Lately, thanks to some good news/bad news reports on charitable giving (including a decline in donors, despite a rise in overall donations) and changes in tax laws that mean millions of Americans will no longer be filing itemized tax returns (which could de-incentivize charitable giving for those who used to claim donations on their taxes)… there is, understandably, a fair amount of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching going on in the nonprofit sector. Some look into the future and wonder how their individual giving programs will fare, or where their new donors will come from. Part of the solution is this:

Donor Stewardship! Hang on to the donors you already have!

Research consistently shows, time and time again, that it is more efficient and effective to keep the donors you already have (and try to upgrade their gifts) rather than going out to find new donors. Yes, nonprofits need to do both, but they ignore their current donors at their peril. It is less expensive, less time consuming, and better overall for the organization to keep current donors connected, engaged, and excited.

“But it’s summer!” Many organizations simply throw up their hands in the summer, thinking that with summer travel schedules, there is no point in reaching out to donors. Nonsense! Summer is a great time to reach out. Yes, your donors might be vacationing or busy with their families, but that also means that they could be more receptive to interesting and engaging communications from your organization. Take advantage of these longer, lazy days of summer to remind your donors what you do and why it matters.

Ten Donor Stewardship Ideas That Are Custom-Made for Summer:

  1. Ask key donors to meet you for lunch, coffee, or lemonade. They might not be as busy at the office in August as they are in October, so this could be an especially good time to reach out.
  2. Ask for advice about your organization’s upcoming plans for fall. The old adage applies: “As for money, get advice. Ask for advice, get money.”
  3. Send a US mail or email Summer Postcard – or a series of postcards – from your organization. Share an engaging photo and quick line or two of text about what you are up to, with a “Wish You Were Here!” sign-off.
  4. Host a BBQ, Rooftop Happy Hour, or Popsicle Social to connect with donors, or to connect your staff or clients with your donors (if appropriate).
  5. Launch a Summer Instagram Photo Contest. Pick a theme related to your work, and ask people to post photos related to that theme, with a special hashtag. If you’re a foodbank, ask for food photos. A school could ask for photos related to learning, or a museum could ask for photos related to creativity. Your board could choose the winners (a great way to engage them over the summer) and donate a prize.
  6. Visit your donors at their vacation spots. I worked with a nonprofit that realized many of their donors were visiting the same, nearby beach towns over the summer. So they set up shop in that town and put together groups of meetings and events to see their donors when they were tan, happy, and relaxed.
  7. Create a summer newsletter that is more than just a report on the latest activities and data. You could design it as a “Summer Beach Read” and include stories, testimonials, even puzzles. It is easier to get away with this more playful approach in the summer than in the fall or winter.
  8. Send an Independence Day/July 4 greeting to your donors. Unlike Christmas, Independence Day is a holiday that all of your American donors can celebrate and appreciate.
  9. Send your donors a mid-year review that is set up in a “Summer Blockbuster” theme.
  10. Set up donors visits for the fall, when traveling donors are back in town. Now is a great time to get on their fall calendars.

Engaging your donors year-round will make them more excited about your work and more likely to be long-time supporters. The closer they feel to your organization, the more likely they may be to tell friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members about your work.

Summer is a great time to reach out to the donors you have and ensure that they are not just donors, but enthusiastic ambassadors for your organization.