Is Giving Tuesday dead?

On the very first Giving Tuesday in 2012, our team went all out. We didn’t quite know what we are doing, but we created a command center, borrowed staff from across the organization, and camped out on every single social media platform looking for conversations to join. It was loud and fun and exciting—and it felt like we were onto something special. 

The next year, we went even bigger—our team was in the office at 5:00 a.m. recording personalized thank you videos for every single donor in real time. It was insane. And amazing. And the energy was off the charts. 

Fast forward to this year. When Ian and I met for coffee on Tuesday (on our 12th Giving Tuesday…and our 12th year running GT campaigns for awesome organizations), we looked at each other and said the same thing, “Is Giving Tuesday dead?” 

The short answer is, of course, no. Preliminary data shows that, this year, “donors contributed $3.1 billion to U.S. nonprofits on GivingTuesday, roughly the same amount as last year.” 

Over $3 billion in charitable giving is incredible and absolutely worth celebrating. (And I hope that your organization felt this kind of success this week, too!) 

But there are some alarming stats, as well: 

Basically, Giving Tuesday fundraising is about level with last year—but its coming from 10% fewer people. For a mass giving day, this is a problem. 

The whole point of GT has always been to get a lot of people—and ideally a lot of NEW people—to make a gift. And while big donors giving big gifts is awesome, it’s also dangerous. Data Officer Rosenbaum explained it best: “When we see this increase in the average donation on Giving Tuesday, we see that as a warning sign, not as something that we should be looking for.”

For our team at S+G, the even more alarming trend we’re experiencing is a decrease in energy and creativity around Giving Tuesday. Put simply, the vibes just aren’t there anymore. 

Maybe that’s just us (if you did something awesome and creative for Giving Tuesday, leave a comment and let us know. We would LOVE to be proven wrong!). But we miss the big swings that organizations used to take on GT—nationwide events, huge partnerships, custom landing pages, brand new content. Most of all, we miss how personal and scrappy and up-for-anything the day always felt. 

So where do we go from here? Is the day dead? 

No, of course not. It raises money, it raises awareness, and we are proud to be part of this incredible movement of generosity every year. 

But we do think the door is open for some renewed creativity—whether on Giving Tuesday or somewhere else. We’re taking this week and our ‘meh’ feelings as inspiration to think bigger, go bolder, and swing for the fences. Every movement (Giving Tuesday included!) starts as an idea—and we think we’re ready for some new ones! 

You got this.

Is anyone else already feeling the pressure of Q4? Ready or not, we’re here—in a nonprofit marketer’s busiest time of the year. 

First things first—you got this. Yes, it’s going to be busy. Yes, you may have some late nights or early mornings. And yes, there will be moments where you feel like you just cannot build one. more. email. 

But you will make it. Because you always do. 

As you prep for a big end-of-year push, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite resources for a successful Q4. Have something to add to the list? Email us and let us know! 

Q4 is here. Let’s do this, team! 

Five Lessons Learned at NIO Summit 2023

Last month, I attended the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit (NIO) to learn about all things nonprofit marketing, fundraising, and generosity. It was an awesome two days packed with information … which means that today’s email is also packed with information and advice for YOU. 

Keep reading for a selection of the very best strategies I gleaned from the experts at NIO, plus action steps to help you implement them. 

Authenticity has to be at the core of what we do.

Carlos Whitaker talked about the power of harnessing a community around the common good. His advice can be distilled into two steps.

  1. Be human
  2. See humans

Our humanity is the foundation of our connection, and it has to be felt in interactions with donors—from in-person conversations to emails to donation forms. 

Action step: Take your donor journeys. Do you feel seen as a human? Where can you inject authenticity into the process?

AI is changing everything.

There is no avoiding this technology. Mike Kaput, Chief Content Officer at the Marketing AI Institute, reminded attendees that right now is the least impressive AI you will use in your lifetime. It will only get more refined and more ubiquitous. 

