The Perfect Welcome Gift

Excitement came over me as I sped up the highway back in 2012. With my favorite music blasting through the speaker and my parents jamming in the car behind me, I was off to college as a new freshman. We only had 30 minutes to go, so I queued up some songs I knew would get my blood flowing. Fifteen minutes until we arrive! The scenery leading up to campus was beautiful, with huge open fields and a clear blue sky. As we pulled into town, there were cars everywhere, with first-year students looking excited, nervous, and even a little scared for their first night away from home. I know I was, but of course, I tried not to show it. When we pulled up to my Residential Hall (aka Dorm), we were welcomed by a few campus staff who directed us where to park. Then they showed up where to check-in. The rest of the day was a blur of confusion and excitement. 

About a week later, I learned how to access my campus mailbox and found out that I had a few letters and a package! A package for me? What was it? Who was it from? When I read the label, I found that it was from my church. When I opened the box, the first thing I saw was a letter that congratulated me and wished me well on my first week of school. The letter also referenced several items in the box and explained their purpose. For example, an eraser for any mistakes, a Dunkin gift card for “doughnut give up on your dreams,” a paperclip to remind me to hold myself together when things get rough.

Along with the sweet, thoughtful puns, there were several other goodies in the bottom of the box that included snacks, school supplies, and crystal light drink mixes because they knew I was a diabetic. The package was filled with so much stuff that I had the opportunity to share it with my classmates. Receiving and opening that box from my church during my first week at college is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.  

Fast forward ten years (YIKES), I’ve now been challenged to come up with great WOW ideas for a welcome box that our Off The Record (OTR) members would love to have. The goal was to think mysterious and outside the box … Challenge Accepted. When thinking back to the gift I received, I thought it would be great to give our new members the WOW factor that I received many years ago. But, the question is, how do I do that?

5 things that should be kept in mind when creating the perfect welcome gift for new members:

  1. Timing matters – as soon as someone signs up, they should receive something in the mail as quickly as possible.
  1. Make them feel welcomed – this gift represents your new members’ first real interaction with your group. Have something in the box to reassure them that they made the right choice by joining,o*- so they know that this is where they belong.
  1. It should be memorable – this is the wow factor.  Unboxing has become a thing nowadays. So be willing to put a little extra effort or money into making the box something they’ll want to share on social media as they unbox it.
  1. Think brand and value – the welcome gift should be on-brand with your organization so they know who it is from. Figure out a way to tie the box into your organization’s core values. But don’t just give cheap swag they will throw away, make sure it’s on-brand AND provide some sort of value to the person. 
  1. Don’t be skimpy – Think about your organization and the value behind it. If someone opens up a box with two items in it with a low value, what do you think they will think about your organization? Give yourself a price range. Remember, this is their first impression as a new member. There is a lifetime value in keeping members. First impressions are the key to making this a successful partnership. 

The breakdown on creating your perfect welcome gift:

Step 1: Brainstorm

The first thing I do when starting a new project is brainstorm ideas. The fun part of brainstorming is anything goes. Sometimes I come up with the craziest ideas. Of course, most of them get filtered out; however, it’s a fun experience and gets the creative juices flowing. 

When brainstorming, never think about prices. When you restrict yourself to a dollar sign, it takes away from creativity. Pull up a google doc, sip on a glass of wine and let the creativity run. Be willing to think big and far outside the box for this box.

Step 2: Finalize your list

Once you’ve come up with a decent brainstorm list, break it up into different categories and share it with your teammates to help narrow things down. A second pair of eyes is always helpful at this point. 

During this convergent thinking process, keep your members’ hopes, dreams, and desires in mind. What is going to “wow” them when they open the box. You should also start to pay attention to your budget at this point. You don’t need exact numbers, just a guesstimate. Sure the first-class tickets sounded nice during the brainstorm, but now it’s time to get real with your budget.  

Step 3: Pricing and Sourcing

After you finalize your list and know what you want to go in the boxes, the next step is to figure out how much everything will cost. Give yourself a flexible budget with a high and low range. 

Be smart and use companies you’ve previously used if possible. For example, when creating the Swift Kick thank you boxes, I kept a list of companies from which I ordered products. This list has the company name, what I ordered, the quantity, how much each item is, and the quality after we ordered. 

One company that I love is 4imprint. They make excellent quality mugs and can add your personalized decals. A second company I enjoy is Packola. We use Packola to custom make our boxes. They allow you a lot of freedom designing your box and notify you before printing if the quality is too low. 

Once you look up all your items and finalize prices, keep that sheet for future reference as I’m sure this won’t be the last time you need to order stuff. It is a lot easier to re-use a company, especially when you know the quality of their items. It also doesn’t hurt to reach out to them, letting them know you are a returning customer and see if they offer any discounts. You’d be surprised how often that happens and if it does, make a note of it on your spreadsheet. 

Step 4: Bulk Order

If you can purchase your items in bulk, you may be able to get things cheaper. Personalizing is wonderful when creating the perfect gift; however, bulk items are a bit cheaper. See if it’s possible to order in bulk and possibly personalize items yourself or look for a local artist that could personalize them. 

For example, when we ordered the Free Hugs mugs for Swift Kick, I ordered our items in bulk then had a local artist personalize them with the names of our clients. As a result, it was a lot cheaper and gave us some extra mugs in the end for swag handouts.

Step 5: Assemble

Personally, this is my favorite part. I love being creative and putting everything together. When creating the Swift Kick thank you boxes, I was able to sit back, enjoy one of my favorite movies and assemble. I had some friends and family help out, which made the process go faster and was a lot of fun!

My suggestion is to create an assembly line. For example, we had the first person put the boxes together, the second person fill the boxes with the items, a third person add the bubble wrap to secure the items, and the last person add the labels. Assembly lines are not always necessary however, they are great to utilize when you have the help and makes the process go much faster.

When packing the box, think about how each step will look when your member unboxes it. Put yourself in their shoes and think through how each step can make it as magical and memorable as possible. 

Your goal with your box is to re-create the WOW I felt when I unboxed my package from my church. If I can remember that gift and how thoughtful it was from ten years ago, imagine how your members will feel when they receive your box. Maybe ten years from now they will write their own blog on how unique your box was. 

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