts you might have to give over the Christmas season, it can really add up.

The dollar limit is good in theory, as it ensures nobody goes overboard with spending and that everyone receives equally valuable gifts. But still, I have been involved in many Secret Santas and other group gift exchanges where finances limited somebody from participating.

Philanthropic Secret Santa says no to that noise, because we're not going to share any dollar amounts when we reveal where we donated. This means that if someone were to give $5 to a charity on my behalf, I won't feel "stiffed" out of a good gift, the way I might if I spent $50 on a gift to get someone's grandma's sweater in return. In fact, the more people who participate, the greater the good that we can spread. Plus, there are no shipping or delivery charges in a donation (which we would usually have to pay, as we are a company with several remote employees).

So give $100 or give $5 or give any other amount you wish. Nobody's judging, and now everybody can participate!


None of us need more things

Growing up, my grandmother always told me, "If it's going to collect dust, I don't want it." I tend to follow the same course, and I know many of my friends here at USEED are working to lead more minimalist lifestyles as well.

I recently interviewed one of our developers, Kyle, about the last place he donated and why. He shared with me that his charity of choice had an Amazon wishlist that consisted of basic items like toilet paper and stamps.

For most of us, when we want or need something, we purchase it, and with an almost infinite amount of ways to purchase "stuff," we just really don't need somebody else doing that for us, too.

And so we realized: It's not us who need more things, it's organizations with wishlists that consist of items like toilet paper that need them.


It opens conversations and deepens connections

People tend to remember the meaningful gifts they receive. The handcrafted, mix-tape, "I know who you are and got this specifically for you" gifts.

USEED will come together for our quarterly company retreat in January, which is when we'll share the stories of who the recipients were of our donations - and why. We're all deeply excited to tell the stories of how we determined who the recipients would be and to learn more about each other in the process.

I'm already convinced that Philanthropic Secret Santa is going to be an experience that binds us in a new way and brings us even closer as a family of colleagues and friends.

We can't wait to share with you the outcome of this endeavor in January, and we encourage you and yours to try it out, too.

PS. Why not donate to a crowdfunding campaign for your Philanthropic Secret Santa giftee? Who knows - some of us might!

Donors Engaged
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Completed Campaigns