A New Era for Gift Giving

Welcome To The New Era of Gift Giving: Gift Giving Effectiveness Matrix

Gift Giving is Flawed: Welcome to the Solution. 

I’m going to ruffle some feathers here. The adage ‘it’s the thought that counts’ is complete garbage when it comes to gift-giving in the 21st century.

Imagine the first time somebody uttered that phrase. Maybe it was by a mother to a daughter or one girlfriend to another. Likely, carefully crafted with an intent to console her after some guy in her life gave her a lousy gift. She felt betrayed, cheapened, or let down by the gift (and the person who gave it). Likely she pretended to be happy with the gift-giving experience at the moment. And at that moment, she betrayed her most profound knowledge of her self-worth and intuition to please. Later the guilt set in, and she felt lousy about feeling lousy.

I made this scenario up – but is it implausible?

The phrase “it’s the thought that counts” is a terrible dismissal that simultaneously diminishes everyone involved. The recipient’s feelings are invalidated. The giver is let off the hook. The well-intended speaker is an enabler. Is that what you stand for and want to allow?

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Rebekah’s structured way of picking the perfect gift

Whether the gift is from you or a group, I’ve found this is a rational way to arrive at the perfect gift. One that is both effective for the recipient and matches my budget and time. I hope it makes your life easier. By signing up, we’ll stay in touch via email.

How to put thought into a gift that actually counts

There is a way to put thought into gift-giving that does count.

Why do we give? At a minimum, it is to make an impact on the recipient.

There are infinite other reasons to give a gift. But at a minimum, gifts are given to make an impact. Moreover, that impact should elicit positive emotions in the recipient.

Ideally, the gift giver is seeking the most powerful positive emotions. However, in today’s busy world, most people I speak with seek to make the most impact with the minimum effort and expense.

Now, let’s turn to your effort as the giver of the gift. We are talking about a group gift, an individual gift, or even a thank-you note or card. Whether the effort put into gift giving is low or high; ideally, the impact is still high. Meaning more impact is better than less impact.

It could look something like this:

A New Era for Gift Giving: The Gift Giving Effectiveness Matrix
Gift Giving Effectiveness Matrix – Blank

So, regardless if the effort is low or high, the impact on the recipient is ideally high.

Effort by Impact in Gift Giving 

Let’s break down the effort portion. Likely, a gift is a function of its cost, the personalization of the item, and the effort to obtain it. 

Note that the level of effort has nothing to do with thoughtfulness. The recipient doesn’t know how much thought you put into something. You might have put zero thought and got lucky. Or you might have put in a ton of thought and missed the mark. 

The impact of the gift on the recipient can be any number of things, such as the strength of emotions aroused, the usefulness of the item, and how meaningful it is. The recipient either instantly knows and feels the impact at the moment of gift receipt or will come to know it over time. 

A New Way to See Gift Giving

The Gift Effectiveness Matrix has four quadrants structured by the effort by the person or people giving the gift (high and low) and crossed by the effectiveness of the gift on the recipient (high and low). The results and examples are as follows:

  • Inefficient (high effort x low effectiveness): The gift doesn’t achieve the intended impact, given the effort or cost. For example, custom items, something out of context, or items in poor taste, given the recipient’s circumstances. 
  • Superficial (low effort x low effectiveness): Likely both the gift giver and recipient know this is a superficial gift. Examples include coffee mugs for someone with plenty of mugs, a candle, or a trinket.  
  • Profound (high effort x high effectiveness): gifts here profoundly impact the recipient. Likely the giver knows the recipient well, and the context is proper. Examples include hand-made items or ones that are expensive and relevant. Likely, profound gifts are one-time gifts specific to the individual.
  • Profound and Efficient (low effort x high effectiveness): This could be a sweet spot for gift giving in a busy world or on a budget. Ideally, items here are scalable for groups of recipients, such as all the teachers at a school or coaches in a league. Cash for someone in need fits in this category but isn’t always appropriate. 
A New Era for Gift Giving: The Gift Giving Effectiveness Matrix
Gift Giving Effectiveness Matrix with Impact

Sustainable and Scalable Gift Giving

Part of the effort you put into gift-giving includes whether a gift idea is repeatable or scalable. Unfortunately, we live in a time-stapped world where efficiency is often top of mind. So is the cost.

