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! 

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! 

How to do a content audit and 4 other things you need to read this week

How to do a content audit and 4 other things you need to read this week

1. Where great plans 📝 go to die.

Have you ever spent hours (days? weeks?) on a project document or campaign overview or editorial calendar…and then never looked at it again? There is no point in making a plan if it doesn’t actually guide your work. Here are a few of the likely culprits for why your beautiful strategy only lives in the recesses of your dreams—and what you can do to rescue it.

How to make a plan that you actually use. [via Nonprofit Marketing Guide]

2. The next new social media 📱 platform.

We know what you’re thinking: another social media platform to understand and manage? But it’s always wise to learn about the new major players, especially when they are gaining traction among business and media leaders (including Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Oprah!). Clubhouse—which lets users listen in on audio conversations about key topics, often featuring big-name celebrities and thought leaders—is growing fast.

An inside look at Clubhouse. [via Hubspot]

3. How to do a content 📊 audit.

If you want to squeeze all the life you possibly can out of your content, it’s time to schedule a content audit. This strategic analysis of all of the amazing stories, blogs, and resources you have produced will help you identify what is working—and what isn’t. It will also help you make easy changes to extend the work that you’ve already done instead of reinventing the wheel.

Your step-by-step guide to content audits. [via Animalz]

4. Your email ✉️ deliverability vocabulary lesson.

You know that you want people to receive (and read) your emails. But do you know what all the terms mean that help you achieve this goal? Dive into MTA Reputations, DNS, Spoofing, SPS records, and more with this helpful email deliverability vocabulary guide.

Start here to improve email deliverability. [via Folderly]

5. Dust off that 📚 library card.

Typically, we recommend articles, tools, and videos that you can consume or test out in just a few minutes. But we are also big believers in books. (Sometimes, you need more than 1,000 words to make a point.) This week, we’ve been totally engrossed in David Epstein’s Range. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to think more creativity, cultivate curiosity, and break out of the trap of specialization.

Add this to your TBR list. [via Amazon]