Christmas in July

It’s been 106 degrees here in Austin for weeks, but at S+G headquarters, we’re dreaming of a snowy winter wonderland. Yes, that’s right, we’re all about Christmas in July. 

And sure, part of that is to counter the truly excessive heat (did you know that Mel Tormé wrote “The Christmas Song”—you know the one…”Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”—to cool himself off during a sweltering July?), but another part is that now is when we start prepping for Q4 fundraising. Yes, really. 

As we work with clients to set them up for a successful year-end, we’re sharing a few of our best “Christmas in July” tips with all of you! 

  • Get your lists in order. Want to talk to more people in Q4? Better start finding them now! (For inspiration, check out this great acquisition experiment from Next After and Save the Children!)
  • Communication calendars are your best friend. If you’re anything like us (or many of our clients), September through December is a crazy season. Events, reports, holidays, thankathons, vacations, and, oh yeah, probably a big campaign (with direct mail and everything)! How do you fit in all those competing priorities (and their many associated messages)? One word: smart calendaring. We’d love to help you build your strategy and create a comms calendar that works for you! 
  • Do your content audit now. What stories and stats do you have in your arsenal? And, just as importantly, what are you missing? How will you fill in the gaps—and how can you squeeze the most life out of what you already have? 
  • Remember the attitude of gratitude. As you prepare to make big asks at the end of the year, think about how you can celebrate and thank donors now. Deepening your relationship with some good, old-fashioned cultivation will help your campaign shine when it’s time to launch. 
  • Turn up those holiday tunes—and dream of cooler weather. Listen, we know it’s July. December seems miles away. But thinking ahead will set you up for success—and lessen the pressures of an inevitably stressful season. So join us as we crank some Mannheim Steamroller, pull out our calendars, and make plans to absolutely rock our Q4 fundraising. 

Want help with your own Q4 planning, strategy, or implementation (yes, we’ll happily write all of your communications for you!)? Get in touch! Or if you know a nonprofit that could use support in the back half of the year, let us know! We’d love to connect and help you bring your vision to life! 

You need to do a content audit

You need to do a content audit

One of the first projects our Chief Strategist, Ian, completed as a young marketer was a how-to guide for MySpace. It was a PowerPoint. And he printed it to show his team. (I think this is where the kids say something like, “Ok, boomer.”) 

The simple reality is that we’ve been at this digital marketing game for a long time. 

And over the last 15 years, we’ve created a LOT of content. 

Blogs, infographics, social media, web pages, articles, thought leadership…if you’re anything like us, you’re sitting on a treasure trove of great material that you have already created. 

Yet our impulse is still to create something new. To come up with the next great idea. To start over. And start over. And start over again. 


Why do more work when you can, instead, do more efficient work? And why reinvent the wheel when you have a perfect circle within arm’s reach?

The reality is that most of your audience doesn’t remember your content. 

Sad, but true. 

And if your audience is growing (we’d love to help you do this, btw), then the new people on your email list weren’t around to receive that awesome message three years ago. They didn’t see it at all.

At every conference we’ve ever been to, the “experts” tell us one thing, over and over: Create engaging content. We always laugh at that because, duh, but also, they’re right. Good content is marketing magic—it’s why we built a storytelling agency. But we’d like to add to their advice: Create engaging content. And keep using the content you’ve created.

If you’re looking for easy, accessible content to share, chances are you already have it.

So how do you make use of the amazingness at your fingertips?

You need to do a content audit.

Spend time evaluating the material you already have, and start answering these questions:

  1. What is still working for you? These are the pages that are still getting lots of traffic and the pieces that are still getting used, so make sure the data and stories presented are accurate! Also, make sure these pages and pieces have logical next steps—where does a donor or prospect go after reading it? 
  2. What ISN’T working? In the wise words of Marie Kondo, if a piece of content isn’t bringing you joy anymore, it might be time to let it go. Or rewrite it. Or start over. 
  3. What could be working better? This is our favorite question! What are the stories in your arsenal that are interesting but unread? What blogs still work, especially if you were to spend five minutes updating them? What long-form articles could be parsed into a full month of social content? What can you re-share, re-post, or re-work? 

As you approach that last question, here are a few easy ways to get started: 

  1. Throwback Thursday. Post an old story in its entirety—no extra work required! 
  2. Repost your long-form. With well-researched long-form content, take the time to edit and update the information presented. Then repost the blog or article with an “updated” date—voila: new content. The SEO crawlers will love you. 
  3. Parse a blog into social. A full blog might not be super relevant anymore, but chances are high that you could find one or two sound bites that might be great social posts! As we always tell young writers, plagiarize yourself! If you’ve done the work, you can reuse it across channels! 
  4. Milk a piece for all its worth. Did you write a great impact report? Awesome. Now post it online. Pull five social posts out of the content. Turn it into a listicle. Independently share the infographics. Work smarter, not harder. You have so much existing content available to you! 

You can breathe life into old content—and Swell+Good is here to help. We conduct content audits for many of our clients, helping them identify what’s working, what’s not, and what could be. Then we help them turn the materials they have into a robust content calendar that is bursting with powerful stories. 

Want to learn more? Shoot us an email, we would love to talk to you!

Take a longer-term look at planning

Take a longer-term look at planning

When I first visited my now-fiancé’s apartment, something immediately caught my eye. It wasn’t the collection of guitars, or even the enviable library of economics books (though that did win him many bonus points).

In one of the rooms of his home, there is a floor-to-ceiling whiteboard wall.

I was awestruck. 

For a planner like me, this setup was a dream come true. Think of all the ideas you can hash out! The brainstorming! The calendars! The lists!

It’s a huge blank canvas upon which to craft something beautiful, which we are now using as a repository for wedding ideas.

As I’ve thought more about it, I realize I love the whiteboard wall because it symbolizes the big picture. It represents space and vision and foresight. It’s forward-looking. It’s the very opposite of the day-to-day myopic view of my computer. 

And as I start to dream about a wedding, I’m realizing that we in the nonprofit world need to reevaluate the way we do our planning. It’s too nearsighted. Too immediate.

Too much computer, not enough whiteboard. 

The urgent tasks in any given day are endless. The “do-this-nows” pile up, leaving us with no margin to think about what’s happening next week, let alone six months from now. No one is going to give you the space to breathe—you have to take it

It’s up to us to disrupt the pattern and pull ourselves up to a broader view. It’s up to us to take a longer-term look at planning. 

When you start arranging a wedding, you can download checklists from Pinterest that tell you what to do 18, 12, 9, 6, 3 months before your event. These guides give you an enormously long on-ramp to your big day so that:

  1. You stay organized.
  2. You prioritize the right things first. 
  3. You keep your stress to a minimum. 

What if we could achieve those same objectives at work? What if we could use the magic of long-term planning to stay organized, prioritize the right things, and operate stress-free? 

Yes please. 

Here at Swell+Good, we’re big believers in whiteboard thinking—and we love helping organizations start looking farther ahead on the horizon. We talk about winter when it’s still spring. We know what big holidays and events and campaigns are coming down the pike months in advance. We even built a content calendar template that we’d love to share with you for free! Just reply and let us know you’d like a copy.

It’s not easy to break free from the tyranny of the urgent, but it will make your work—and your stress levels—so much better. The creative brilliance happens when you have time to breathe, think, and brainstorm. If you’re like me, it happens when you’re at the whiteboard.

So give yourself the space and freedom to think big-picture, dream forward, and plan long-term. (Literally carve out the time. Block your calendar. Be ruthless. It’s the only way.) And let us know how we can help!