11 Ways to Make the Most of the Summer Slump

8 min
Summer slump
Will Schmidt

Summer is an exciting time of year for outdoor activities, family vacations, and backyard BBQs. There are also plenty of opportunities for fundraising, but many nonprofits still struggle with engagement during summer months.

You can use the slower summer months to focus on activities you aren’t able to prioritize when your team is swamped with donor communications, the rush of giving days, annual events, and multiple fundraising campaigns. Below are 11 ways to help your team make this “summer slump” a productive time for your nonprofit.

1. Read All the Reports

Organizations like M+R Benchmarks, Giving USA, and even Classy release data-packed reports each year with highly-actionable insights about the state of the social sector. As helpful as these reports are, they also tend to be complex and lengthy.

It can take a while to absorb all of the data, which is why the summer slump is the perfect time to buckle down and read. Instead of skimming for highlights, work to fully understand the content so that you can use the data and trends to inform your nonprofit’s strategy.

Here’s a few recent industry reports to get you started:

2. Start Planning Your Giving Tuesday Campaign

This is a great time to get ahead of the curve and start taking small, measured actions to prepare for Giving Tuesday. Starting early can set you up to be more creative with your design, impactful with copy, and targeted in marketing strategies. When you extend your runway, you can spend more time perfecting each element instead of rushing to get it all finished in time for a campaign launch deadline.

If you choose to focus on only one area for Giving Tuesday during the summer slump, prioritize reaching out to corporate partners and sponsors. No matter how you want these partners to get involved, like through a matching gift, it will be tough to solidify these relationships late in the game since it can take months to court and secure a partner.

In your search, make sure you:

  • Choose a partner that aligns with your nonprofit’s mission and goal
  • Consider local partners as well as national
  • Prepare a kit for your potential partner with all the tools needed to implement a giving program
  • Build a campaign page for the partner

The Nonprofit’s Guide to Pitching to Corporate Sponsors

3. Evaluate Your Tech Stack

Maybe you’re using an old fundraising platform that you’ve been unhappy with for a while, or perhaps you want to update your constituent relationship management (CRM) to streamline donor relations. Any way you spin it, this can be a great time to run a software evaluation and see where you can improve your tech stack.

Here are some questions to help you assess your current tech stack:

  • When was the last time your organization discussed the state of your software?
  • What does your process look like for creating new campaigns right now? How easy or hard is it?
  • Do different product features integrate with one another? What about with third-party vendors?
  • Do you feel that the experience you provide donors lives up to your brand standards?
  • Is your software cost-prohibitive to the point where it doesn’t provide the ROI you want or need?

An added bonus of evaluating, testing, and even migrating to new software during the slower months is that you have time to master your new tools. For example, you can soft launch new pages for staff to test, set up back-end processes, or build out your email automation. Work out all the kinks and minimize friction points now so that by the time the giving season arrives, everything goes smoothly.

4. Plan Your Calendar

Look back over the past year and ask yourself which strategies worked, gauge how you’re pacing against your goals, and determine if there were any missed opportunities so far. How can you double down on your strengths or pivot away from your weaknesses to adjust for the remainder of the year?

Check out some of our most popular planning assets to get started:

Calendar planning during the summer slump.

5. Take an Online Course

Level-up your marketing knowledge, fundraising tactics, writing skills, or organizational management by taking an online course. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced practitioner, there are courses on platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and that offer both free and paid online classes like.

6. Clean Up Your Email Lists

While you’re not spending hours per day writing email copy and sending appeals to your audience, take a moment to clean up your send lists. Are any addresses bouncing? Do you have contacts who haven’t opened emails in 3 months? Locate these contacts and remove them from your lists.

Cleaning up your contacts can lower bounce rate, improve overall email ROI, and protect your sender reputation which can prevent your emails being sent to spam. With clean email lists your team can be confident in analyzing your metrics which can improve the long-term health of your email marketing strategy.

7. Engage Donors With Casual Events

Tap into the summer fun and host an intimate, relationship-building event like a BBQ at a board member’s house. Invite your powerhouse supporters to meet your staff, introduce themselves to the board, and learn more about your mission face-to-face.

You can ask that your supporters bring a friend who might also be interested in supporting your organization or who might be looking for a fun night with great people. If this event becomes a summer staple for your nonprofit, you can use it as an incentive to a future campaign where top fundraisers or donors secure an invite.

BBQ during the summer slump.

8. Prospect and Grow Your Network

During the year, you’re likely focused on the activation element of your network. You work with your existing database of supporters to maximize their participation in campaigns, events, and other activities. During the summer slump, find moments to focus on the growth side of your network.

Look for untapped pockets of potential new supporters in your community by visiting places like college campuses or local businesses. Ask each of your current supporters to invite one or two friends to donate. Use the extra time to get creative and uncover potential supporters that may be outside of your normal scope.

9. Host Focus Groups

If your organization plans to roll out new campaigns, events, resources, or tools, consider hosting a focus group for feedback before you implement the change. This can be helpful for external facing efforts like a design rebrand, website refresh, or new fundraising software your peer-to-peer fundraisers will use.

Not only will a focus group help confirm if you’re heading in the right direction but including your supporters in the process gives them a feeling of ownership of your nonprofit. That, in turn, breeds long-term loyalty.

Inviting your donors and volunteers to participate is the first step but be sure to listen to their feedback. Then, follow up with them about which direction you’ll go so that they know their input is heard and valued.

10. Create Educational Resources for Fundraisers

An insightful and instructional toolkit can be the difference between success or failure for peer-to-peer fundraisers. Additionally, resources that clearly explain your nonprofit’s mission, goals, and impact can entice new donors to take action for your cause.

Gather your team and brainstorm any barriers that would prevent people from getting involved with your nonprofit and create resources that would eliminate these excuses. For example, sometimes the fear of asking friends and family for donations can prevent someone from becoming a peer-to-peer fundraiser.

So, share tips, advice, and templates that potential fundraisers can use to get started. This is also a great place to share peer-to-peer success stories and the impact previous fundraisers have made to drive home the value of peer-to-peer fundraisers.

Learn How to Retain Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers for More Money

Once you’ve created a few assets, you may even consider hosting a focus group to find out how they resonate with your intended audience.

11. Plan Your Conference Calendar

Most nonprofit conferences for the next year have already been announced, so do some research to narrow down which ones will be most beneficial to attend. You can likely get discounted early-bird pricing if you buy your tickets well in advance of the conference.

Beyond that, maybe this is the year you decide to showcase your own expertise and speak at a conference. Find a good fit for your skill sets, fill out all the necessary paperwork, and we might just see you speaking on stage next year.

Read Next: 8 Takeaways From the 2019 Collaborative

During the summer there’s a natural valley in between the peaks of giving that occur in the spring and fall. That doesn’t mean you should abandon hope though. In addition to planning summer fundraising events, there are plenty of things you can do to maximize productivity and take full advantage of the fundraising opportunities looming on the horizon.

How does your team tackle the summer slump? Share your plans with us in the comments below!


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