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You're right to be concerned that only one gift can be "in motion" at a time if you use a simple lead field. That doesn't seem sustainable.
I would instead create new lead records for the recipients -- this is how we run referral programs. You can add the email address of the buyer (technically, the last buyer) as a lead field on the recipient. Then your only remaining worry would be if more than one person sends a gift to the same recipient.