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This year, small business owners in the U.S. plan to be significantly more generous for the holiday season, according to a new survey. The 2012 American Express OPEN Small Business Holiday monitor reports that more than half of employers surveyed are planning to give to charity this holiday season and more than one-third will throw parties to help keep company morale high.

Forty per cent of small businesses are planning holiday parties or get-togethers for employees (up from 35% last year) with an average of US$959 spent on the occasion (down slightly from US$1,029 in 2011). In addition, more than half of small business owners (57%) will be donating to charity: one-third of those surveyed plan on donating money, 25% are planning an in-kind donation, 25% will take part in a volunteer activity with staff and slightly fewer (23%) will donate their own time.

The generosity this season extends to end-of-year bonuses, as well, with 35% of small business owners planning to distribute cash awards to employees, up from 29% last year. Of these, more than a quarter will be giving larger bonuses this holiday season compared to last year, with an average rate of 9% of salary. In addition, 18% of employers will be giving raises to their staff this year, up from 15% last year.

More businesses will be including clients on their list of people to shop for this year, too. Despite a still-challenging economic climate south of the border, 51% of small business owners will be giving their clients and customers gifts this holiday season, up from 43% last year. According to the survey, the average budget for client holiday gifts is US$958, up from US$827 last year and US$740 in 2010.

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