Hi everyone! You may or may not be aware that our Elf HQ (NZ Post House) is currently off limits for everything except the ground floor. This is because safety! Very important!
Libby & I (mostly me, to be fair) have been freaking out a little bit since the Kaikoura earthquakes and subsequent building closure. Why? Well the whole Bad Santa Gift Stash is in there. You know, the one we’ve been putting together since JUNE. We (I) were incredibly worried that all the hard work and generous donations of goods would be trapped in Elf HQ until after Christmas – obviously too late for #nzsecretsanta.
After many complainings at my boss and his generous harassment of *his* boss, we got told last night that the floors are being sealed TODAY and if we needed anything, we had to get it before that happened. *freak out*
So this morning, I was lucky/foolish enough to be allowed back into the building to retrieve the ‘business critical’ equipment from our area. After many health and safety briefings and general “don’t be a moron and follow instructions” chats, we were off.
The long and the short of it is that we’ve successfully extracted almost all of the Bad Santa Gift Stash. There are roughly 15 items left behind due to size/time constraints; but they’ll be safe where they are and hopefully we’ll have enough to go without them.
Given this is the fourth year of NZ Post facilitating #nzsecretsanta, Libby thought it would be high-time for us to share our experiences, learnings and a little bit of insight into what happens from an Elf perspective. Here we go!
Lots of activity
In our day jobs, we already spend a lot of time online (I help support nzpost.co.nz and Libby runs all of the NZ Post Social channels) – given #nzsecretsanta is a “down time” thing, we end up spending a significant amount of our own time on it (refer: Graphs at 10.40pm on a Friday etc) so sometimes we need to step back for a while. So if we’re ever slightly less responsive than usual, that’s probably why. We both have day jobs and lives outside the internet!
In previous years, we’ve started prepping for NZ Secret Santa in late September. Things inevitably turned into a giant rush and we never had the time to do a lot of things we’d like to have done. This year, having an extra elf on board (Libby) we were able to kick things off much earlier, so we’ve been all over this thing since June. JUNE!
So, since we had a reasonable amount of time this year, we decided it was the best opportunity we’ve had so far to make some fairly significant changes. These include (but are not limited to):
A beautiful new design (thanks Vanessa!)
Badges, Medals and Awards
The ability to import your Twitter Blocklist
Tweaks to the matching engine (the thing that decides who is Santa for whom)
Changing the way we manage ‘sponsored’ gifts (I’ll talk more about that, soon)
Setting up a partnershipwith CanTeen to provide the option to include beautiful hand drawn Christmas cards with your gifts
And a number of other Elf things that will help this game run more smoothly.
We accomplished a lot in a relatively short amount of time and I’m immensely grateful to Toby, Ryan & Neil who worked damn hard to make sure we were ready to go at the right time. Thanks guys!
Sponsors and charity stuff
Because of reasons mentioned above, we decided to change-up the way we handle ‘sponsored’ gifts this year (a.k.a The Bad Santa Gift Stash (BSGS)). That said, we are eternally grateful to Cookie Time, MOJO Coffee, Bloomsbury Chocolate and Bojao Coffee for the support we’ve had from them in previous years.
Every year before 2016, we had a small number of amazing companies who donated (or heavily discounted) goods to donate to the BSGS. This ended up being a workable model, but we thought it wasn’t really fair on them to keep asking for heaps of free stuff every year. We also thought it’d be cool to get a bit of variety/personalisation going on, as apparently not everyone likes chocolate and/or coffee (something I’ll never understand).
So this year, we put out a call to any and all businesses that wanted to be involved; from big businesses (Spark, NZ Post etc) to small home businesses, theatre troops and self-employed folks. And boy, did they deliver! We have the coolest BSGS ever and have some amazing gifts that we hopefully won’t have to send out!
See, the whole point of the BSGS is to have backup gifts to send to people whose Santa didn’t send a gift. As with every year, we hope that *everyone* will play the game and send in a gift. If that happens, ALL OF THIS AWESOME STUFF GOES TO CANTEEN! Which is great, cos there’s some really cool stuff in there that will benefit those folks to no end. (But don’t worry, we still have some coffee and chocolate too!)
As well as that, we teamed up with CanTeen (who are bloody cool, by the way!) – this year we’ve included some Elf-action to make it possible for you to include a lovely CanTeen Christmas card with your NZ Secret Santa gift. You’ll see more about this after the matching happens.
In the first meeting we had with the folks at CanTeen, they mentioned that there’s no free WiFi for the CanTeeners at Wellington Hospital to use. We thought we could do something about that. As soon as we can arrange the installation, we’ll be setting up a free WiFi connection for the CanTeen patients at Wellington Hospital with help from our friends at Spark (who are graciously footing the bill – thanks team! <3).
We really love the community spirit fostered by #nzsecretsanta and try our best to use the goodwill it generates to generate more.
