With many fiscal years ending June 30, there tends to be a final summer fundraising push for most nonprofits. Conversely, by this mid year point, many donors are deep into their summer plans – from travel to adjusting to their children’s new summer routines. How do nonprofits get donors to pay attention over the summer? What techniques do successful nonprofit summer fundraising campaigns have in common? Read on for the five elements that are critical for summer fundraising.
Compelling Reason Beyond Fiscal Dates
Arbitrary deadlines are incredibly frustrating for donors. For nonprofit staff hoping to make budgets and deliver on internal targets, fiscal year end goals are telling benchmarks tied to performance reviews, planning, and internal staffing. But for a donor, they are dates without meaning. Unless your organization is going to be unable to provide the level of service they had committed to, don’t use your fiscal year end dates as a call to donors. If you are facing a real budget shortfall that would affect service delivery, keep in mind this is an urgent appeal that can only be used once. Doing so regularly is an indicator of mismanagement to donors.
Meet the Donors Where They Are
Connect the donor’s summer experience to that of your service recipients. For example, if you are an organization that serves disabled children, remind donors about your work by describing how the children you serve dream of swimming this summer. This makes your appeals relatable, time relevant, and connected to the donor’s emotional experience – all critical elements of a successful appeal.
Lead with Need
The urgency of need, described in a compelling story of an individual affected and bolstered by a few select statistics highlighting how the program extends beyond this individual, are consistently tested as the most successful basis for fundraising appeals. Whether in a direct mail piece or during an in-person solicitation, lead with the need of your service recipients and how your organization is able to meet them.
Offer an Opportunity for Donors to Decide Timing
Have you ever had to fill out a reminder card at your dentist that they then send to you six months later for a cleaning? The reason dentists do this is because it’s harder to ignore a call back if you were involved in scheduling it and it’s your own hand reaching back to you. Nonprofits can mimic this experience by including links or click boxes at the bottom of an early summer communication email that allows a donor to tell the nonprofit when would be best to reach out. When the fundraiser circles back, the fundraiser will feel empowered to reach out and start the conversation with, ‘You asked us to circle back in x month’. The donor will be more likely to engage in the relationship and be more open to taking financial action when they feel they initiated the contact.
Track Your Nonprofit’s Natural Rhythms
Despite your best efforts, perhaps most of your donors don’t generally connect with your nonprofit over the summer. Perhaps your services also drop in need over the summer; for example, are you a nonprofit that provides after school activities at a specific school that doesn’t offer summer programming? Try charting your gifts month over month for the past three years to assess the natural ebbs and flows of your base. Pull out extraneous gifts that might skew your data, like one-time campaign or legacy gifts. If it appears that summer is historically and regularly a quiet time of year, then focus your fundraising at other times of the year as a part of your organization’s natural rhythm and don’t force something that is not authentic to your organization.
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