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How To Make Summer Your Fundraising Super Season

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Do sunny days and flip-flops signal a long siesta for your fundraising?

If so, you’re not alone. Many nonprofits experience “summer slump” – and it’s not just about incoming revenue.

Fundraiser energy and communication tend to slump, too. Some fall into summer paralysis, feeling spent by a busy spring and overwhelmed by the thought of a busy fall. Others mistakenly believe donors don’t need or want to hear about the cause during vacation season.

But going silent in summer can be deadly to your fundraising later in the year. And paralysis doesn’t help us rejuvenate. Instead, make summer your super-season – a time to rejuvenate, both professionally and personally.

Here’s how to boost your fall fundraising and banish burnout, tapping into summer’s opportunities.

1. Take time off (really, truly off)

This is your starting place. Top of the list for a reason!

Your donors are doing it. Your colleagues are doing it (or should be). You need it. And your fundraising needs it.

A 2024 survey of nonprofit leaders by the Chronicle of Philanthropy found rampant signs of nonprofit burnout. Ninety percent said they feel tremendous pressure to succeed. Eighty-eight percent say the demands of their job feel never-ending. One-third plan to leave their job in the next two years, and nearly a quarter plan to leave the nonprofit world completely.

Nonstop work contributes heavily to this burnout. So take a bit of summer downtime, completely unplugged from your job – to revisit who you are and what lights you up.

You’ll return to fundraising with renewed energy and creativity. And your results will follow.

2. Assess and refresh your donor communications

Summer is prime time to audit how you’re communicating with your donors… before the fall rush.

Look at your website. How easy is it to find your donation page and make a gift? Does the copy speak directly to your supporters and focus on the beneficiaries they’re helping – or is it all about you?

Review your recurring messages, like thank-you emails and welcome series. Have you tested that they’re sending as intended? Are they personalized? Do they need updating?

Look at your recent emails and direct mail to donors. Does your copy pass the “You Test”? Do the reading level and layout make it easy to skim? Does the writing feel conversational and emotionally-rich? Does it surprise and delight? How might you uplevel your messaging?

Taking stock of your comms now can boost your fundraising in the months ahead.

3. Make it stewardship season

What if summer became your main stewardship season, vs. the frantic fall?

Summer’s a more relaxed time for stewardship phone calls and voicemail messages, handwritten notes, coffee meetups, and porch parties – with no asks. Just love, appreciation, connecting, and listening.

Now’s also a good time to tell your impact stories! Dip into your most heartwarming narratives and craft a summer newsletter full of good news. Or send a “summer celebrations” email series, spotlighting success stories fueled by the donor’s generous love.

Whatever you do, don’t fall silent! Let your donors hear from you throughout this season – thanking them, reporting back on what their gifts are doing, and asking about their hopes and dreams for making a difference.

With individual giving in decline, it’s more crucial than ever to love the ones you’re with.

4. Reach out to the drifters

Summer is a much better time to re-engage lapsing donors than fall, when the floodgates of year-end fundraising are opening.

Whether through 1:1 conversations, short surveys, or other outreach, it’s important to let these donors know they are missed in your community. Then it’s crucial to ask about their experience giving to your organization – and really listen to the feedback. Perhaps there’s an opening to meaningfully reconnect.

Not sure who to prioritize? Focus on your most recently lapsed and monthly donors who have lapsed. These are your best prospects for re-engaging, for longest-term impact.

5. Cultivate your volunteers

If you have volunteers, they’re among the most faithful and emotionally connected supporters your cause will ever know.

And believe it or not, some of your volunteers haven’t yet made a financial gift simply because they haven’t been asked.

When you cultivate this relationship outside of fundraising campaigns, volunteers can become your most dedicated donors. After all, they’re already deeply interested in your mission and want to help!

Summer is your time to show your volunteers the love. Don’t wait until your next fundraising campaign and expect that a deeper relationship will magically appear.

Depending on your bandwidth, that might look like an appreciation gathering, a small token of thanks, or just a message to say “You’re amazing, volunteer.” It should include asking your donors to share their personal stories of volunteering with your organization.

Make them feel seen and known as the caring people they already are. Honor the riches of time they’re already giving. (Then, later in the year, be sure to ask.)

6. Plan your year-end

The most successful year-end campaigns start in August (or sooner!).

Starting in summer gives you time for the internal conversations, thoughtful strategy, and early planning that set you up to raise more, with less strain. (No November panic for you this year.)

Bring your staff together this summer to clarify goals and share ideas. In at least one of those gatherings, include programs, communications, and others who have valuable contributions to offer. (Their early buy-in will make your fall fundraising so much smoother.) Keep it productive by helping participants prep ahead of these meetings. You might share takeaways from last year, create a survey for team input, or offer a visual timeline of the months ahead.

Before Labor Day, line up your support crew – consultant, copywriter, designer – to help lighten the load with winning strategies and content. (Remember, fall is Surge Season for these specialists, too. They book up early. So don’t wait!

These are just a few ways to make summer your fundraising super-season. You don’t have to do it all. Where is the TLC most needed for you and your organization?

And you’re not alone! Reach out to your staff with a seasonal pep talk. Make the case for summer as your secret weapon, collectively and individually.

It might look like a rotating tag-team of summer tasks while staff takes time off. Asking board members to pitch in with stewardship calls and handwritten notes. Your summer intern pulling helpful data and reports. Hiring that consultant, sooner rather than later. However it lands, your best results will come from shared energy.

The payoff for this new approach to summer? Raising more money and retaining more donors this fall and well beyond. With less stress and more ease in the busy times ahead – because you showed up refreshed and ready.

May summer become your favorite time of the fundraising year!

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