Archive FAQ > Gift Exchange

What is a Gift Exchange?

A Gift Exchange is a challenge that matches participants based on their sign-up requests and offers. Participants then create fanworks for the people they are matched with and receive works created for them in return.

Where can I find Gift Exchanges?

To find Gift Exchanges:

  1. Select "Browse" and then "Collections" on the menu at the top of any Archive of Our Own (AO3) page in the default site skin (below the site logo).
  2. Select "Gift Exchange Challenge" as the collection type in the filters on the right of the page, or available via the "Filters" button near the top of the page on mobile.
    • If you know the name of a specific Gift Exchange you're searching for, you can enter it in the box under the heading "Filter by title or name".
  3. Once you've entered your criteria, select the "Sort and Filter" button to review the results.

If you're already participating in a Gift Exchange, there's a simpler way to find it again. Please check out Where can I find Gift Exchanges that I've signed up for? for more details.

Where can I find Gift Exchanges that I've signed up for?

If you've already signed up for a Gift Exchange, you can follow these steps to find it again:

  1. Log in and select "My Sign-ups" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Sign-ups (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name from the list of sign-ups.

If you're pinch hitting for a Gift Exchange you're not otherwise participating in, try the following instead:

  1. Log in and select "My Assignments" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Assignments (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name from the list of assignments.

Can I participate in a Gift Exchange without an AO3 account?

No. In order to participate in a Gift Exchange on Archive of Our Own (AO3), you need an account. For information on how to create an account, refer to How do I create an account?

The people running the Gift Exchange may be able to issue you an invitation, or you can request one directly by entering your email address on the Invite Requests page. For more information, please refer to the Invitations FAQ.

If you're running a Gift Exchange and you need to request invitations for participants, please refer to How do I request invitations for a challenge that I'm running?

How do I sign up to participate in a Gift Exchange?

To participate in a Gift Exchange, you must have an Archive of Our Own (AO3) account. Please refer to How do I create an account? for more information.

When sign-ups are open, a Sign-up Form link will appear in the menu to the left of the Gift Exchange's dashboard or near the top on mobile devices. After selecting the link, fill in the form as instructed and select "Submit". Make sure to check the Gift Exchange's profile page and the top of the sign-up form for additional instructions or requirements, and keep them in mind while creating your requests and offers!

How do I edit my sign-up?

To edit a sign-up:

  1. Log in and select "My Sign-ups" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Sign-ups (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the "Edit Sign-up" button beside or below the sign-up you would like to edit. This takes you to a form where you can edit your requests and offers.
    1. If the moderator(s) have already begun the matching process, a dialogue box may pop-up stating Note: Potential matches will need to be regenerated after your edits. If you get this pop-up, we strongly suggest that you don't edit your sign-up unless asked to by the Gift Exchange's owner(s) or moderator(s).
    2. If you wish to continue, select "OK".
  3. Once you have made your changes, select the "Update" button at the bottom of the page.

You can also edit or delete individual requests or offers:

  1. Log in and select "My Sign-ups" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Sign-ups (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Select "My Sign-Up" from the menu found at the side of the page or at the top on a mobile device.
  4. Locate the request or offer you wish to edit or delete.
    • Select "Edit Prompt" to edit. After making the changes you wish to make to the prompt, select "Update" to save.
    • Select "Delete Prompt" to delete. A dialog box will appear asking you to confirm your decision to delete all of the information related to the prompt. If you wish to continue, select "OK".

You can only delete individual requests or offers if you have created more than the minimum required number (e.g. if the Gift Exchange allows you to create two to three requests or offers, and you create three). If you've only signed up for the minimum number, you can either delete all of your requests or offers at once, or edit your requests or offers instead.

You can edit or delete your sign-up at any time while sign-ups are open. Owners and moderators can edit or delete their sign-ups at any time. For more on how to delete your sign-up, check out How do I delete my sign-up?

How do I delete my sign-up?

To delete a sign-up:

  1. Log in and select "My Sign-ups" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Sign-ups (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select "Delete Sign-up" beside or below the sign-up you would like to delete.
  3. A dialog box will appear asking you to confirm your decision to delete this sign-up.
    • If the moderator(s) have already completed the matching process, the pop-up will state Are you sure? Potential matches will need to be regenerated afterwards. If you get this pop-up, we strongly encourage you to speak to the Gift Exchange's owner(s) or moderator(s) before you go ahead with deleting your sign-up. That way, they will know that they need to create new matches for the participants who had previously been matched to you.
    • Otherwise, the pop-up will state Are you sure? All prompts in this sign-up will be lost.
  4. If you wish to continue, select "OK".

