After one of the most brutal winters for folks in North America, many of us are looking forward to summertime. Yet there is a danger for development professionals and major gift officers in the summer: you can become complacent.
I call it the Summertime Fundraising Blues.
Let me explain. I’ve been working in development and fundraising for over 25 years and I’m just as guilty as anyone about taking it a little easier in the summer. So if anything, I’m talking to myself as well.
What happens in the summer is that you and your donors take vacations, and things seem to get more relaxed. Believe me, you need to take a vacation and get away from everything. I don’t begrudge you that.
However, if you don’t watch yourself you can use summertime as an excuse not to steward and cultivate your donors. I’ve seen this happen over and over in development shops. Yes, many of your donors do take vacations and it’s hard to get in front of them, but this is why you have 150 donors on your caseload. Not all of them are gone at the same time.
I would like to challenge you to look at the summer months in a new way. If you can do that, I guarantee that the prime giving time of the fall and December will be so much better because of what you did now. Here are some ideas for you to beat those summertime blues:
- Review your individual strategic plan for your donors to remind yourself of your solicitation strategy — If you are soliciting a number of your donors in September-December, you need to start that solicitation process now. This is not the time to relax, but to start executing on reporting back and setting up your ask for these donors. I’ve seen too many MGO’s wait to do this until a month before they are making an ask and it doesn’t go well because then it feels to the donor it’s “all about the money.” Not good.
- Start scheduling meetings now — Remember that “your” major donors are also major donors to other organizations. Get a jump on them and start scheduling face to face meetings with your donors. Take advantage of the weather and do something outside with them. Donors are busy and if you want to meet with them in July or August you need to get on their calendar now. Do not wait until June. After Memorial Day something strange happens to people and they get into “summer mode.” Now is the time to act.
- Assess where you at this half-way point in the year — You have almost completed half the year already if your fiscal year is on a calendar basis. Where are you on your revenue goals? If you are behind on some of your individual donors, now is a good time to re-think your strategy and connect with them over the summer months. It’s also a good time to revise your caseload. Who should be taken off, and who is in the pipeline that should be brought on. Spend time early in June to get to know these new donors.
- Surprise your donors — Give them excellent customer service by doing little things for them that will make a huge difference in your relationship. If your donors are going on vacation, find out where and send them a card or something appropriate when they arrive. No donor will expect that. Or if you know where they are going, research some cool things for them to do that they may not know about and send them a link on e-mail. These little things can make a difference and it shows you care about them.
- Clean up your database — I always found that summer was a great time to make sure your donor database is up to date. All those notes and moves that you have not entered into your database have to be done, and now is the time. When the rest of the office is taking “half day Fridays,” you can get a ton done when no one is bothering you.
- Check on your professional and personal goals — Summer is a great time to review your professional and personal goals you made for yourself early in the year. How are you doing against those goals? What do you have to tweak or adjust? Now is the time to move on it.
Try using these ideas to beat those summertime fundraising blues. Remember, the work you do during the summer months will pay dividends in the fall and year-end. Don’t allow the heat to get to you. Yes, take some time off, but then with that renewed energy get back into the swing of it.