At its core, a Secret Santa gift exchange is all about spreading joy and happiness during the holiday season. It gives you the opportunity to make someone's day a little brighter and, in turn, experience the joy of giving. A few years ago, one of the members of the “Dairy Moms” Facebook group suggested a Secret Santa gift exchange would be fun for moms in the group to do.

Schmitz audrey
Editor / Progressive Dairy

“Everyone was kind of joking that they were tired of just getting bills in their mailbox and that they wanted to get something fun,” says Jodi McDonnell, mother and dairy producer in Lakeville, Ohio. “There was a small group of women that loosely put one together. From there, I kind of took the reins and it took off, growing every year.”

The first year, McDonnell says she had right around 100 women sign up, and this past year in 2022 there were almost 500 moms who signed up for the gift exchange in the Facebook group.

McDonnell says she uses an app called Elfster which is an online Secret Santa generator. She then posts a link to the sign-up form on the Dairy Moms Facebook group once it opens up on Nov. 1. Members can then fill out their name, email, mailing address, interests and select if they want to ship internationally or not. The app Elfster then randomly assigns people on the draw date of Dec. 15.

“It is kind of nice because your Secret Santa doesn’t have you and everyone gets assigned randomly,” McDonnell says. “Elfster notifies them via email who they got, and it just goes from there.”


The suggested price limit for the gift exchange is $25.

“We just want people to send a gift to bring a little quick snippet of holiday cheer to somebody that they more than likely don’t know,” McDonnell says. “We have some women who send like a coffee mug and a bag of candy and then we have some women who go above and beyond, and someone ends up with a whole box of goodies at their door.”

McDonnell says she doesn’t have any way to make sure people actually send a gift but watches closely to make sure people send out a gift and tries to keep them out of the gift exchange the following year if they haven’t.

“We tell people that if their gift is running late to let their person know that it’s still coming and that they didn’t forget about them,” McDonnell says.

For McDonnell, she says the biggest challenge with organizing the gift exchange is the time commitment and making sure everything goes smoothly.

“Thankfully, with the Elfster app it’s not terrible,” McDonnell says. “However, I still have to field questions from people and sometimes Elfster can be kind of troublesome if someone’s email doesn’t match up exactly.”

Overall, the ladies in the group really have a lot of fun with the gift exchange, and it is something they look forward to every year as a nice break from everyday life.

“I think it is fun because some of these women get really creative and I guess it kind of catches me off guard at how creative some of these women get with what they send,” McDonnell says. “Some of these women take the time to make a homemade gift to send a lady that they've never even met before other than maybe having a conversation with them on Facebook.”

McDonnell says her favorite part of the Secret Santa is when her gift comes in the mail.

“I think it's neat to see what everybody sends each other, and to see what I get to receive too,” McDonnell says. “It's always exciting to see what's in my box when it comes.”

McDonnell’s advice to dairy moms who want to get in on the Secret Santa gift exchange is to join the Dairy Moms Facebook group.

“I make a big post about the Secret Santa in the group and use the @mention everyone tag in the comments to make sure it shows up to all the members,” McDonnell says. “So the big thing is just to pay attention to your Facebook tags.”