How To Avoid The Dreaded Summer Slump

Most organizations experience a “summer slump.” They raise less money in the summer because — let’s face it — donors are busy doing other things.

But your organization can avoid the slump, and can even turn it into a strength! There are three main steps, and here’s how . . .

Step 1: Do A Fiscal Year End Campaign

If your fiscal year ends on June 30th, do a Fiscal Year End campaign. We just recently posted how our clients have successfully done this — read that for the full details. But in a nutshell, run a campaign with a direct mail letter and a few emails asking your donors to give a gift before June 30th to “help [your organization] end your fiscal year strong.” I’ve been doing fundraising for over 20 years and I’m always surprised these campaigns work. But they always do!

Step 2: Develop A Summer Offer

Is there a reason your organization is busy during the summer or early fall? Or a reason your beneficiaries need special help during the summer? Or a reason you need funding during the summer? If so, ask your donors specifically to help with that reason.

For example, we do this for an organization that helps homeless moms and kids. Each year we run a “Back To School” campaign during the summer that asks donors to help provide school supplies, backpacks, clothes and shoes for the children in their programs. We’ve done it for 4 years and have raised more money each successive year.

Step 3: Ask Your Major Donors

You have many major donors who give annually and have flexibility for when they give their gift. Approach them, tell them about the summer slump and how helpful it would be to get their gift in the summer. I’m sure at least one will help you. And here’s a delightful little secret; I bet that donor will give you another gift at the end of the year!

That’s how to avoid your summer slump!

Your Major Donors Are Waiting to Hear From You

Many of your major donors made a significant donation at the end of 2016.  If your organization is like most, some of your major donors feel like you haven’t Thanked or Reported back to them what happened because of their generous gift.

If you find yourself in this situation, and you feel bad for not being as proactive and appreciative as you should have been, don’t worry.  It’s not too late!

Now is the time to make sure you ‘close the giving loop’ with your major donors.  If you do this, they will be far more willing to make a significant gift in 2017!

Here’s what I suggest you do:

  1. If you don’t know who your top 30 donors are, then make a list right now!
  2. Identify when their last gift was and then see if you promptly Thanked them and ever Reported back to them.
  3. For your donors who were not properly Thanked or Reported to, create a plan to do so in the next 7 days.
  4. Pick up the phone, write a thank you note, send a picture of a completed project, etc. The work you do now to close the loop with your donors will pay big dividends later this year when you need to ask them again for a significant gift.

Don’t wait to work this plan.  Your donors deserve your proactive attention and communication.

Major Donor Fundraising: The Lonely Major Donor Rep – Is That You?

Major Donor Fundraising

Major donor fundraising work can be lonely work.

Unless you work for a large charity, odds are you have to manage a major donor portfolio AND are also tasked with other fundraising or administrative tasks.

Here are a few tips to help you improve your major donor productivity while improving your work life.

  • There is no need to feel lonely. Your major donors want to meet with you, talk with you about your work and help people in need.  Think of them as your friends.  Every day you have time in your calendar for coffee or lunch meetings.  Ask your major donors to meet with you for these normal, every day activities.
  • Reach out to other fundraising and major donor reps from organizations in your area. Meet once a month to talk about the work you are doing.  This is a great way to learn from others — and to share in the ups and downs of your work.
  • Ask a co-worker to hold you accountable to productivity goals. This can be anyone from your organization that you trust.  They don’t have to have any fundraising experience.  They just need to understand what you are trying to achieve and be willing to hold you accountable to that work.
  • Join a local fundraising association. Attend their classes, webinars, and conferences.  There is a community of fundraising professionals out there that love to share ideas.  Connect with them!
  • Ask your boss for clear productivity goals. This is true for your non-fundraising tasks as well.  If you are wearing multiple hats at your organization it is important for you to know what success looks like for each “hat.”  The more you know, the more you can grow!

I hope these ideas help you find ways to connect with others and encourage you to give your best effort each day.

Major Donor Fundraising: Thank Your Donors Promptly and Emotionally


The 2016 fundraising season has come to an end. Your donors just gave generously at year-end and now are waiting to hear from you.

Specifically, they are wondering if their gifts made a difference.  And if your organization really appreciated them.

So if you want to raise more money in the next few months you need to do a great job thanking the donors who just gave a year-end gift.