AI can be used to save time, cut costs, and accelerate revenue—allowing you to focus on the moments and work a human needs to do.

Action step: AI is especially useful for tasks that are data-driven, repetitive, predictable, or generative. Do you have tasks that could be streamlined by one of the myriad AI services out there? Take the time right now to identify them, find an AI solution, and save your future self time and energy!

Email is still powerful.

Here at Swell + Good, we love email (especially newsletters!), so I was especially excited for Ann Handley’s talk on everything she’s learned writing her popular newsletter, Total Annarchy. 

She focused on building an audience’s trust through every step of their journey. How does she do it? First, she makes sure emails come from a real person (and never from a do-not-reply@ email address), then she envisions a reader and writes to them. This helps ensure a warm, friendly voice. 

Finally, do not underestimate the power of a welcome email. This is where you set the tone and their expectations for email frequency and content. 

Action step: Are you asking for attention or earning trust? How can you optimize your email journey from start to finish to provide value and earn the trust of your audience?

Remember, you are a human.

Asking for money and meeting fundraising goals is a hard job, and it can lead to anxiety and burnout in fundraisers. Mallory Erickson opened NIO with concrete ways to combat burnout, regulate the nervous system, and work through anxiety—all to free up more energy and space for true connection with donors. 

She encouraged fundraisers to pay attention to their feelings and validate them, then try to get curious about donor motivation, instead of anxious. Finally, tracking progress that isn’t just dollars raised can help you or your team feel a sense of accomplishment and healthy motivation. 

Action step: Find a small, regular win you can celebrate with your team to encourage action and bring joy to your work.

Reaching Millennial and Gen Z donors is critical for your nonprofit’s success.

Jon Lee gave a powerful talk centered around being responsive to Millennial and Gen Z donors, who make up 40% of the US population. These donors have low levels of institutional trust, but they are searching for something to believe in. Jon’s tips for connecting with these donors include:

  • Help them feel powerful enough to fix one thing. Really paint a picture of the difference their action makes.
  • Create opportunities for true community and connection.
  • Be transparent about your wins and your losses. 

Action step: As you plan your next campaign, focus on the difference each individual donor will make. Show them exactly how they can create change—big or small.

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! 

Fundraising with NFTs: 4 nonprofits doing it well

Fundraising with NFTs: 4 nonprofits doing it well

If news about Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), the blockchain, or this guy who became a millionaire selling his deadpan selfies has left you confused and scared, we get it. Luckily for you, we read about NFTs so you don’t have to. Even luckier for you, fundraising with NFTs is transforming philanthropy, and we know how you can get in on that action.

First things first, what are NFTs?

Tokens can be any kind of digital art (think: profile pictures, video game avatars or in-game tools, even a signed tweet). Non-fungible describes unique items that are valuable because you can’t replace them. I can trade my five-dollar bill with any other five-dollar bill and have the same amount of money: that’s fungible. But I would never trade this one-of-a-kind collectible painting by Jonah the sea lion for just any sloppy finger painting. It’s non-fungible. In short: NFTs are like collectible trading cards you can make, buy, and sell with internet money.

What do you do with NFTs?

NFTs are traded with cryptocurrency (think: bitcoin) on a decentralized database called a blockchain that protects your purchases. An NFT you buy on the blockchain shows everyone who has ever owned it before you, so you know the $10k penguin NFT you purchased is from the actual artist, not a scammer. The most popular platform for trading NFTs is OpenSea, which uses the Ethereum blockchain, so you pay for NFTs in Ethereum cryptocurrency (ETH).

How does fundraising with NFTs compare to other auctionable assets?

