12 Things to Do During a Summer Slow Down

Here is the South, the kids are out of school already.  As I drove through the summer camp where I live this week, I saw a row of backpacks hanging from the spokes of a bridge.  They looked a little soggy from an afternoon shower. Already many of the 120+ summer staff members who will spend some or all of June and July with us are here, learning to belay campers, to facilitate group challenge initiatives, and to deal with homesickness.

Every day, there are more and more signs of summer here and campers arrive on Sunday, one day before the month of June.

For fundraisers and other nonprofit professionals,  the summer months are often slow.  Donors, board members, and other colleagues head out for vacations.  It becomes difficult to hold committee meetings and get things accomplished.  One board of directors I used to work with met monthly all year-long except in the months of July and December—December because of the long holiday break and July because they recognized that practically everyone was on vacation.

So how can you make the most of this summer slow down? Here are 12 things you can do while the office is quieter during the summer months:

  1. Pick up the phone! Call the donors you’ve been meaning to call.  Better yet:  make visits!  It’s hard when you’re slammed with things to do that can only be done at your computer or behind your desk.  This is a great opportunity to make time to interact in a more personal way with donors.
  2. Clean up your database.  Take advantage of the time when the phone doesn’t ring to get your database updated and cleaned-up, ready to go for your end-of-year appeal. The success of your end of year appeal depends on your database being up-to-date.
  3. Professional development. Sit in on a webinar on an area of fundraising that you need to learn more about.
  4. Write your end-of-year appeal.  No time like the present.  Go ahead and get it ready.  You can get it to the press, get your envelopes printed, your response cards printed.  Everything folded and stuffed.  Be ready to drop no matter which date you choose to drop.
  5. Prospect Research. This is a great time to screen some or all of your database to mine for major gift prospects that you may be unaware of.
  6. File. It’s my least-favorite thing to do. Yet, it’s got to be done.  Catch up on it during this slow time. Go into the final quarter of the year without piles of paper stacked up around your office. You’ll be able to think more clearly when you’re not surrounded by clutter.
  7. Write. Blog, prepare articles for your newsletter. This is a good time to visit with your program staff to identify success stories that you might want to profile in your communications.
  8. Update your website. Make sure, in particular, that donors can easily find the “donate now” button and can quickly navigate to make a donation. #GivingTuesday is just around the corner.
  9. Read. There are lots of great new books on fundraising and nonprofit leadership.  Pick up one or two that you’ve been meaning to read for the last six months or so and read it now while you have a moment.
  10. Network. Go see and spend time with your professional friends in other organizations now when you don’t need or want anything. I always learn from my professional friends and, as an extravert, I walk away from meeting with them re-charged.  Reconnect during the slow-down.
  11. Communicate with your colleagues, boss and/or board.  Update them on what you’re doing, your progress, and any challenges your facing.  It’s always helpful for them to have more information.
  12. Take your own vacation. Everyone—including you—will be better for it.  Schedule and take some time off.

Things in nature depend on time off, on times of stagnation and stillness, during which they conserve their energy for their high-energy growth periods.  The quiet of the summer season is good for nonprofit professionals.  Even so, you’ll want to make good use of this time to set yourself up for success in the fall.  Things happen quickly in the fourth quarter of the year at nonprofits.  Ready, set, … 

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