Secret Santa - What's your thoughts on how to achieve?


Well-known member
Wanting to run a Secret Santa for my community :)

In the absence of a suitable Add-On, I'm keen to hear thoughts/ideas on how to implement it with XF functionality?
First, the conceptual process for end-users ....
  1. You'll have until 29th Nov to signup to participate in the Secret Santa.
  2. On 30th Nov, the computer will randomly match participants. You'll be advised who you should send your gift to (the important part - it's about the giving!).
  3. You'll have until Dec 14th to send your Secret Santa gift to your assigned giftee. You'll post in a thread when you've sent it (in a private area, just to ensure everyone has sent their gift).
  4. When you receive your gift, you'll come here and post, in an assigned thread, an amazing thank you note, hopefully with photo(s).

So, I'm thinking on what would be the best/easiest methodology to process this?
  1. Create Custom User Fields to record users participation and address. All 'Preferences' type so not displayed anywhere. Editable only once. Several fields; a yes/no to record participation, postal name, and postal address. And an admin only field (is this possible?) to record who their assigned giftee is.
  2. SQL commend to action against those participating, randomly assigning giftee, and updating hidden/admin-only user field with assigned giftee
  3. Create a thread - with appropriate permissions, so only the user can see their post and no others - to achieve step 3 (users posting when they've sent their gift)
Maybe someone else has/is already doing a Secret Santa (or similiar) for their community? If so, how are you doing it?


Active member
Interesting idea. I'm guessing the biggest hurdle would be the sending - supplying a physical address. Maybe an amazon gift card instead? Not exactly personal though.


Well-known member
Sorry, couldn't read through that first post, way too much going on. However, I will share my experience on Secret Santa that we do every year. The members love it.

1. I have one of my moderators manage it.
2. Have a gift maximum dollar amount, be prepared for out of country participants as far as mailing dollars, we try to match with a same like country.
4. New members cannot participate, must be a member for a certain period of time, your call.
3. Create a "slush" fund that all participants add to in case someone backs out, this covers the gift for the person whom was stiffed, any left over monies go into the donation area of the site.

See a sample thread below of whats shared with the participants. I guess it depends also gift wise and dollar amount of the price maximum as well. My site is about cats so its fairly cheap and simple.

  • I pair your name up with another person once you send me a private message indicating you want to participate, include your real name, address, and information on your cats/pets. What do they like/dislike, is there anything they can't have?, how many sphynx you have, what size clothes they wear, etc. Many Santas choose to include gifts for the people, so please include info on your likes, dislikes, etc.
  • You must also include a home made gift in your package. It can be anything! Cookies, home made pet toys, drawings, lotions, scrubs, candles, anything at all! This part is supposed to be FUN, not stressful. People have decorated the box, or made a clay sculpture, or included a music mix, a home made blanket, or strung up milk rings or decorated bottle caps...just have fun! And don't let that part scare you off!
  • The suggested gift amount is $40.00, but many grifters spend more than that. If you choose to, just be mindful that you may only receive a $40.00 package from your gifter.
  • You must also let me know if you are willing to mail a gift overseas, as the postage can be quite a bit higher to do so. If you choose to send only here at home, that's fine...just let me know.
  • In order that no one gets stiffed on a gift, when I determine how many are participating, I divide the cost of a $40 gift plus $10 toward postage between all the participants which I have you send to my pay pal account. I keep track of who contributes to the "insurance" slush fund, and if we don't have to use it to buy a gift because someone stiffed someone else I will either return it to you, or we can collectively decide to donate it to the Lair, or some other good cause of the groups choice.
If you decide to participate, please send me the information I have asked for by the evening of November 16th. I will provide you with a name and address by November 19th. Then you are promising you will mail your package out in time for the gift to arrive by Christmas. I will ask you to send me notice that you have mailed the package and will ask you to provide me a tracking number.

Remember this is supposed to be secret Santas! So don't tell who you are until they open the gift! If you are required to give a return address, give your correct address, but write S. Lair for your name.

Lastly, when you get a gift and open it, please take pics of what you received and your cat's reaction. To say thank you, and to let us all enjoy your loot! Tell us what the homemade part was too! That's my favorite part!

Ho Ho Ho!


Well-known member
Here's how we do it:
  • Longtime members can organize a 'secret santa' type exchange, but it has to be approved by staff.
  • The organizer determines the theme, rules and suggested value of items.
  • There's a public thread with a questionnaire to fill out about preferences, but addresses are sent privately.
  • The organizer handles the match-ups and follows up to prod anyone who's mailing late.
  • There's a new thread for people to post photos of what they got.
  • Sometimes people volunteer as 'swap angels' – if someone flakes, they will send a gift without expecting anything back.

Some tips:
  • Expect that some people will mail late and a few will flake. Happens every time, especially over the holidays.
  • Get information about the participants' allergies. Snacks or scented items can be a problem for some people.
  • Like @tommydamic68's example, a minimum value works better than a maximum value.
  • If this is an international swap, advise people to sign up only if they are comfortable mailing overseas. (Also give tips about marking parcels as a gift, etc.)
  • Clarify whether items must be new, or whether used or handmade items are acceptable.
I understand the convenience of random assignments, but most sites I'm on don't do it that way. For example, people usually indicate if they live in a smoking household or have pets, and people who are allergic won't be assigned to them. Often people will be matched by country or asked if they are ok shipping overseas.

If you want something that's a little less hassle the first time, do a card exchange, with members filling out what holiday they are celebrating. Once you get your system down, you could do a gift exchange next year.


On my forum the previous owner did a TO-R Christmas where some of the ad money and donated items from vendors are given to random forum members. In a sense it is like a Secret Santa where nobody knows what they are getting but the general membership is not responsible for getting gifts to mail to each other. The only person with access to the members' mailing info is me (the owner) so there is security in that. Generally the vendors on the site donate or cut me a deal to purchase whatever I want at cost for the TO-R Christmas.

Now the twist - since we are all have a good sense of humor not all the gifts are awesome. Somebody is going to get some old parts. Somebody is going to get some busted parts. Everybody is going to get a good laugh. I am trying to match it up where the busted/old parts are matched up with a gift card to either Amazon or a liquor store ( we like to drink ) so everyone gets a little something. This is the 3rd year we have been doing it and it has always been pretty popular. This is my first year running it as the owner so I am also enjoying it as well.

Link to site thread for reference: