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.

Lead generation and 4 other things you need to read this week

Lead generation and 4 other things you need to read this week

1. Don’t miss out on this library of free content 📚 marketing resources.

The Content Marketing Hub 2.0 is jam-packed with everything you need to know about content marketing, including instructive articles and professionally designed charts, visuals, and templates. Brush up on your content marketing fundamentals, including content production, promotion and distribution, and so much more!

Dive into the Content Marketing Hub 2.0. [via Backlinko]

2. What is lead generation? 🧐

Well, to get started, what’s a lead? If donors are the people who are actively giving you money, leads are the people who might give you money one day. Think: your newsletter list, your prospect list, or your social media followers. Want to learn how to boost your list of leads? It’s time to get great at lead generation.

How to be a pro at lead generation. [via Neil Patel]

3. Make your project 💅 icon-ic.

Digital icons make everything better. They make your website more user-friendly, your text more visualize-able, and your avatars more fun. But you no longer have to pay to get the top-tier icons — lots of sites now share their collections for free! 

Get free open-source icons. [via Smashing Magazine]

4. Secrets 🔎 to a great capital campaign. 

Have a major initiative, new building, or enormous expansion in your future? It just might be time for a capital campaign. But how do you begin? And how do you get your donors on board? Capital campaigns operate differently than traditional month-to-month fundraising, but luckily there a few simple secrets that will help you succeed. 

Become a capital campaign pro. [via Gail Perry Group]

5. Do what is right 💪 for your team. 

It’s easy to feel trapped by budget restrictions or your donors’ preferences. But here’s the deal: You are leading an organization, and you need to do what is right for your team. That means that you get to define your priorities — and use the resources at hand accordingly. Stop waiting for permission. You already have it.

Break the scarcity thinking habit. [via Social Velocity]

Five ways to prepare for year-end now

Five ways to prepare for year-end now

It may seem like your year-end campaign was just a few months ago, but, in reality, your year-end campaign is just a few months away! Don’t wait for the weather to turn cold before you begin to prepare for year-end. Get yourself ready now with these five recommendations guaranteed to save a few headaches (and enhance your fundraising!) down the line. 

Review your donor thank you process and set yourself up for your next ask.

Stewardship doesn’t wait for year-end. Your supporters want to feel appreciated and involved in your organization all year long, and reviewing (and revamping!) that thank you process now will maximize your future asks. Fronstream reports that “80% of [first-time] donors say a simple ‘thank you’ would convince them to make a second donation.” Guidestar writes that a failure to acknowledge gifts is one of the primary reasons donors stop giving. 

We’ll give you a few quick do’s and don’ts:

Do thank your donors quickly!

The Modern Nonprofit recommends that, ideally, donors receive a thank you within 24 hours of a gift but no later than one week. 

Do thank your donors often!

Creating multiple touch points with your donors throughout the year is key. Alexander Haas suggests six curated interactions with donors throughout the year, ranging from thank you cards to newsletters and personal invitations. 

Don’t make it all about your organization

Thanking your donors is about emphasizing their impact. Guidestar proposes a “3:1 ratio of ‘You’ vs. ‘We’” language.

Don’t use it just to ask for something else

Bloomerang stresses that your thank you is “not the time to solicit another gift.” Gratitude for gratitude’s sake is always a good idea. 

Setting a top-notch thank you process in motion now will build the foundation you need to make a confident ask at the end of this year. 

Sharpen up and simplify your donation forms.

Donating to your organization should be easy and appealing. The less complicated it is to make a gift, the more likely it is that your supporters will give—now and at year-end. Classy underscores the importance of clear donor forms: “It’s not about making people act without thinking, it’s about making it easy to do the right thing.” 

Simplifying your donor forms doesn’t have to be hard, either.  Keep your form short by reducing excess language and refraining from long-winded sentences. Don’t give your donor more information than they need to make their gift. Donorbox emphasizes minimalism and warns against clutter on donation forms while offering Code for America and Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project as examples for easy, effective donor forms. 

The fewer barriers that your supporters run into while making a gift, the more likely it is that you’ll see that gift in your organization’s bank account. By the time year-end rolls around, your donors will thank you for a clear-cut avenue to gifting—and you’ll be thanking yourself (and them, of course!), too. 

Still looking for a simple, affordable, convenient, and effective way to collect online gifts? We’ve got you covered! Swell is an online giving tool that makes it easy and awesome to raise money online. To learn more and get set up, contact us. 

Clean up your lists. 

Knowing who you’re inviting to make a year-end gift—and where you’re sending your request—can make or break your campaign. Whether it’s a direct mail or email campaign, accurate donor information is key to getting the right message to the right supporters. A clean donor list is a responsive donor list, according to Get Fully Funded. Start by creating (and using!) data entry rules, marking donor preferences, and finding and merging duplicate records. If possible, fill in missing holes in donor data by reaching out to them now so that you’re ready to talk to them across multiple channels in a few months.

With up-to-date donation and contact information, segmenting your year-end lists and creating your mail merges will be seamless. Whether you’re sending an email or dropping letters in the mail this winter, The Modern Nonprofit recommends practicing data hygiene now to save time and money in the future. 

Tell your donors what their 2020 year-end gift made possible. 

If you want the donors who gave to last year’s campaign to give again, they’ll need to know that their past gift made a difference. According to Candid, donors want to know more about your organization’s work than your needs, so it’s important to share impact stories all year long. Likewise, Causevox says that donor communication needs to go beyond the thank you. Supporters should know the impact of their gift. Otherwise, they’ll end up with the 22% of donors that stop giving due to poor communication. 

Start telling your supporters what last year’s campaign is doing for your organization in order to build confidence in your work and lay the foundation for future gifts.

Run an acquisition campaign to build your list of leads now.

Diversifying your funding sources is critical to fostering a sustainable organization. Beginning your search for new donors well ahead of year-end gives you the time to implement key stewardship practices prior to making your ask. Donorbox offers 15 techniques to boost your donor acquisition, including relying on the networks of your current donors, goal-setting, and peer-to-peer fundraising. 

Many of the tools needed to run a stellar donor acquisition campaign are in your back pocket. Network for Good recommends using the data you already have to get started, and Salsa says to stay close to home when it comes to your campaign. Many of your best prospects are closer than you might believe (think: volunteers!), and when year-end comes around, you’ll have new names (with some familiar faces) on your list.

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already jump-started your end-of-year campaign. Implementing these five tactics now will position your next year-end to be the best one yet.