Here are my simple rules for thanking Major donors; Thank them promptly, Thank them often, and Thank them emotionally. In our experience, doing this very clearly leads to more giving.

Not only will you see an increase in giving revenue, you will see an increase in donor retention because your donors will give you more gifts and will stick around for longer.

You may need a little nudge to think of ways to thank you donors. Here are few ideas.

  • Write a personalized thank you note. Send it separately from the standard receipt letter.
  • Make a quick thank you video. This video can be from you directly or even better, have one of your beneficiaries say thank you to the donor. This doesn’t need to be fancy. A 20 second video from your phone will do the trick.
  • Call first-time donors to your organization or donors who give their first gift of 2017.
  • Send your donor a Valentines Day card. Tell them how much they are loved and appreciated.

Use these and other methods you know to thank your donors. They deserve it!

Major Donor Fundraising: Kick-Start Your 2017 Major Donor Fundraising

Major Donor Fundraising

January is the perfect time to kick-start your 2017 major donor fundraising efforts.

And the very best way to start is to evaluate last year’s major donor fundraising effort. Review your portfolio and results to figure out what worked and what didn’t.  Then set clear goals for 2017.

For now, let’s focus on making your meetings with donors in 2017 go as well as possible.  Following these 9 basic major donor-meeting tips. They come from an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy written by Eden Stiffman.

  • Get to know the donor
  • Meet on the donor’s turf
  • Listen intently and avoid talking too much
  • Respect the donor’s time
  • Meetings aren’t for everyone
  • Set reasonable expectations
  • Ask for a donation when it feels right
  • Express your gratitude
  • Involve the whole team

These are great tips and hopefully give you the framework for major donor fundraising success this year and beyond!

Major Donor Fundraising: Only Three Weeks Left to Raise More Money!

Ask ?

This is the most fruitful fundraising time of the year? Now is the time to be asking your donors for a generous gift. Don’t wait!

  • Pick up the phone right now and ask your major donor to make a year-end donation.
  • Send out an email today to your entire email database. The email can be short, to the point and include multiple hyperlinks to your giving page.
  • Take over the homepage of your website to promote the opportunity for visitors to make a donation.
  • If you have a funding shortfall this time of year, talk about it! Donors love to give to solve problems.

If you wait to raise money until January, it will be too late. Make it as easy as possible for your donors to make a gift and ask them often from now until midnight on the 31st!.

Raise More Money by Asking More Often!

Ask ?

I recently was asked to help a charity develop a plan to raise money to buy a 12-passenger van. They had secured a matching grant from a local foundation and had desperate need for the van to help increase the number of people they could serve.

By the last day of their campaign they had exceeded their goal by almost $4,000! Looking back over the fundraising strategy I see that a couple important ingredients were in play.

  1. A human-sized problem for the donor to solve was clearly articulated. The donor via their giving could solve the problem.
  2. We communicated to donors multiple times via multiple platforms including email, hard copy letter and website. The leadership team was anxious about the number of times we asked for a donation. But every time we sent out an email more money would come in. It’s fundraising magic. The more times you ask (typically) the more money you raise.
  3. We asked for more money than we thought we could receive. The campaign goal was lofty and the leadership team knew this, but they also knew they had to stretch their donors to give more and think bigger than their pervious giving.

You can learn from and apply these fundraising fundamentals to your next fundraising effort. Especially as you head into the last few weeks of the year. If you need to raise more money, one of the most effective things you can do is to simply Ask more often!

Major Donor Fundraising: Raise More Money by Simplifying and Clarifying

Ask ?

Fundraisers too often make it difficult for donors to make a giving decision.

They do it by asking donors to solve complex problems and by using jargon that donors don’t understand.

One of the most important things you can do when preparing a fundraising offer is to simplify and clarify what you are trying to say.  Do this by briefly describing the problem the donor can solve when they make a donation.  Wrap this up with some urgency and a deadline by which you need the gift.  Then your donors will have the ability to quickly make a charitable donation decision.

They key here is to make it simple for a donor to understand, and then provide the additional complexity if the donor is interested in knowing more.  But too often fundraisers provide the full complexity – which is overwhelming to many donors.

Part of your job as a fundraiser is to make it simple so that more people will understand!

The end result is your donors will feel good about sending you a donation.  And you will raise more money over time as donors begin to learn more about your mission and gain trust in you and the work you do.