George R. R. Martin made the phrase “Winter’s Coming” a chilling, meme-worthy warning. In the nonprofit world, our dire warning might be “Summer’s Coming.”
For most nonprofits and ministries, summer can be the toughest time of year to raise money. And much like the denizens of King’s Landing we should take the warning seriously and prepare for the long winter, err . . . summer ahead. It’s time, to think about how to make those challenging months better.
The summer slump in income is real. So does that mean you should just shut down donor development and fundraising efforts? Is it time for summer vacation for your donors from your fundraising and communications?
You’ll be sad in the “good” months because those “good” months won’t be as good.
In well-designed testing, we’ve proven that ignoring your donors during the summer will result in those “ignored” donors giving less the rest of the year. Even more disturbing, you risk losing those donors completely if you don’t communicate during the summer.
Think about it this way: “Ignore your donors now, and they’ll forget you later.”
Donors have to hear from you even in the months they typically or traditionally don’t give. Remember, it’s not just the single impact that a donor responds to that has influenced their giving. Donors really do see and read letters, emails, newsletters, and materials they don’t give to. You must maintain a certain amount of message frequency to stay in a donor’s mind and to cultivate their gifts.
So what should you do during the months that many of your donors don’t give?
Feedback or validate the donor’s past giving. Remind them of the difference they are making in your corner of the world. Help them feel great about how they have made a positive impact with their gifts. Be specific!
Offer them an opportunity to tour your work.
Provide a unique chance to volunteer (lots of parents and grandparents are looking for meaningful activities for their kids and grandkids during the summer).
Create an exclusive summer newsletter.
Here’s a crazy idea: ask them to give. What’s happening in your work they could participate in? Your immediate ROI and income from a summer impact probably won’t knock your socks off but compared to a “zero” or a lost donor, it’ll be awesome.
And if anyone tries to tell you that you should ignore your donors during the summer months, look them in the eye and in your best scary voice whisper “summer’s coming.”
Photo credit: Annie Spratt on Unsplash