May is already in full swing, and summer will soon be officially upon us. I spent 8 years as a development director for two non-profits in Philadelphia earlier in my career, and I loved summer. That’s because it wasn’t as crazy with events as other times. And, people were on vacation, so summer allowed me a little more time to think and plan.

In my second or third year in the job, I realized that if I was going to make my goals and have a great end of year, summertime is when I had to plan it all. So, today I’m going to tell you what I learned in all those subsequent years about how to use your summer effectively.

Hang these up in your office space so you can reference it over the next 90 days!

  1. Re-evaluate your caseload. Make time to consider which donors you need to remove and add those that are waiting in the wings. This is also important to do in collaboration with major gifts and the mid-level donor team.
  2. Upgrade and downgrade your portfolio by reviewing your tiered donors, and evaluate whether they should be moved between levels A, B and C.
  3. Identify donors who are behind goal, figure out why, and then review the current plan and change if necessary.
  4. Do a deeper dive into your B and C level donors through research.
  5. Volunteer for a few days in a row to reconnect yourself with the work your organization does.
  6. Interview five of your major donors about their story and why they invest in your organization.
  7. Take a board member out for lunch and explain what you do.
  8. Meet with all your snow-bird donors who are now back in town and who are not going to be available during the year-end giving season.
  9. Take a course to further your career.
  10. Thank all of the donors in your portfolio with a handwritten note by end of August.
  11. Take at least a two-week vacation. (But be cautious about timing if you have a fiscal year end during the summer.)
  12. When you’re on vacation, send a postcard to a few specific donors who will appreciate it. No one gets postcards anymore!
  13. Invite donors who don’t know each other to join in an in-person or virtual gathering like a Coffee with the CEO or a conversation with a program coordinator.
  14. Sit down with your colleagues in the direct-response, communications, mid-level, major gifts and/or planned giving departments, depending on your role, to review your various fall strategies, and make sure you are aligned.
  15. Update your colleagues with a presentation on your donors and what your challenges will be in the fall.
  16. Read a book that will help you communicate better.
  17. Find 1-2 donors in your portfolio that you want to pursue for a seven-figure gift over the next 24 months and create a strategy to make it happen. Share it with your boss.
  18. Take a day off and do something for yourself.
  19. Take someone from finance out for lunch and ask about their job – and listen.

Now, isn’t that a fun list? See how many you can cross off while you’re cultivating and stewarding your donors. I promise you, your summer will be incredibly productive and rewarding, and you’ll be ready to take on your busiest time of the year by being prepared and rested.


PS – Want more ideas for making the most of your summer? Check out our Summertime Guide to Major Gift Success!

This post originally appeared on the Passionate Giving Blog on June 7, 2021.