fall fundraising

For many of us, summer is a slower time for donations, and sometimes even our operations. With family vacations and so much going on during the summer with kids being out of school, we—just like our donors—are out of our regular schedules. This means it can sometimes seem like we’re making very little progress on our development goals as we head into fall fundraising.

However, there are a few things that you can do this summer that will make a big difference for fall fundraising.

1. Go back through your past campaigns and start planning ahead. 

We know, this isn’t the most exciting way to spend your time. However, it’s incredibly valuable. By looking back through past campaigns, comparing results, and even creating a strong plan for upcoming months, you can be way ahead of the game when it comes to your donor communications before the rush even begins. 

If you’re feeling extra motivated, take the time to work ahead on creative briefs or strategy documents for your upcoming communications. Again, using your past results as reference, make sure that you’re truly sending the right message to the right audience at the right time. If you aren’t, your past results will show you. 

Now is a great time to reflect, make changes, or even plan ahead!

2. Work on your acquisition plan now.

If you haven’t already started working on your fall acquisition campaign, now is the time. Make sure that you have clear goals, a set strategy, and the right team members and vendors in place to make your campaign a success.

This is also the time to look into outsourcing anything that you know your team won’t have time to do in the fall. Be it design, printing, or copywriting, now is a good time to figure out how to get the right people in place to support your team before things get busy and overwhelming.

3. Take time to intentionally connect with your major or even mid-major donors.

Even though they may be on vacation or enjoying some time with their families, now is a great time to reach out and thank your major or, depending on the amount of time you have, your mid-major donors. 

There is one organization we work with that calls every donor in their entire organization each summer to thank them and build the relationship with that donor. They even do this with those donors who gave $5! 

While you may not have time to go that deep in your file, don’t underestimate the power of a thank you and quick connection. When that donor gets that big ask from you in the fall or at the end of the year, they will remember that phone call or touch point.

4. Make sure that you have a stockpile of stories and photos you can use in upcoming communications.

Now is the time to make sure that you are well stocked for all of your upcoming communications when it comes to resources. That means stories, quotes, images, statistics, and anything else you can think of that will help save you time as your communications schedule speeds up again in the fall.

By taking the time to find these resources now, you’ll not only be ready before the busy season hits, but you may also even get a little excited about the communications to come.

In fact, we have one client who does this every summer, and by the end of August, she has all of her communications for the year, including her resources planned out and ready to go. This saves her tons of time and energy throughout the rest of the year when things are busy and finding the right quote or the right picture to use isn’t as high a priority as big fall fundraising events or other development efforts.

While you don’t have to go that far, having a solid stock of resources can be hugely helpful in a pinch, for creative ideas, or even to help you with engagement with a podcast or on social media.

5. Review your vendors and freelancers and start looking to make any changes now.

Summer is a great time to review your fundraising program as a whole—and a big part of that is making sure you have the right vendors for any upcoming projects.

If you’re thinking about testing out a new vendor, summer is also a great time to do that. There typically will be fewer people seeing your communications. It’s also a less stressful time to make sure that a new vendor fits well with your team and processes and is able to produce a product that you’re happy with.

So whether it’s a print vendor, writer, designer, or another freelancer or agency, now is the time to ask yourself some of the following questions and take action to test out new options or make any changes before things speed back up in the fall. 

Questions to ask:

  • What projects do we have coming up for the remainder of the year, and do we have the right vendors for those projects?
  • What’s working well with our current vendors?
  • What isn’t working well with our current vendors?
  • Am I happy with our current vendor relationships?
  • Am I spending more time managing these relationships than I should be?
  • Is there anything that would fix the issues we’re having?
  • Are there any new vendors I’d like to work with?
  • Am I happy with what we’re paying?
  • Can I get better quality somewhere else?

Bonus: Summer is often slow for vendors too, so some of them offer discounts and deals for new clients or one-off projects, which can save you money as well!

By taking the time to make sure that you have any hard conversations or even switch vendors now, you will save yourself a huge headache and extra stress during crunch time in the fall.

While summer can sometimes seem like a slump, there are plenty of ways you can use it to your advantage to really give you an edge as you head into fall fundraising.

Nonprofit Sustainability

Kari Trent Stageberg
Kari Trent Stageberg, MBA is the co-founder of The Nonprofit Consulting Shop. She also runs a small nonprofit with her dad called StrongFamilies. Blending her decade of experience with strategy and development for multi-million-dollar nonprofits, Kari’s passion is to help nonprofits of any size experience agency level support to help them reach their goals.