Compared to organizations auctioning off, say, a famous painting, selling an NFT has a few benefits:

  • Anyone can mint an NFT, but not anyone can paint like Picasso
  • Famous paintings can be forged, with NFTs that’s much harder
  • They’re flexible—tokens work with different entities across gaming universes
  • There’s plenty of room for collaboration between various artists or businesses
  • And, oh yeah, NFTs are selling for more money than famous paintings these days

Here’s the best part…

Many donors are interested in giving to organizations in the form of cryptocurrency or NFTs. This gives your nonprofit the option of either holding the funds as an endowment (to let the investment mature) or converting the donation to a more stable currency. Plus, tax-wise, it’s a win-win. Organizations don’t pay taxes on donated NFTs they sell or receive as gifts. And donors don’t pay capital gains tax on NFTs they donate. (This does not constitute tax advice, always speak to a tax professional about your unique situation.)

Interested? Sites like the Giving Block make it easy to set up accounts for crypto donations.

Nonprofits who have made fundraising with NFTs work

There’s a wealth of famous NFT creators who have donated proceeds to worthy causes. But you don’t need to be a successful NFT artist to get in on the action—there are plenty of ways to get started on your own. Here are a few nonprofits that have figured it out and are fundraising with NFTs.


The creators of NFT4Good wanted to use NFT proceeds to raise money for Asian-American community members as part of the #StopAsianHate movement, so they set up an open-edition collection of 88 influential Asian-American Pacific Islander digital card NFTs. Cards sold for $88 each through MerchNFT. The proceeds of this campaign went towards the Asian Pacific Community Fund, which distributes aid between nonprofits supporting Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. NFT4Good was able to embed the message of their cause into the design of their NFTs with descriptions of the work each figure did on the card. They also imbued the cards with exclusivity by cutting off the purchase or sale of their tokens on the last day of their campaign.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a giant in the fundraising community—and for a good reason.  Recently, they’ve been at the forefront of fundraising by partnering with multiple corporations to benefit from the brands’ NFT auctions. Through a Dave & Buster’s campaign, users bid on a 3D original Dave & Buster’s Game Token and raised $3,800 for Make-A-Wish via Sweet. Macy’s also launched a campaign auctioning a collection of 10 tokens capturing iconic balloons of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy’s donated all auction proceeds to Make-A-Wish and minted 9,500 free NFTs, which would donate 10% to the charity with each future transaction. The featured brands celebrated the excellent press from their donation and the passive brand marketing through NFT trades. Make-A-Wish got a larger platform to court new donors. Everybody won.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) is a foundation that funds cancer research, awareness, and support for families of sick children. But rather than go through large corporations or famous NFT creators, they made the tokens themselves and announced the auction on Twitter. In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, they minted three gold-ribbon NFTs set at 0.1 and 0.2 ETH ( $243.06 and $486.11). The NFTs were not elaborate, but each token explained how much time in the lab the donated funds would buy, ranging from one to ten hours of cancer research. It’s easy to see how the foundation could persuade generous donors!

Open Earth

Open Earth develops digital infrastructure that monitors climate efforts and tracks global progress on climate change measures. Instead of minting their own NFTs, they turned to the Social Alpha Foundation (SAF), a philanthropy group that sponsors social impact projects with privately gifted cryptocurrency. With SAF’s support, they hired talented NFT artists to produce eight tokens themed around environmental protection and sustainability. Tokens sold between $20k and $6 million on a platform called Nifty Gateway. The RNDR network generously joined this campaign to buy an offset of 500 metric CO2-equivalent tons through the Madre de Dios forest conservation project in Peru (that’s the equivalent of removing 108 cars from the road for a year). By turning to crypto-philanthropy experts and engaging with million-dollar artwork sold on the blockchain, Open Earth could maximize its fundraising impact and save a forest.

We know that NFTs are hard to understand—but, when fundraising with NFTs is done well, it could mean magic for your nonprofit. If you’re interested in embracing the latest fundraising trends, consider implementing NFTs into your strategy. Whether that looks like a small-scale campaign or a larger partnership, NFTs offer a unique way to engage with donors, try something new, and leverage the latest digital economies for good.