Q&A: Savvy Giving by Design Mixes Aesthetics and Philanthropy

When it comes to nonprofit organizations, there is something so special about Savvy Giving by Design. Perhaps it’s the way they combine aesthetics and philanthropy that just rings true to my heart – or the fact that Savvy Giving by Design helps children battling illnesses. Did I mention Savvy Giving by Design is a family-run business?

Michelle Wintersteen gives us all the info from brand curation to how to help these children in need. One thing is for certain: Savvy Giving by Design’s help and reach is contagious.

1. What is Savvy Giving by Design?

Savvy Giving by Design is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide comfort, support and healing to families with a child facing a medical crisis by transforming the interior spaces of their homes at no cost to them. In short, we do room makeovers for little ones who are most often battling some type of childhood cancer.


2. How was Savvy Giving by Design born?

Savvy Giving by Design started in late 2014, when my mom, Susan Wintersteen heard about a friend of a friend whose daughter Kasey, 14 at the time, was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma. My mom has been an Interior Designer with Savvy Interiors for the last 15+ years in the San Diego area and wanted to find a way to help. As the story goes, she’s a terrible cook and felt like hopping on the meal train would do more harm than good, so she offered to re-do Kasey’s room. She crowd funded the project via social media and was able to create a beautiful space for Kasey, and her sister Kaitlin to recover while she was in treatment.


3. What is your role in Savvy Giving by Design?

I wear a few different hats with SGBD. To start, I do all of the branding, logo, website and social graphics. I help the board set up the fundraising pages with graphics and images pertaining to that childs’ room and story.

I also create all of the reveal videos. People say a photo is worth a thousand words, so by default, video is much much more than that. To capture the reactions of these children and their families when they see their new rooms for the first time is priceless. The videos also help us share our mission on social media with a wider audience.

Lastly, I also create custom artwork for a lot of the projects we work on. More often than not, the families have a quote, or lyrics or sayings that mean something to them on their medical journey. Artwork is a great way to pull this together and use the colors, textures, and styles of the interiors.


4. What has been the most rewarding thing about working in a non profit/charity?

Hands down the most rewarding thing about working with a non-profit or charity is that I can use my skillset to directly impact someone’s life. We have a really wonderful opportunity here to make something beautiful out of an ugly situation and to know how much that means to a child to see all of their favorite things around them when they are feeling crummy. I love being creative, and being creative for a good cause is invigorating.


5. How can people get involved?

There are a few different ways for people to get involved in SGBD. We always need monetary donations to keep doing what we are doing. Our fundraising is what drives this ship to be able to help more families. You can make a donation on our website savvygivingbydesign.org

We have a very active community on facebook with our Facebook group. When we take on a new family, we will often introduce them here first, and then as the design process goes on, we announce ‘fund-a-needs’ where people can buy the sheets, the lamps, the rug or the toys that will end up in these rooms on reveal day. This is a much more tangible way to get involved versus a straight donation.

Additionally, we LOVE our small business partnerships and sponsorships. We are always looking for vendors who might be able to donate their products to these spaces. We also encourage percentage of sales campaigns with small businesses who are interested in giving back to our cause but may not have something specific for the room. Vendors can submit their info here.


6. What is something about Savvy Giving by Design that most people would not know about?

Earlier this month we announced our Designer Affiliate Program! We are so excited about the potential for nationwide chapters who can carry out our mission in their own communities. We just shared our first pilot program: Caitlyn Waite Designs in Mobile, AL. Caitlyn was inspired by the SGBD story because her mom passed from stomach cancer when Caitlyn was 16 and believes that SGBD will be an opportunity for her to honor her mother’s legacy through design. We can’t wait to see the spaces she creates in AL! (More info on the affiliate program here)


7. How is it working on a family business?

I love that my family can all work together on this as a group. I come from a big family of female entrepreneurs: my grandmother, aunt, great grandmother, mom and sister all have their own businesses and I don’t take that for granted for one minute. I think that growing up it in an entrepreneurial family proved to me that work does not have to mean 9-5 in an office somewhere. But, it does mean that some days you work until 10 or 11pm and sometimes getting caught up on work on the weekends is actually fun. The best part about all of us working together is that we can all use our skill sets towards a common goal.


8. What advice would you give someone who is looking to work with their family?

The best advice I can give to someone who wants to work with family is to make sure the boundaries of who is doing what is made clear. Invariably, there is going to be cross over between people and tasks but the best way to get the best work done is to trust that everyone involved is working toward a common goal and are doing their best. Trust and delegation are key.


9. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start a charity or non-profit?

Maybe a little biased here, but I love to educate nonprofits (and small businesses) about the importance of building a brand. Consistency in color, graphics, messaging and visuals helps your audience spread your message. Having a clear, concise and easy to navigate website is essential for non-profits in the digital world. Also social media is huge for connecting with communities, partners and sponsors.


10. What is your favorite aspect of Savvy Giving by Design?

My favorite aspect about what we do is that we get to create something beautiful that has a lasting impact on these families. Not only do we create beautiful bedrooms, but we take into consideration the quality and height of the mattresses we use and light control and hard surface flooring so that there are less allergens and contaminants in their bedrooms. We also get to make the wildest of dreams come true. When a child is diagnosed with these kinds of illnesses, most of the time they can’t leave to go play with friends or go to school or really be outside at all for risk of infection, injury etc. I love that we can create spaces for them to play, to read, to be creative or make art or whatever they are passionate about. That is really my favorite part.


11. How has Savvy Giving by Design changed your life?

SGBD has changed my life by giving me an outlet to do something TANGIBLE for someone else. I have always been philanthropically driven, but having an organization that I feel so incredibly passionate about is the icing on the cake. I know this organization in and out and know that we will continue to do incredible things in San Diego and beyond.


Visit Savvy Giving by Design here.








Scout is the curator and Editor-in-Chief of REVUE by scout. When not fostering REVUE, you can catch Scout reading, writing, out for lunch with friends, or cuddling on the couch with her fiancé and puppy Lola. Scout comes from both the digital and print publishing worlds with experience that ranges from operational to creative. Experience her aesthetic world with REVUE.

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