Does Fundraising Slow Down in the Summer?

A reader asks, “Doesn’t giving slowdown in the summer?”

Summertime is usually a challenging time for nonprofit fundraising and is often seen as the “off season.” Statistics show that nonprofits bring in less than 5% of their annual fundraising revenue in both July and August, respectively.

Also, less donations are usually made during these two summer months than the rest of the year.

Five Immediate Summertime Actions

To make the most of the dog days of summer, consider these five immediate action steps:

  1. Increase your donor cultivation and stewardship

Pick up the phone and call your major donors, even if you have to schedule a meeting after Labor Day. Send your donors a brief but informative newsletter (two to four pages). Last July, one agency that I support sent me an article about their work that had been published in a local newspaper. I read every word, and it helped me better understand their programs. When their fall appeal arrived, they received my largest donation.

  1. Take time to learn more about fundraising processes and best-practices

Why should you take time to learn about the latest fundraising process and best practices? So you can improve your year-end appeal. Here’s a tip I discovered in my reading last summer: Donors are three times likelier to give online in response to a direct-mail appeal than an e-appeal. As a result, I now usually send a postal appeal whenever I send an e-appeal. Think about how you can coordinate your email and postal appeals to raise the most revenue. Integrating email and postal mail boosted the annual appeal return rate by 23% for one of LAPA’s clients.

  1. Improve donor database hygiene and donor engagement

Review your donor database to see what information is missing and then design a donor survey. Usually, five questions will suffice. Often a survey function is built into the structure of your donor database, so be sure to check with your vendor. First ask for updates to the donors’ contact information, date of birth, and spouse’s name, then ask questions about how they prefer to be contacted, their program interests, and what other nonprofits they give to. You can send a donor survey any time of year. One nonprofit that attends our webinars included their five questions inside their gift acknowledgment letter, with a postage paid return envelope. They learned a lot and had a remarkably high reply rate.

  1. Review your online donation form

If your online donation form is difficult to locate or navigate, or not optimized for mobile, you may be losing donors. Review your online giving form and the giving pages of your website to ensure that supporters are able to complete their donation with ease. The time spent on your donation form in the summer will be worth it at year-end when most donors make their gifts.

Be sure to have minimal fields in your donation form. For ease and convenience, ask online donors only for the essentials: full name; full address; email address for donation receipt; phone number (specify home or mobile);  and opt-in or out checkbox for further email or text communications.

  1. Invite lapsed donors to return

Non-responders need particular care. Sending just one year-end appeal letter is unwise when a minimum of eight “touches” is the standard baseline. You need to plan to re-mail non-responders within two or three weeks of the first mail drop. Apologize to them if their response and your reminder request crossed in the mail, and let them know that if it weren’t so important you wouldn’t be asking again. This step is usually overlooked, but if you include it you’re likely to raise your return. Here’s a vital resource about managing lapsed donors.

The Exceptions

Some nonprofits do raise a lot of funds in the summer. For example, a LAPA client that runs a summer camp secures last-minute “camperships” from donors at the beginning of every July. Their donors are just accustomed to giving at this time and do so year in and year out.

Your particular context rules in the good old summertime even if it is the exception.

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