3 Ways to maximize donor connections during the slow days of summer

3 Ways to maximize donor connections during the slow days of summer

Are you starting to feel a little stuck now that summer is upon you? School is out, temperatures are rising and your donors are flocking to cooler destinations. Are you stressed about how you will meet your fundraising goals while telling yourself…

  • Our donors are all out of town and out of communication with us for the next several months
  • No meaningful meetings, cultivation, or stewardship can happen until September
  • We have three months of uninterrupted time to plan and catch up

If so, you are falling for the Development Summer Myths. We’ve seen so many of our clients fall victim to the same and approach the summer as a time for internal planning and catching up. We’ve even done it ourselves. But, the summer months encompass a full 25% of the year. As a nonprofit leader, you do not have the luxury of pausing your fundraising priorities or donor cultivation.

Mission Advancement knows the opportunity summer can present for creative, meaningful cultivation. And, we’ve seen the fruits of remaining donor-focused even through the hottest months of the year. You can bust these common myths by…

  • Shifting your focus from transactional to transformational


  • Getting out of your comfort zone, and


  • Getting creative to connect with your donors through the summer no matter how far or how long they travel

This article walks you through each, including providing you with a specific, creative ideas to ensure you maximize your summer months, even as the rest of the world slows, to advance your mission.

Move from transactional to transformational donor relationships

A transactional gift is a gift received without an intentional ask. Think gifts resulting from an event or mass mailer or simply showing up in your mailbox. It’s a gift you receive without knowing why that donor chose to give to you at that time.

Transactional gifts from a donor do not represent sustainable funding. Sustainable funding comes from intentional, transformational giving. And, transformational giving comes from meaningful donor relationships.

So, how do you achieve meaningful donor relationships? You must:

  • Understand the passions and motivations of your donors


  • Connect them to the heart of your mission and specific funding needs


  • Shift from event-based and annual appeals to asks for specific support


  • Invest in long-term, meaningful cultivation to achieve capacity giving


The key to a transformational focus? Time and intention.


Just like in any meaningful personal relationship, you must invest time and effort to truly get to know your donors and develop strong connections and meaningful relationships. And, just as in those personal relationships, you don’t want to abandon those donor relationships during the summer slowdown. Rather, you want to remain in touch and connected. You want your donors to remain connected.

But, how?

How can you get donors’ attention and share your mission progress in the summer when it’s hard enough to get in touch with them when they are in town, around the corner?


Get out of your comfort zone and get creative.


How to get out of your fundraising comfort zone

The daily tasks and to do’s have a way of creating a comfort zone that is counter to the time and effort it takes to develop and maintain the deep connections sustainable funding requires. To get out of the unproductive rut of your comfort zone, you must first:

  • Acknowledge that relationships are harder to quantify and put on a “to do” list

  • Lean into the discomfort of relationships – be genuine

  • Make daily time for this work – consider the ‘two contacts a day” rule

  • Stop hiding behind emails or texts as meaningful contact and connection

What is the “two contacts a day’ rule?

Instead of blocking a half-day on your calendar for “donor calls” that – let’s face it – never seem to happen, try this simple hack:

  • When you log in or get to your office for the day, pick up the phone and contact a donor


  • Just before you log out or leave for the day, pick up the phone and contact a different donor


  • No matter what fires you might have to put out or what meetings you’re called into, you have reached out to at least 2 donors each day. By end of week that could mean 10 donors!

This is a rule or hack you should commit to throughout the year, not just in the summer! Doing so means that regardless of the day-to-day juggle and endless demands, you remain donor-focused each day.

Your summer comfort zone likely includes the idea that summer represents uninterrupted, focused time. Time to plan and catch-up. But, let’s be honest – do you ever have that much uninterrupted time? Likely, not. And, even if the answer is yes, is the best use of that uninterrupted time internally focused? No. The best use is connecting with donors. So…

…during the summer, this hack can help you remain donor-focused AND allow you time to put out fires, plan and catch-up.


How to get creative with your fundraising efforts

Don’t over think it. Transformational engagement with your donors does not need to be elaborate or extravagant. The key to meaningful engagement and transformational gifts is to be intentional and genuine.

And, there is no reason the summer months and long distances should keep us from meaningful connection.

Creative ideas to connect with donors over the summer

Impact/Update Videos

  • Record a 15-30 second video on your phone. Or try using the free app Loom – we love the ability to imbed an image rather than a hyperlink in your email

  • Share an impact story about what’s happening in your organization right now

  • Consider asking someone on the front lines of your mission to tell the story

  • Address the donor specifically – “Hi John, I’m Becky from X org. We hope you are having a great summer. I just want to share something that happened this week…”

  • Conclude with thanking the donor for their support – “Your support makes this possible – we appreciate you!”

  • If a donor has indicated interest in a certain program, consider sending them an update

  • If a donor has given to a capital project, send them a construction or fundraising update

  • Keep it short, unscripted and genuine

  • Email the video or text it to your donor based on their preferred contact


“Thinking of You” Photos

  • Take a photo of something happening at your organization or on your campus

  • Send the photo in an email or text and include a short message: “This is the view here today at X org – thinking of you and appreciating all you do to make our mission happen.”


Summer Care Package

  • Consider sending a care package to a donor who is long-distance or with whom you cannot get a visit

  • Include impact stories, any organization swag you already have, perhaps a card signed from your staff

  • Have fun with it – maybe include a couple items that pertain to where the donor is or something they love to do

  • Don’t go overboard on too many high-cost items – be good stewards of your organization’s resources


Virtual Tour/Visit

  • If an in-person visit is not possible, ask your donor to participate in a virtual visit

  • The visit can be recorded or a live Zoom depending on your donor

  • Walk them through a space or a program in action

  • Incorporate clients, volunteers, staff – have fun with personalizing the content

Creativity is all about getting out of the norm. Take time, be intentional about how you can creatively connect with your donors. A great way to get the creative juices flowing is to take 15-20 minutes in your next staff or team meeting to brainstorm ideas. Your fellow colleagues often have great thoughts if you take the time to ask – and it fosters your overall culture of philanthropy.


And remember, not everyone is out of town in the summer. Don’t assume these weeks are a bad time to reach out. For many, it could be the perfect time.


Make progress toward your fundraising goals through the summer

Relationships flourish with care and attention. Get out from behind your laptop and reach out to those who are making an impact for your mission. Get to know them, reach them in genuine, creative ways and come September, your fundraising priorities will be in closer reach and won’t need any dusting off from the back burner.


For more on the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and tips on remaining donor-focused throughout the year, check out our Break a Leg episode from our very first Summer Break Series.

At Mission Advancement we believe meaningful fundraising should not compromise daily operations. Instead, it should provide a transformative experience for your donors where they deeply connect with your mission. And, we believe this can and should be done through the hottest months of the year. If you need support kickstarting your summer, schedule a complimentary call with one of our consultants.

Advance your mission. Today.