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Why do we give gifts?

Last updated:
Monday, March 25, 2024
Friday, February 7, 2020
Group of older people watching someone open a gift

Over the Christmas period, much of the conversation around the GiftRound office focused on why we give gifts. Yes, there is a gift-giving custom around Christmas of course, and for birthdays, but what is it within us that compels us to give to others?

YouGov, a popular data source in the UK, reveals the following Christmas gift buying habits:

“90% of Brits say they celebrate with gifts at Christmas

77% of people do the bulk of their gift buying in late November or early December

While there are some extravagant spenders, the vast majority of Brits (92%) believe that it’s the thought that counts.

77% also believe that a gift is an expression of how special someone is

Beyond Christmas and birthdays, the next most popular occasions for gift-giving are weddings, when 61% of people purchase a present”

But equally, choosing a gift can also be a stressful process and for many of us the thought of dragging around busy shops or endless internet searches fills us with dismay. So why do we do it?

Why do people give gifts?

There are all sorts of reasons why we give gifts. But the common factor in giving a gift is that it’s influenced by emotion. The motivation behind giving gifts is the positive feelings it creates in us and the recipients.

To understand the custom of giving gifts, we need to take a look at humans as a species. We’re social creatures, and we’ve been shaped by millions of years of living and working together. Our species thrives when we cooperate with each other rather than living in silos. The positive, emotional feelings we experience when we share gifts are the result of our evolution.

The social value of giving has been recognised throughout human history. And there have been many studies on human behaviour and gift giving, by psychologists, economists, and marketers. Giving gifts is a complex and intricate part of how we humans interact with each other. In simple terms, it allows us to connect. Connecting with our loved ones gives us a sense of purpose and a feeling of satisfaction.

Giving a gift helps us establish and define our relationships. And it can enhance bonds with family and friends. Giving to others strengthens our feelings for the person we’re giving the gift to. It’s often the person giving the gift who gets the biggest emotional benefit.

When you give someone a gift, you are willingly giving without expecting something in return. We enjoy the feeling of making someone feel special. It’s such a good feeling, it makes us want to give more. Giving gifts is the language of love.

Are there ‘better’ gifts to give than others?

Most gifts are given with the best of intentions. But a bad choice of gift can sometimes have consequences. For example, a recipient can feel dismayed if they feel that the inapt gift demonstrates that the gift-giver clearly doesn’t know them very well.

Jeff Galak, Julian Givi, and Elanor F. Williams have written a paper entitled ‘Why Certain Gifts Are Great to Give But Not to Get: A Framework for Understanding Errors in Gift Giving’ in which they consider the mis-matches in the field of giving gifts.

The paper investigates the idea that an ill-chosen gift discrepancy may be explained by the idea that when choosing the gift the giver has focused on the moment of giving it. We may want the gifts we give to have an immediate ‘wow’ factor; we want to make the recipient feel surprised, impressed and happy. But the person who’s received the gift will focus on how much benefit it will bring them beyond the point of opening it.

Choose better gifts

We’re just going to lay our cards on the table: gift cards are a great, seemingly failsafe solution. The concept of a gift card started in 1932 when publisher Harold Raymond launched the world’s first book token. It was a scheme that would change our relationship with shopping for gifts forever.

The benefits of a gift card are clear:

· A gift card makes buying a gift for someone a much easier task

· You can’t go wrong as the choice of the gift is handed to the recipient

· It also allows them to purchase the gift when they decide they want it

· Purchasing a gift card saves you the embarrassment of getting it wrong

· A gift card is less tacky than giving cash

· The recipient can see you have made an effort by choosing a gift card they’d like

Giving the gift of a gift card is a win-win for both recipient and gift-giver. It’s exactly the right balance between a thoughtful gift and cash.

Simple ideas to make your gift card even more special

· Wrap the gift card in gift paper so the recipient still has the benefit of opening a traditional present

· Accompany the card with a useful gift such as a wallet with the gift card tucked inside

· For more creative and fun DIY ideas to wrap a gift card, take a look at this Pinterest board

The right balance

The consensus within the GiftRound team is that the choice of a personal gift that shows some personal thought and consideration alongside the flexibility of a Gift Card is the perfect combination. The ongoing expansion of quality gift suppliers in the GiftRound Store alongside our e-gift card suppliers is aiming to deliver just that.

No occasion gift giving

Random acts of kindness and giving can often reap the most rewards. The return on such gestures is almost always greater than the effort put into it. Which brings us neatly onto our latest venture…

GiftRound’s crowdfunding campaign

We have recently launched a crowdfunding campaign and we’d love you to be part of it. Starting from as little as a £10 investment you can join our journey and help determine the destination of our company.

Why invest in GiftRound?

Because backing the business you love and believe in gives you a feel-good factor and will help us to create something really special.

Want to know more about crowdfunding? Take a look here.  Want to check out GiftRound's crowdfunding campaign Click here

We’d be so happy to have you on board.