Gift for someone who can't accept gifts?
January 29, 2006 11:47 AM   Subscribe

EtiquetteFilter: what to give someone who's not allowed to accept gifts?

Next week is my last session with my counsellor so I want to get her a little something to say thanks. However, she told me at some point they were not allowed to accept gifts from patients (this is a charity so treatment for me was free and she's not getting paid).

What would be considered "acceptable" despite this rule? One friend suggested flowers (as these are 'perishable' so not a real present), another "Body Shop" type stuff. This thread sets a $25 limit for business gifts, could I apply that here too? Food/drink are not ideal for various reasons.

Of course a (home-made) card would be an option and I'll fall back on that if all else fails. But I'd like to know if anyone has suggestions or experience in this (possibly on the 'receiving' end). I'm in the UK if that matters.
posted by ClarissaWAM to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would imagine that if she's not allowed to receive gifts from patients, the only possible outcomes of you giving her a gift is that she returns it, or she gets in serious trouble for violating ethical guidelines.
posted by Jairus at 11:55 AM on January 29, 2006

Best answer: How about a letter warmly attesting to what she's done for you? It's not a gift, but she's more likely to value you it than she would some inexpensive gift.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:56 AM on January 29, 2006

It's very possible that because your counselor-patient relationship is ending, the professional rules regarding gifts from patients will not be in effect or will be more lenient. If in doubt, ask the receptionist or one of your counselor's colleagues what is appropriate.
posted by awesomebrad at 12:00 PM on January 29, 2006

I think I would bring flowers or a food gift like cookies or (not super expensive) chocolates. That way if it's not ok for her to keep the gift, she can just leave it in the office for everyone there to enjoy.
posted by crabintheocean at 12:05 PM on January 29, 2006

jacquilynne's has the right idea. A letter included in a homemade card would be really touching, and much more personal than a gift she isn't even allowed to receive. Everyone likes to get warm fuzzies right? :)

What about offering to be a reference (I'm not sure what the right word would be in this situation). While you certainly wouldn't want to tell anyone who asked your entire story, would you be able to say, "I went to this person for counselling, she really helped me, and I would recommend her services for anyone in a similar situation."

This will help her reputation and perhaps put some focus on the charity itself, which could lead to more donations which could lead to an improved counselling program. Which would help more people. etc. etc.

I don't know if this would break any confidentiality issues, but if you were willing, there would probably be a way to make it work.
posted by melissa at 12:08 PM on January 29, 2006

I would make a card, make cookies or write a letter, leaning towards the card. I wouldn't buy anything. I have so many friends who are in various professions where they are not allowed to receive gifts, and it's amazing the ethical rigmarole that's involved. I have heard definitely more than one case where flowers were allowed to die in a cupboard, or cookies to go stale, while the implications of the gift were hashed out.
posted by gaspode at 12:08 PM on January 29, 2006

I'd go with the card. It might be worth considering doing volunteer work somewhere or making a small donation (even if it's in work or items rather than money) to a charity 'in honor of' the person. You could possibly include it in your card, or even just do it and know who you're doing it for.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:15 PM on January 29, 2006

Something with no monetary value would get you around the rule, but I'd make a wide berth. You don't know for sure how much trouble you could be getting her in, and that's exactly what you don't want to do, right?)

IMO the card/letter is the best bet. The downside to trying to find the best thing you can give her with 'real' value is that you might overshoot. Better safe than sorry.
posted by tiamat at 12:16 PM on January 29, 2006

Echoing the card/letter suggestions. It may not seem like much, but sometimes the least tangible gifts are the ones with the most impact. Words of gratitude have real power, and will totally make her day.
posted by moira at 12:39 PM on January 29, 2006

Go with a card. But if you insist on giving something, I once heard that Pearson told his cabinet ministers that they could accept as gifts only things that they could consume with their spouse in one day. I would follow that rule of thumb if you intend to give a gift -- a box of chocolates sounds about right.
posted by duck at 12:42 PM on January 29, 2006

Go with a card.

Alternatively, if she's working for a non-profit organisaton or somesuch like, you could make a donation to that organisation or a relevant charity.
posted by badlydubbedboy at 12:55 PM on January 29, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for your suggestions everyone. I'll go with the card idea then. Hopefully I can make it look nice and say something she'll appreciate.

Not sure if the reference thing would be possible or relevant... I think anyone who uses their services just gets appointed a "random" counsellor.

And yes I was gonna make a donation (to the charity itself) anyway, but wasn't sure if/how I should let her know this. But I guess I can mention it in the card.

Thanks again!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:06 PM on January 29, 2006

I think a donation to a charity or a cause is the only acceptable thing, because she doesn't get any personal benefit out of it. Unless she sits on the board of the charity or something in which case you're back in ethical-nightmare territory.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:30 PM on January 29, 2006

When I was development director for a non-prof counseling center, clients would sometimes give the counselors present, which the counselors would promptly turn over to me for use in our silent auction fundraiser. If the counselor works in this type of environment, a silent auction item may yield more money for the organization than a donation. People overpay intentionally at silent auctions. Ask the person in charge of these things.

Just an idea. Otherwise, I second the donation/card thing.
posted by lalalana at 2:35 PM on January 29, 2006

Well-thought-out note of appreciation/hand-made card about the effect she's had, and an offer to "pay it forward." The time and effort spent on a thank you note can be much more valuable than any gift, and it doesn't violate the rules.
posted by theora55 at 4:31 PM on January 29, 2006

If she works for a charity, how about a card and a donation to the charity she works for in her name?
posted by punkrockrat at 4:57 PM on January 29, 2006

Best answer: I still have all the appreciation letters that my patients have written to me over 11 years of practice - all three of them.

They mean a lot to me. I suspect if people realized this, they would write more often.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2006

Hey ikkyu, I've never sent a thank-you to any of my doctors because I worried it would seem creepy. I'll be moving in a few months and planned to have a So-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-fish appointment with three of my docs before leaving (just make sure there's nothing going on that I'll need to get checked out right away after moving, get instructions on what kinds of doctors I'll have to replace right away, and collect my medical records to take with me). Are you suggesting it would be non-creepy to follow up those appointments with a card and note? Is a small token gift ok, too, if I send it after I'm no longer a patient?

*OK, I have no idea why I think of this as a so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-fish appointment.
posted by duck at 8:39 PM on February 1, 2006

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