As we’ve discussed before, gift cards and the gratitude expressed through them are powerful motivating and encouraging tools. They are convenient ways to add value to other people and foster the relationships that keep your organization running.

However, gift cards can also be used to hide fraudulent purchases. Employees can lie about buying gift cards for business purposes if the organization has no way of knowing where the card ended up. Unless gift cards have been organized, tracked, and followed up on, it can turn into a big mess to find out where that money went.

How to give gift cards that track

We’ve found that people usually have good intentions when they buy gift cards to share with others, but fail to document their good intentions clearly. When it comes time to audit an organization, the auditors may ask questions about certain receipts and how gift card expenses were used. In the worst-case scenario, supervisors won’t know about these unplanned expenses and have no internal controls in place to prevent or correct them.

Whether or not these internal controls exist, it is the purchaser’s responsibility to spend money with integrity. By planning ahead and tracking gift cards intelligently, they will be able to show their supervisors and auditors how the gift cards served the organization’s mission.

Plan ahead

Although handing out a few gift cards to people you know through your organization may seem straightforward, not having a plan in place to distribute them can cause several problems later on.

Think of gift cards like invitations to a party. To make sure you invite the right number of people, you have to write out the guest list before hand, making sure to budget food and other expenses according to the maximum number of people who could show up.

One helpful way to organize gift cards is to first create a simple explanation for which contacts will get a gift and why. Then, if relevant, make a list of every client or contact you’d like to receive one. Finally, choose an appropriate amount per gift card to both express your gratitude but not overbudget for a simple gift.

Print this list out and have the board of directors or owner approve the recipients and total cost of the gift. Once it’s done, stick to this list like glue — don’t buy extra cards “just in case” or add recipients last-minute without getting approval from the board or your superior.

Plus, when you plan ahead, you can buy the gift cards in bulk, which may save you some money compared to buying them one at a time.

When it comes to purchasing gifts and keeping financial integrity, Steven Covey said it best: “Begin with the end in mind.”

Track intelligently

With your master list in hand, check off each recipient as you distribute gift cards, ensuring successful delivery when possible. If you can do this in person, collecting signatures when people get their gift card, that’s even better. You can provide a space on the list for each person’s comments or reaction to show your superiors what an impact your gratitude had on the recipients!

If you decide to mail your gift cards, have another person in the office double-check your list when you send them out, noting the date and time and following up on any returned envelopes.

Make sure to report un-delivered gift cards to your superiors and make notes on your list for purchased cards that were never given out. When in doubt, give more information rather than less. Keep updated and accessible records if your organization hands out gift cards on a regular basis.

Proper and thorough tracking will solidify the integrity of your organization’s gift-giving and make it easy for both your supervisor and auditor to confirm these expenses.

Authentic appreciation

By taking proper steps to prepare and follow-up on a simple thing like giving out gift cards, you can avoid a major headache when it comes time for your organization’s yearly audit. This extra preparation will make gift card promotions easy to organize in the future and empower more people through genuine expressions of gratitude.

Start here

If you’re wondering how to build the best way to track gift card purchases in your organization, we’ve built a Gift Card Excel file to help you get started! This template includes columns for recipients’ names, the date each gift was delivered, as well as comments or reactions. Full instructions for how to use our sample file are on the first sheet. Thanks and happy gifting!