You can also delete individual requests or offers. Check out How do I edit my sign-up? for more information.

If you are deleting a sign-up from a Gift Exchange in which you have already received your assignment, we strongly encourage you to contact the owner(s) or moderator(s) so that they can reorganize participants accordingly. You may also want to consider defaulting rather than deleting your sign-up. For more information on deleting or defaulting your sign-up, please refer to How do I withdraw from a Gift Exchange?

How do I find my assignments?

When you're logged in, select "My Assignments" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Assignments" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).

This will take you to a list of all your assignments. Completed assignments will show the date you posted the assigned work. Unfulfilled assignments will have buttons labeled "Fulfill" and "Default". Select these to fulfill or default your assignment. For more information on defaulting, refer to How do I withdraw from a Gift Exchange?

By selecting the Gift Exchange's name, you can access your full assignment, including a list of all of your recipient's requests and your offers.

How do I fulfill my Gift Exchange assignment?

Once participants have been matched, you will receive an email notifying you of your assignment. To fulfill the assignment:

  1. When you're logged in, select "My Assignments" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Assignments (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the "Fulfill" button beside or below the assignment you wish to complete. This will open the Post New Work form with the assignment details already filled in.

Alternatively, you can fulfill the assignment by going to the Post New Work form. In the Associations section, select the checkbox for the open assignment you are completing. When you post or preview the work, the details for the Gift Exchange and recipient will automatically be filled in for you.

For more detailed instructions on posting a work to the Archive of Our Own (AO3), please refer to our Tutorial: Posting a Work on AO3.

How do I withdraw from a Gift Exchange?

You can withdraw from a Gift Exchange by defaulting your assignment, or by deleting your sign-up.

If you use the default option, you will remain in the Gift Exchange and may receive your requested work. Selecting this button will notify the moderator that you are unable to complete your assignment. They will be able to assign a pinch hitter to replace you.

To default your assignment:

  1. Log in and select "My Assignments" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Assignments (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the "Default" button beside or below the assignment you would like to default.
  3. A confirmation dialogue box will pop-up asking if you are sure you want to default your assignment, as this cannot be undone. Select "OK" if you are sure you wish to default.
  4. The assignment will be removed from your Assignments page, and the collection maintainers will be advised of the default.

Deleting your sign-up will remove all of your requests and offers from the Gift Exchange. If you have already received your assignment and want to delete your sign-up, we strongly encourage you to contact the owner(s) or moderator(s) as they will need to correct the matches and assignments. For more information, please refer to How do I delete my sign-up?

How do I find a work that has been created for me as part of a Gift Exchange?

You can find all your gift works using the following steps:

  1. Log in and go to your dashboard by selecting the greeting "Hi, [username]!" and choosing "My Dashboard" from the menu, or by selecting your profile image.
  2. Select "Gifts (#)" from the menu found at the side of the page or at the top on a mobile device.

A list of works marked as a gift for you, whether through a Gift Exchange or not, can be found on this page.

You will also get an email notification every time a new gift work for you is posted or, if the gift work is posted to an unrevealed collection, when it's revealed. Please note you will not receive an email notification if you have this turned off in your preferences.

There's a problem with my gifted work!

You should bring any issues with gifted works that don't meet the challenge's requirements to the people running the Gift Exchange. If the work violates our Terms of Service, you can submit an Abuse Report to the Policy & Abuse Committee using the link in the Archive of Our Own (AO3) footer.

You may also choose to refuse the gifted work. For more information on how to do this, please refer to How do I refuse a gift?

How do I create a Gift Exchange?

To create a Gift Exchange, you first need to create the hosting collection or subcollection. You can find step by step instructions on how to do this in our Creating a Collection Tutorial. When creating your collection, make sure you select "Gift Exchange" from the "Type of challenge, if any" menu in the Preferences section. Once you select the "Submit" button, you'll be taken to the Challenge Settings page, where you can select the dates and parameters of your Gift Exchange.

Refer to our Tutorial: Running a Gift Exchange on AO3 for step by step instructions on setting up your Gift Exchange.

What happens if I don't provide an email when I'm setting up a new Gift Exchange?