Along with the technical and social media side of NZ Secret Santa, there’s a pretty big amount of logistical work that needs to be done as well. This year, we’ve unfortunately lost our Chief Logistics Elf from previous years (Abeth) as he’s gone and got himself a promotion. *insert eyeroll emoji and dramatic sigh*
So this year, we’ve got a new Logistics Elf (in Training) – Erica – who we’re confident will do everything she can to handle the influx of stuff at the busiest possible time of the year. Erica will be leading the charge, herding the reindeer and making sure the sleigh is loaded on time to get gifts to you. If there is delay in processing the incoming gifts at the storehouse, please bear with us. Your dashboard will be updated; it might just take some time.
This brings me to…
Including tracking with your gift is *FREE* if you buy your postage through your NZ Secret Santa dashboard. Not only is it free, it makes it approximately 197% more likely to make it to the storehouse quickly and be checked in without a fuss*. This streamlines the whole process for us, from knowing that a gift is on the way (including who it’s from and who it’s for) to physically marking the item as “arrived at storehouse” and putting it on the shelf. PLEASE PLEASEPLEASE USE TRACKING. We don’t even mind if you use a different carrier – we just really like bar codes.
I’m sorry this blog post is really long – it wasn’t meant to be but I’m not good at following instructions. Even if I gave myself those instructions.
Last year, we ran short of Bad Santa gifts. This was the single most upsetting thing that’s ever happened during #nzsecretsanta (from the Elf side) and I unreservedly apologise to anyone and everyone who missed out last year. I thought I had the situation under control (we had a shipment of stuff that was supposed to arrive but didn’t) but I took on too much and my helper-elves were too busy with their day jobs to pitch in, so things slipped and I screwed up. Again – So. Very. Sorry.
Pretty sure this won’t be a problem this year as we’ve tightened a lot of things up and still have BSGS gifts rolling in every day (we have HEAPS).
I hope you enjoyed this blog post (or it put you into a nice, restful sleep, God knows I could use one of those soon…) and understand a little bit more about what happens in the life of an Elf.
Christmas is fast approaching and with that it means NZ Twitter Secret Santa is here. This is the 7th year it has been going which is awesome and I sometimes must stop and realise that I ran this for the first 3 years, which looking back on it, was some crazy times.
In the beginning
I had a conversation on Twitter and the topic of Secret Santa in the workplace came up, we discussed how cool it would be if there was a Secret Santa for people on Twitter. That thought must have stuck in my head as next thing I know I am announcing that’s what was going to do.
There was no planning, or real thought put into it. It seemed like a good idea and I asked whoever wanted to take part to DM me their addresses and I would match them up with someone.
I had no idea how I was going to manage the matching side of things, but via the magic of Twitter I was sent a rather fancy spreadsheet that would randomly match people up and create the tweet for me to DM later.
Initially there were around 240 people sign up, and due to a little bit of media coverage right at the end of sign up, I did a second round with another 200 + people signing up.
There were many late nights making sure I had the details I needed, tweets going all over the place and making sure people didn’t get matched with people they didn’t want to be matched with.
For the 2nd and 3rd year I put together a website that collected people’s details, which helped streamline the process for me, and from memory the 3rd year had around 850 people signed up to play.
Running a Secret Santa on this scale by yourself leads to some challenges, people not getting gifts, gifts turning up 4 months later, or participants turning up to hand deliver their gift in March. But overall, everything seemed to go OK.
I think some people thought there was a whole team working behind the scenes, probably didn’t help I used my average Photoshop skills to create 3 of myself working
Time to grow
I didn’t think I would be able to deal with another year of running it, or give it the justice it deserved, so I put the call out to see if there was anyone else out there that was up for the challenge.
I didn’t have any idea of who would be an ideal fit for this, I just knew I wasn’t keen for someone to commercialise it, this was evident when people said they would rather prefer a hairy giant pumpkin grower from Hamilton was running it rather than a nationwide radio station who had shown some interest early on.
NZ Post contacted me and said they might be keen, they just had to check with some bigwigs and would be back in touch, while they were doing that I talked to a couple of people on Twitter about it, and the responses were positive.
To cut a long story short, NZ Post took over NZ Twitter Secret Santa, and with their small team of Elves have been improving the Secret Santa experience ever year, this year they implemented loading your block lists, matching Secret Santa’s and getting an amazing group of businesses on board to help with the inevitable bad Santa’s.
I can’t think of a better company to be running NZ Secret Santa, and I get excited to take part every year, I hope you do too.
Things I have learnt
Being in the unique position of running and taking part in NZ Secret Santa, here are a few things I personally have learnt over the years.
Giving is more important than receiving
Putting just a little bit of thought into the gift makes it so much better
Handmade + Cheap doesn’t make a bad gift, just make it awesome
Be nice to everyone, including the Elves, they do an awesome job as well as their day jobs.
Make sure to tell everyone you know to take part, so many people never hear about it until after registration closes.
If the worst thing to happen to you is that you didn’t get a random gift from a stranger off the internet, then count yourself lucky.
For more on what I am up to, or to say hi. Check me out @websam or www.websam.nz