As we move into the gift-giving season, many professionals may be wondering what to give the top executive. First, why are you presenting this individual with a gift? The gift must be an appropriate expression of gratitude that symbolizes the significance of the relationship. Your selection therefore requires adequate thought.
Try to understand the individual receiving the gift. Who is this person? What are his/her hobbies? Often, an executive’s desk serves as a display case for family photos, sports paraphernalia and organizational affiliations. By surveying his/her office, you might gain insight into that person which will allow you to select a gift in line with the executive’s personal interests. If an office visit isn’t possible, a brief conversation with the executive’s assistant can be a great source of gift ideas.
A Reminder of You
You want to give a gift that will be remembered. Better yet, you want to give a gift that reminds the executive of you. It is always a good thing to keep yourself in front of your superiors or customers. I once worked with a banker who was highly successful in a competitive market. When I asked what the key to her success was, she told me that at every loan closing she took a photo of herself with the customer, and then sent the customer a framed copy to say thanks for the business. Not only did she find that more than 80 percent of the customers hung the picture in their office, but she also learned that her chances for new business were increased when potential customers recognized her from a picture with an executive.
Gifts that keep giving are always great selections. For wine enthusiasts, several wineries offer “wine of the month” clubs. You may even request wines from specific regions, producers or variety of grape. Jai Jai Ramsey Greenfield, proprietor of Harlem Vintage, stresses that the key to giving is to know something about the likes and interests of the recipient. To appeal to African-American wine connoisseurs, for example, Harlem Vintage features a gift selection of wines produced by people of color. Magazine subscriptions also are great gifts. For other unique gifts ideas, visit www.redenvelope.com  for specialty gifts for all occasions and www.xperiencedays.com , for excursion gift certificates.
Be mindful of company policies that restrict gift giving to executives, or that may require gifts to fall within a specific price range. Obtain the company’s guidelines from the human resources department. If you cannot give a gift directly to an executive, consider making a donation to a charity in the executive’s or company’s name. Do some research on the top charities that the executive’s company supports. The Web site, www.guidestar.org , will give you a charity’s address, mission statement and most recent tax filing.
Given the diversity of today’s corporate world, gifts should take religious, ethnic and gender sensitivities into consideration. The art of corporate gift giving truly lies in understanding the recipient and planning appropriately. Timing (be sure the recipient is there if you’re delivering a perishable gift) and presentation (how the gift looks when the recipient sees it) are part of that art. Make your gift a thoughtful statement of thanks that reflects the true value of the relationship.
Jacqueline M. Jenkins is manager of Strategic Sourcing at Ann Taylor and a member of the Executive Leadership Council’s Next Generation Network.