In our family with four children across an eight-year age spread, it is darn near impossible to identify a single item that is effective and within budget across contexts as diverse as multiple school teachers, coaches, and instructors.

Can you afford to give and have the time and money for fresh flowers every time? Wine? What about cash? Rather than get an item, why not give the money it would cost? Profound gifts are hard to repeat in different scenarios over time.

Regarding scale, if a Parent committee like a PTA were seeking to recognize all the teachers at a school, finding a repeatable ‘something’ that is meaningful for the teachers and is low cost and effort would be ideal.

Whatever comes to mind, can it achieve a profound impact every time? Is it also efficient?

I’d love to know if there is something you can think of that works every time.

What Does the (Almost) Perfect Gift Look Like?

The Almost Perfect Gift does exist. It is an item given by almost everybody in almost every situation that will almost always be received favorably by anyone at any time. 

The Almost Perfect Gift is both low-effort and high-impact most of the time and is reliably effective across various scenarios and personalities.

The Almost Perfect Gift can look like two things: 

1. Cash (under certain circumstances) and 

2. Using The Appreciation Company

I have interviewed hundreds of coaches, teachers, nurses, first responders, camp counselors, and others on their gift preferences. I’ve asked them what their most profound appreciation gifts are from parents and students. Time and again, they consistently say the same thing – in two parts:

  1. They love being recognized with a photo or a personal note, in writing (digital or paper notes), with a message about how they made a unique impact, AND
  2. Having the choice of their gift, if there is something additional.

These two pieces, combined, are what they want and love. 


The Appreciation Company was specifically designed to fulfill these two items simultaneously.

Our service allows individuals to write a note and provide a monetary contribution to a balance, which the recipient can then choose when and how to redeem.

A New Era for Gift Giving: The Gift Giving Effectiveness Matrix
The Gift Giving Effectiveness Matrix with Examples

Key Takeaways About the New Era of Gift Giving

Could you be thinking about gift giving completely wrong?

Possibly, yes. 

Gone are the days of gifts purchased out of convenience and two-day free shipping. Gone are ‘good enough’ and ‘easy’ because we settle after scrolling through lists of recommendations and fruitless searches. The time of transactional and obligation gifts is over. The time of waste and inefficiency are behind us. 

Gifts in this new era of gift-giving are both profound and efficient. They strengthen relationships and the bonds of community. Gifts borne out of gratitude express genuine appreciation and are deeply felt. Appreciated gifts elevate happiness for all involved. Moreover, these gifts endure and don’t clutter because they are often digital. 

A few takeaways:

  • Given that the recipient doesn’t know how much thought you put into a gift, will you approach the gift-giving experience differently?
  • Use The Gift Effectiveness Matrix to determine whether your gift achieves the intended impact (low or high) for the effort and cost (low or high)
  • Consider how scalable and repeatable your gift needs to be.
  • Will you give a gift that profoundly impacts the recipient and is efficient for you?
  • Will you take advantage of the new era in gift-giving and use The Appreciation Company as a service? 

If you have examples of Profound and Efficient gifts (low effort x high effectiveness), please tell us in a comment. 

Let me close with an actual, not too profound, story: Just this past weekend, a friend I was out with offered to buy coffee. At the register, he was shocked and embarrassed to realize he didn’t have his wallet (or pay-by-phone, or any other payment). 

I almost said it. 


The complete sentence flashed in my mind: “It’s the thought that counts.” 

But rather than speak those words which would diminish both of us, I patted him on the shoulder and said, “next one is on you.”

Free Download

Rebekah’s structured way of picking the perfect gift

Whether the gift is from you or a group, I’ve found this is a rational way to arrive at the perfect gift. One that is both effective for the recipient and matches my budget and time. I hope it makes your life easier. By signing up, we’ll stay in touch via email.

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