Gift Exchange emails are sent regardless of whether an email is provided. If no collection email is given, all owners and moderators receive an email at the address associated with their Archive of Our Own (AO3) account when potential assignments are generated, when assignments are sent, and when a user defaults on their assignment(s).

How do I request invitations for a Gift Exchange that I'm running?

If you're running a Gift Exchange and need to request invitations for participants, please contact Support with your Gift Exchange's name and link, sign-up dates, which account to send the invites to, and how many invitations are needed. Please refer to

How do I add tags to the Archive for participants to use in my Gift Exchange?

You can create a tag set to add new tags to the Archive of Our Own (AO3) for your Gift Exchange. For more information on this, refer to our Tag Sets FAQ.

What is matching and how do I complete the process in my Gift Exchange?

After the sign-up period of a Gift Exchange ends, requests and offers submitted by participants are paired with each other through a process called matching. Each participant's request(s) are matched with an appropriate offer from another participant. The matches or assignments are usually then reviewed by the Gift Exchange's owner(s) and/or moderator(s) before sent out to participants.

To complete the matching process:

  1. Log in and select "My Collections" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Collections (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Before you generate automatic matching, sign-ups need to be closed. To check if sign-ups for your Gift Exchange are closed, navigate to your Challenge Settings page. Uncheck the "Sign-up open?" box and select the "Update" button.
  4. Select "Matching" from the Gift Exchange's menu, found along the side of the challenge's dashboard or along the top on mobile.
  5. Select the "Generate Potential Matches" button. When the matching process is complete, an email will be sent to the email listed on your Collection Settings page or, if you didn't set an email, to all owners and moderators of the collection.
  6. When matching is complete, return to the Gift Exchange's Matching page to review the results.

If there are requests and/or offers that the automatic matching was unable to match, there will be "No Recipient", "No Giver", "No Potential Recipients", and/or "No Potential Givers" buttons you can select at the top of the page. For more information of what to do in this situation, and for a more in-depth explanation of how to process matches, please refer to the Tutorial: Running a Gift Exchange on AO3.

How do I send out assignments?

Before sending out assignments, you need to be satisfied with the matches in your Gift Exchange. For more information on matching, check out What is matching and how do I complete the process on a Gift Exchange?

To send out assignments:

  1. Log in and select "My Collections" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Collections (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Select "Matching" from the Gift Exchange's menu, found along the side of the challenge's dashboard or along the top on mobile.
  4. Select "Send Assignments", located near the bottom of the page, to notify participants of their assignments. They will receive a notification by email and can also find any assignments they have pending on their dashboard under "Assignments". Note that all participants must have been matched to a recipient and a giver for assignments to be sent.

How do I review assignments in my Gift Exchange?

Once you have sent assignments to your participants (check out How do I send out assignments? for more information), the "Matching" link will no longer be available, and an "Assignments" link will be added in its place. From this page, you can review the assignments for the challenge and their current status. Buttons near the top of the page (or below the "Assignments for [challenge name]" heading on mobile) allow you to review assignments that are Defaulted, Open, or Complete. You can also review Pinch Hit assignments, Default All Incomplete assignments, or Purge Assignments entirely. For more information on Purging Assignments, please refer to How can I change assignments after they're sent out?

How can I change the assignments after they're sent out?

If you need to default or undefault an assignment, check out How do I default a Gift Exchange participant? and How do I undefault a Gift Exchange participant?

If the original giver defaults and you need to assign a pinch hitter, check out How do I assign pinch hitters? for more information.

If you realize you have a major error in your Gift Exchange matches after you have sent out assignments, you can reset all current assignments. This will allow you to make changes to your matching criteria and run it again. Purged assignments are non-recoverable: only choose this function if you absolutely mean it!

To reset all current assignments:

  1. Log in and select "My Collections" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Collections (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Select "Assignments" from the collection's menu, found along the side of the Gift Exchange's dashboard or along the top on mobile.
  4. Select the "Purge Assignments" button found towards the top right of the page on desktop (or below the Assignments for [challenge name] heading on mobile).
  5. A pop-up dialog box will appear: This will delete ALL assignments so you can edit and send them over. Please do not do this unless you absolutely must!. If you wish to continue, select "OK".

Please note, an automated message won't be sent to your participants if you cancel all assignments. They will, however, receive an email when you send out new assignments, so you may want to modify your assignment notification message to let participants know which assignment they should be acting on. You can do this from your Collection Settings page.

