According to its website, Elfster is a free online Secret Santa organizer and social networking platform for gift giving. Simply put by the creators: “Elfster Social Gifting=one part wishing+one part shopping+one part social networking+one part gaming=tons of fun!”
I learned about this great social utility through a friend. Every year, my group of friends from high school gets together for an annual Christmas dinner at a restaurant near where we all grew up in Virginia. The tradition started by chance, but it has since become an event we all look forward to year-round. Here, we are in 2009.
This year, we decided to add a Secret Santa into the mix. Of course, pulling names out of a hat is not really an option for us. Though, currently, a majority of the group lives in Virginia, at one point we were as spread out as Virginia, Alabama, Kansas and California. Elfster is the perfect solution. By creating a group, we are able to connect and communicate over the holidays to create a gift exchange.
Here’s how it works: A event organizer creates a group and its subsequent Secret Santa. They enter a date by which everyone must sign up. After that date, Elfster draws names and notifies each member of their draw. Here’s the best part: Elfster puts an end to the Secret Santa stress of figuring out the perfect gift for your friend. Individuals can create wish lists; individuals can anonymously ask questions and receive answers from their “draw” on their likes of dislikes; others in the group can make personal recommendations for individuals and more.
As if that information wasn’t useful enough, the site also includes updates – think Facebook news feed – on activities such as who has joined the group or who has updated their wish list. Users can “like” posts or comment on posts, allowing for discussion among the group.
Since, I’ve seen other similar sites – Secret Santa, for example, which also can create Yankee Swaps and White Elephant exchanges. But I’ve found Elfster more user-friendly and to have more options in terms of gift-giving ideas. This is the first time I’ve used the site, but I already love it! I am sure I will use it next year for a few other groups I am involved in who could benefit from this useful, creative website.
Once again, social media – and new ideas – has changed the way I conduct aspects of my life. Gone are the days of drawing names from a hat and stressing about what gift I should purchase!