Government · Relationship management

How do you (legally) thank a city official?

Mike Whitfield Sr. Software Engineer, EPAM, Google

July 13th, 2015

Sometimes the services of gov. go above and beyond to be totally awesome and they deserve a huge thanks.  I'm aware that there are rules about gifts, but what ways are there to say thank you for this sort of thing?

Logan Kleier

July 13th, 2015

As a former federal and municipal employee, I would say thanking a government employee is best done through words, not gifts. Some gifts can be accepted (under a certain dollar threshold). However, you need to do your research on what that threshold is for a given government organization. 

Honestly, I'd recommend keeping your thanks to a verbal thank you for a job well done, rather than trying any form of financial reward. I have told vendors that it's better for all parties if there's no form of financial thanks or reward even if it's legally allowed. 

L. Marshall-Smith

July 13th, 2015

A sincere thank you letter works well, too. And not emailed.  Hand delivered or snail mailed.

Amir Yasin Developer, Architect

July 13th, 2015

If applicable let their immediate supervisor also know how impressed you were with their dedication, that should help come review time. 

Stephen PMP Project Management Professional

July 13th, 2015

As a federal employee and a Contracting Officers Representative  (COR) I can say you are definitely limited. Legally you can give gifts under a threshold, but the best practice is for us to not receive any gifts whatsoever to stay away from even a perception that we are being compensated/bribed/etc.  I hate to say it, but ethically the best you can do is to say thanks.  Look for common interests and form a bond and write a long thank you letter that they may be able to show their manager durimg a performance review.  

We are public servants.  Your tax dollars are already compensating us and keeping our jobs secure.  Thanks!


July 13th, 2015

You can give them a token of your appreciation, like a picture of your people with thanks written on it- something to hang on their wall. Imagine he or she would take it home and show it his/her spouse or children. You could make a little video thanking them for their effort, going out of their way, being a selfless public servant, having great integrity, commitment, etc, etc.  If you do something public, make sure they want the publicity, though. For instance, if they could be accused of favoritism for the favor, keep it private.

Mike Whitfield Sr. Software Engineer, EPAM, Google

July 14th, 2015

Amir, sounds great.  This guy has been super awesome and responsible for connecting me with key contacts including setting me up almost single-handedly with a grant opportunity.  Words don't seem to suffice, so a written thank you and a note of praise to his supervisor might do the trick :)

Melissa Rich Passionate, Mission Driven, Strategy, Growth & Impact Leader - Founder, CEO, President, Executive Management

July 14th, 2015

Mike, Good for you for wanting to share gratitude for a government employee's efforts.  Public agency officials rarely receive traditional for profit business style perks (raise, promotion etc) for a job well done and as you know, "gifts" from vendors are not allowed.  A thank you goes a long way.  I ran a business which served the public sector for 11 years and was always amazed by how a simple thank you was met with much appreciation.  We used to create "certificates" for our client contacts.  I was often (pleasantly) surprised to see the framed certificates hanging on the walls of our clients' offices!  A pat on the back felt really great to these folks and in turn helped us forge some great relationships.  Good luck!

Deborah Bryant Senior Director Open Source and Standards, CTO Office at Red Hat

July 15th, 2015

As a former state government employee I would agree with Logan's assessment; thanks are most welcomed, gifts can be perceived as an effort to influence.  Gifts under a threshold may be legal yet awkward, in particular when they are branded with a company logo (and will most likely end up in a drawer).

You might  consider a letter or email to their manager acknowledging their extra effort.  If it's about a project well executed with public benefit, consider a Letter to the Editor or an equivalent public acknowledgement.  Also if appropriate, thank a department or team in general and bring up the employee's name in that context as exemplary in their public service.

Peter Kemball Member Issuers Committee at Equity Crowdfunding Alliance of Canada (ECFA)

July 17th, 2015


A well written formal thank you letter specifically showing how the person went above and beyond the call with the immediate supervisor cc'd sounds solid. I would also contact the head of the agency and tell the story because they seldom hear and always appreciate good news of this kind.