How do I contact participants?

You may need to contact a participant if there is a problem with their sign-up, or if they have not completed their assignment on time.

To find contact information for participants:

  1. Log in and select "My Collections" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Collections (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Select either "Assignments" or "Sign-ups (#)" from the Gift Exchange's menu, found along the side of the challenge's dashboard or along the top on mobile. If you selected "Assignments" from the menu, select the "Open" button near the top of the Assignments page to review all currently assigned and unfinished assignments.
  4. On both the Sign-Ups and Assignments pages, you can find an envelope icon directly to the right of each participant's username, linking to their email. You may use these email addresses to contact participants as needed.

Please note that the use of those email addresses for any purpose other than running the Gift Exchange may lead to the termination of your account.

How can I find out how many unfulfilled assignments remain in my Gift Exchange?

To find out how many unfulfilled assignments remain in your Gift Exchange:

  1. Log in and select "My Collections" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Collections (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Select "Assignments" from the collection's menu, found along the side of the Gift Exchange's dashboard or along the top on mobile.
  4. Select the "Open" button, located near the top of the page, to review all unfulfilled assignments, including pinch hits, which will be denoted by "* (pinch hitter)" next to the assigned participant's pseud.

What do I do if a participant defaults on their assignment?

If a participant defaults, you will be given the option to assign a pinch hitter in their place. You may want to ask other participants if they are interested in taking over the assignment, or advertise ahead of time that pinch hitters will be appreciated.

For more information, please refer to How do I assign pinch hitters?.

How do I default a Gift Exchange participant?

If a participant hasn't completed their work by your Gift Exchange's deadline or contacts you to say that they'll be unable to fulfill their assignment, you can default them. You can choose to either default assignments individually or default all incomplete assignments at once.

To default individual Gift Exchange participants:

  1. Log in and select "My Collections" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Collections (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Select "Assignments" from the collection's menu, found along the side of the challenge's dashboard or along the top on mobile.
  4. Select the "Open" button near the top of the page to review all currently assigned and unfinished assignments. Each assignment will be listed with the giver, an envelope icon that will link to the giver's email address, and the recipient.
  5. Select the "Default" box next to the giver that you wish to default. You may select multiple default boxes at the same time.
  6. Once you have selected all participants that you wish to default, select the "Submit" button. You will now be able to find these assignments under the "Defaulted" tab (the "Defaulted" button near the top should be selected), and will be able to assign a pinch hitter.

To default all incomplete assignments at once:

  1. Log in and select "My Collections" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Select "Assignments" from the collection's menu, found along the side of the challenge's dashboard or along the top on mobile.
  4. Select "Default All Incomplete" button towards the top right of the page on desktop (or below the Assignments for [challenge name] heading on mobile).
  5. A pop-up dialogue box will appear: Are you sure? This will mark all unposted or unapproved assignments in the challenge as defaulting. If you wish to continue, select "OK".

You may want to ask other participants if they are interested in taking over the assignment, or advertise ahead of time that pinch hitters will be appreciated.

For more information on assigning pinch hitters, please refer to How do I assign pinch hitters?

How do I undefault a Gift Exchange participant?

To undefault a Gift Exchange participant:

  1. Log in and select "My Collections" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Collections (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Select "Assignments" from the collection's menu, found along the side of the Gift Exchange's dashboard or along the top on mobile.
  4. Make sure you are on the "Defaulted" tab (the "Defaulted" button near the top should be selected).
  5. Select the "Undefault [username]" button beside the user you want to undefault.
  6. Once you have assigned all the pinch hitters and undefaulted all the users that you wish to, select the "Submit" button to save your changes.

How do I assign pinch hitters?

If you have not yet sent assignments:

  1. Select "Matching" from the collection's menu, found along the side of the Gift Exchange's dashboard or along the top on mobile. The result table will display the following for each match: the assignment ID, recipient, giver, and a field where you can enter a write-in giver (or pinch hitter).
  2. Enter the name or pseud of the pinch hitter you wish to assign in the "Write-In Giver" box.
  3. An autocomplete list of users will pop up; feel free to choose the appropriate name from the list or just finish writing the name and select enter.
  4. Once you have made all the changes that you wish to make to the assignments, select the "Save Assignment Changes" button.

