Andrew Nunnelly

When Medallia partnered with Austin’s Foundation for the Homeless to collect promotional swag at SXSW, we knew what we wanted to happen: To raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in Austin and FFTH’s inspiring work — as well as collect crucial items for the city’s neediest.

But we had no idea what would happen.

Hats, bags, flashlights, USB drives, sanitary wipes, nonperishable food, water bottles, sunglasses, umbrellas, ponchos, towels, scarves, backpacks, fanny-packs, notebooks, pens, and t-shirts.

Lots of t-shirts.

In fact, nearly 50 pounds worth of swag. That’s a lot of swag. And as much as SXSW-goers’ generosity was overwhelming, so too was their response to the idea itself:


It’s not easy to catch people’s attention at SXSW — there’s simply so much to do and so much to see — but it was clear that the wastefulness of traditional marketing swag immediately resonated with nearly everyone who saw our volunteers. They knew what they had collected from brand booths and street teams was destined for a dark corner of their closets at best, or the landfill at worse. By having volunteers ready to take the swag off their hands though, we provided them with an entirely new (and impactful) “best” option.

People dug into their bags to give whatever they had. They ran back to hotel rooms to grab the previous day’s items. They ventured into swag-dense areas and returned three or four times with new stuff. One guy gave the hat off his head. Another offered to contribute his “swagger.” Even those who didn’t have swag to give were more than willing to donate a high-five or two.

None of it, however, would have been possible without the Foundation for the Homeless, who helped give the idea a presence and a heart. Their incredible volunteers gave up their weekends and braved the cold (and ceaseless rain) to help Austin’s neediest and selflessly raise awareness on their behalf. We want to thank all of them for their support — especially for the heroic efforts of FFTH’s Pam Wachholz and our star volunteer, Cortney Smith. Big thank you’s also to Nest and American Express, who donated swag directly to our volunteers, as well as a handful of SXSW’s convention center and trade show organizers, who supported our mission and made sure we could keep our strategic swag collection location!

Find out more about the Foundation for the Homeless and how you can support their efforts on their website. As part of our collaboration with their organization, Medallia is also donating matching funds to their upcoming fundraising drive for Amplify Austin — find out more here.