Departmental gift-giving
January 19, 2014 5:28 AM   Subscribe

What are appropriate gifts for departments of 15-30 people that aren't chocolate, don't require baking, and won't break a poor student's budget?

This is a follow-up from a previous question, in which you guys were extremely helpful and made the rest of the sample collection period much easier. I'd now like to give something to the 3 or 4 departments I was around the most, to show my appreciation for their help. Boxes of chocolates seem to be the norm, though all I can afford are small under-$5 ones from a Costco type store (they are nice chocolates though, I've tried them). I talked to one of the nurses and she said that they do love getting chocolates, but implied they have a lot left over from the holiday period, so much so that they have a stockpile cupboard. They have their use (sweetening up the postgrads, apparently) but I guess I would feel bad giving them more chocolate if that's all they usually get.

I'd like to give them more than just a thank you card. I asked my friends and they responded with "other types of candy", "baked goods" (cookies maybe? are they equally expensive?), and appealing to my strengths, "draw something! draw your face and frame it" (hmm.. no). What else would be appropriate? Or should I just focus my gift-giving on the department my research project officially falls under?
posted by cucumber patch to Shopping (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd give each department a gift card to something simple like Dunkin Donuts or a Panera or even a local coffee shop place for enough for the department to get a couple boxes of coffee and a small pastry spread.

How much can you afford? 'Cause $25 or $30 should be enough that people in the department would pool the difference in cost for something like that.
posted by zizzle at 5:32 AM on January 19, 2014

Might you elaborate on why baking is ruled out? Do you not have access to an oven? If so you could borrow someone else's. Do you not want to put in the time investment? Premade cookie mix is inexpensive and convenient. Usually you just need to add butter/oil, eggs, and water.
posted by grouse at 5:36 AM on January 19, 2014

You can't go wrong with flowers and well written thank you card.
posted by colin_l at 5:38 AM on January 19, 2014

My friend, making gourmet hot chocolate mix is easy. You can go high end using a book like this or online recipes. I would accompany with a bottle of liquor to errr, brighten up the cup. It does not have to be good liquor either because hey, it is going into cocoa so your overall cost is going to be well within financial range.
posted by jadepearl at 5:43 AM on January 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do they have a break room with a coffee maker? If so, get coffee, creamer, sugar, etc.

Truthfully, you should really just choose someone in each department who seems to really be on point and ask them what they think their department would enjoy. It sounds like you started to do this - when you asked the nurse about the chocolate - but didn't get to the business end of the question which is "what do you wish you had stockpiled in that closet?"

In the meantime, do spend time and write out that thank you card. If the gift has to wait until you figure out what makes sense, the card will let people know that you appreciate them until then.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:49 AM on January 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

A thank you card that is well written and personalized to their department is more meaningful and will leave more of an impression than generic sweets or tchotchkes that they get so many of from students, patients, drug reps, etc., that they have a leftovers closet. I suggest sincere thank you notes only, and then follow up when your research is published or you graduate or you reach whatever milestone is relevant to your shared experience.
posted by headnsouth at 5:53 AM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came here to recommend ground coffee. Tea bags could be a good addition as well; they don't have to be expensive to be something different/better than what is in the break room.
posted by mountmccabe at 5:53 AM on January 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

My office always enjoyed a box of bagels and cream cheese. We were always burnt out on sweets this time of year.
posted by Specklet at 5:56 AM on January 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

Personalized pens? Or some other office supply type thing?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:09 AM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about putting together a fruit basket? You can find inexpensive plastic serving dishes for just a few dollars. Use some green shredded tissue paper in the bottom of the bowl. $30 will buy a lot of fruit at the grocery store. Arrange the fruit in the bowl with a nice handwritten thank you note. Everyone that is trying to eat healthier will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

I did this for a law firm that did some pro bono work for us. It was a great hit! They put it in the break room so all employees could help themselves.
posted by JujuB at 8:18 AM on January 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you have a Whole Foods or a farmer market near you? You can make a lovely fruit basket for each department for much less than $5 per person. In fact, you can make four entire 1/2 bushel baskets for not a huge amount of money. Mix fruit (clementines, a variety of heritage apples, kiwis, pomegranets, etc), crackers and a couple of bags nuts. My local florist will arrange, celophane and bow tie for $10 each.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:27 AM on January 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Once somebody gave the admins at my work a box of (store bought) baklava for Christmas. That was pretty awesome, though I don't know how much it cost.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:49 AM on January 20, 2014

Thanks guys! I went with thank you cards and sweet treats after all -- but home-made ones, which were well received by all departments :)
posted by cucumber patch at 4:03 AM on January 29, 2014

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