If you have already sent assignments:

  1. Confirm that all assignments requiring pinch hitters are defaulted. If you aren't sure how to do this, please refer to How do I default a Gift Exchange participant?
  2. Once you have confirmed all assignments requiring pinch hitters are defaulted, go to the collection and select "Assignments" from the collection's menu, found along the side of the Gift Exchange's dashboard or along the top on mobile.
  3. Make sure you are on the "Defaulted" tab (the "Defaulted" button near the top should be selected).
  4. Enter the name or pseud of the pinch hitter you wish to assign. An autocomplete list of users will pop up; feel free to choose the appropriate name from the list or just finish writing the name and select enter.
    • You can also undefault a user by selecting the "Undefault [username]" button.
  5. Once you have assigned all the pinch hitters and undefaulted all the users that you wish to, select the "Submit" button to save your changes.

How do I reveal creators and/or works in an anonymous and/or unrevealed Gift Exchange?

To reveal creators and/or works in an anonymous and/or unrevealed Gift Exchange:

  1. Navigate to your Collection Settings page and scroll down to the Preferences section. If you're unsure how to get to there, refer to How do I return to my Collection Settings page?
  2. To reveal works, uncheck the box next to or beneath "This collection is unrevealed".To reveal creators, uncheck the box next to or beneath "This collection is anonymous".
  3. Once you have unchecked the appropriate boxes, select the "Update" button towards the bottom of the page.

For more information, refer to How do I reveal works or lift their anonymity in a collection I own?

How do I deal with inappropriate sign-ups?

If there are inappropriate sign-ups, you can delete or edit the sign-up from the Sign-ups page by selecting the "Edit Sign-up" or "Delete Sign-up" button. Deleting the request or offer will remove the specific request or offer in question. Deleting the sign-up will delete all requests and offers requested by the user. Refer to How do I edit or delete someone else's sign-up? for more information.

How do I edit or delete someone else's sign-up?

Owners have the ability to edit and delete all sign-ups and prompts at any time. Moderators can delete, but not edit, sign-ups and prompts. We suggest this power not be used unless it's needed. For example, if a user requests a change to be made, or if a change is necessary in order for matching to be successful. Please contact the participant if there are any questions about their sign-up! For more information on how to do this, refer to How do I contact participants?

To edit or delete a sign-up:

  1. Log in and select "My Collections" from the "Hi, [username]!" menu at the top of the page. If you're on your dashboard, you can also choose "Collections (#)" in the navigation sidebar (found at the top of the page when you're using a mobile device).
  2. Select the Gift Exchange's name to access its dashboard.
  3. Select "Sign-ups (#)" from your Gift Exchange's dashboard.
    • To edit or delete the whole sign-up, select the "Edit Sign-up" or "Delete Sign-up" button beside or below the appropriate sign-up.
    • To edit or delete an individual request or offer, select the "Requests" or "Offers" button beside or below the appropriate sign-up, and then select the "Edit Prompt" or the "Delete Prompt" button beside or below the request or offer you wish to edit.
  4. Either edit option (the "Edit Sign-ups" or "Edit Prompt" buttons) will take you to a form where you can edit the request(s) and/or offer(s). Once you have made your changes, select the "Update" button at the bottom of the page.

You can only delete individual requests or offers if the participant has created more than the minimum required number (e.g. if the Gift Exchange allows you to create two to three requests, and they created three). If someone has only signed up for the minimum number, you can either delete all of their requests and/or offers at once, or edit their requests and/or offers instead.

How do I delete a Gift Exchange?

To delete a Gift Exchange, go to your Challenge Settings page and select the "Delete Challenge" button at the top right of the page (or below the Setting Up the [Name] Gift Exchange heading on mobile). This prompts a dialog box that you will need to confirm and select "OK". If you are unsure how to get to this page, refer to How do I return to my Challenge Settings page?

Even if you delete your Gift Exchange, all works will remain in the collection.

If you wish to also delete the collection, please refer to How do I delete a collection?

Where can I get more information if my question isn't answered here?

If you need guidance on a particular part of collection or challenge creation, please check out:

Some frequently asked questions about the Archive are answered in other sections of the Archive FAQ, and some common terminology is defined in our Glossary. Questions and answers about our Terms of Service can be found in the Terms of Service FAQ. You may also like to check out our Known Issues. For help with your specific gift exchange that isn't covered in these FAQ or the Tutorials, please add AO3_Support as a co-owner and then contact us and we'll do our best to help you.