DickersonBakker Blog

How can I keep my major gift fundraising high in the summer?

I often hear from development staff that major donors don’t want to be contacted in the summer. It’s vacation season, it’s too hot, they’re out of town too much, and the list goes on.

Surprisingly, this is also what I often hear about donor behavior in November, December, January, and March. November and December are the holidays. January is the month that donors recover from a busy year-end giving/spending season, and March is college basketball playoffs.

This supposedly only leaves September, October, February, April, and May to fundraising and being held accountable for achieving performance objectives.

Year End Fundraising Is Not Enough

Before becoming a fund development consultant, I served in the roles of Development Director, Director of Major Gifts, and CEO. All of these roles were directly tied to major gifts.

After going through my first year-end fundraising season, I realized that getting in front of all of my assigned donors was impossible in just Q4. I also learned that most of my high profile/high capacity donors were even harder to get in front of during Q4.

3 Ways to I Kept Major Gift Fundraising High in the Summer

During my second year of fundraising, I decided to ignore the supposed philosophies that govern donor behavior in the summer. I made three important discoveries (that  became ongoing strategies) to keep my major gift fundraising high in the summer:

  1. Drop-by visits to offices and homes are very effective. I divided my portfolio into local territories. With effective mapping, I could easily make 15-20 drop-in visits in just one day! Those retired often were home and would even invite me in. And this also held true of working professionals at their offices. I noticed that in general, people weren’t as guarded about their time in the summer. If they weren’t home, dropping by gave me the perfect excuse to email my donors to let them know that I dropped off a giving statement, or impact report, receipt letter, a gift, etc. In under two weeks, I had the ability to strategically touch an entire portfolio of locally assigned donors (150). And the drop-by’s increased my number of visits, asks, and tours.
  2. Small businesses like law firms and doctor’s offices, and foundations are more willing to meet in the summer. It’s even the peak giving season for many of these.
  3. Reporting to my top assigned donors was the perfect opportunity to tee-up my fall asks. After providing an impact report (whether written or oral, general or specific), it was only natural to look ahead to the fall and pre-ask the donor about supporting a specific initiative as well as a potential amount. Consequently, I didn’t necessarily have to visit these donors during Q4 to ask them. Since I had already pre-asked them, I could simply call or text them in September through late October to determine how they were going to participate and at what level.

Summer Competed with Q4

Because of God’s blessing, I significantly surpassed my fundraising goals (contacts, revenue, new donor acquisition, upgrades, etc.) every year thereafter. In fact, the initial goals given to me as Director of Major Gifts and CEO weren’t challenging enough. I had to set my own bar of performance.

Believe it or not, my organization’s July 2013 barely missed beating December. In July, our newly formed nonprofit raised $61,000. In December of that same year, we raised $65,000. This was truly a God-thing, although there was definitely hard work and strategy at play! It was the result of Spirit-led fundraising and weekly prayer meetings. (I’ll share about this more in a future post.)

I didn’t close deals because of the salary I made. I closed deals because it made me come alive. It’s something that God has wired into my DNA. It’s my way of bearing His image well, and coming alongside ministry partners to help grow the virtue of generosity in both of us.

Use Summer to Sow Seeds and Harvest

The truth about the summer is that most of what we say concerning our ministry’s major donors is simply our way (me included) of projecting our own feelings onto them. And this projection gives us an excuse to slack off or do the bare minimum. This isn’t faith-based, big-story fundraising. It’s me-centered, myopic, fear-driven fundraising. It gives me permission to not be held accountable or to challenge myself to work hard.

If you want to reap a full harvest in the fall (and actually enjoy more of the holidays), use the summer as primarily a time to plant and water (with the exception of businesses, and foundations…these can be harvested in the summer in many instances). God will give the increase. Faithfulness to sow bountifully is my job. Fruitfulness—the rewarding of my bountiful sowing is God’s job. (See 2 Corinthians 9:6.)  

Let’s talk more about how you can keep your major gift fundraising high in the summer. Contact us here to start a conversation >>

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