summer fundraising

For many of us, summer fundraising can be frustrating because often our donor communications during this season yield less-than-ideal results. 

If that sounds like your nonprofit’s typical summer, here are some things you can do to offset that summer slump with an unexpected windfall:

1. Determine if a summer fundraising campaign would help your communications.

When it comes to traditional channels, one thing you can test is a summer-long fundraising campaign. This is a campaign that tries to raise a specific amount of money throughout the summer months. 

A campaign is a great way to pique donor interest because it gives them a clear goal and a deadline to inspire them to give. And because most of your communications throughout the summer will promote the campaign, there’s a better chance that they will see one of your letters, emails, or social media posts sometime during the fundraising period—which may not usually be the case if they’re checking email and social media less often than they would throughout the rest of the year. 

The key is, just like with any campaign, there needs to be a strong reason to do it. “It’s summer, and fundraising is down” is not that reason. Try to come up with something that would inspire your donors to give. For example, you could ask donors to provide meals for kids for the summer; this is a great idea because the cause is timely and the need is urgent as children impacted by food insecurity no longer have access to school lunches. Another idea could be to ask for support to provide water, shelter, or life-saving medical care for the homeless who are impacted by the heat. Make sure the need is compelling and that you can tie it in with a specific dollar amount. 

2. Plan a 24-in-24 campaign. 

Another strategy you can try to boost donations is putting together a 24-in-24 campaign. This is a campaign where you try to raise $24,000 in 24 hours. 

This one will take some planning, but if you plan it right, it can have some great results. Here are some tips to make your campaign a success:

  • Give your donors plenty of notice. Send out several targeted communications to them prior to the event. 
  • Make sure to have plenty of things planned for the 24-hour push. This can include various people from your organization going live on social media, sharing pre-recorded videos, sending emails, and posting to social media to keep people engaged and updated on your progress.
  • Call or text donors during the event to remind them to give. Again, they may not be right next to their phones, so give them every opportunity to see your appeal.
  • Get local sponsors to donate prizes or even help promote your event to get an extra boost at key times.

3. Offer your donors or their kids an in-house experience.

Many parents are looking for things for their kids to do this summer. If you’re able to, consider opening up your doors to them. It’s not only a great way for your donors and their kids to get hands-on experience at your organization, but it will also bond them to you in a way they haven’t experienced before.

Let them see what it’s like to help the people you are working with, what your office is like, how things run, etc. If you can, plan for them to experience things like “a day in the life” of one of the people you help or invite them to volunteer to stock the pantry, clean the shelter, walk the dogs, or fulfill your mission in other ways.

Your goal should be to make it an intentional hands-on experience for them. They should meet and build a relationship with key people in your organization and see firsthand what your organization does and why they should continue to support your mission.

After the experience, send a special follow-up appeal with a specific ask that resonates with the experience they just had. While that appeal may bring in some money, the loyalty and bonding that your donors will get from this experience can pay itself back with their life-time value to the organization and even higher than average gifts when fundraising comes back full force in the fall or at the end of the year.

4. Plan a community event.

Summer is a great time to host a local concert, game night, movie night in the park, or another fun event.

During the event, make multiple appeals and have plenty of opportunities for people to easily donate to your organization. If you’d like, you can even charge for the event with the proceeds going to your organization.

Summer fundraising doesn’t have to be a loss. It may take a little work and creativity, but you can turn the summer slump into an unexpected windfall.

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.