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The Surprising Fundraising Theme You Can Use in the Summer

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One of the most important things you can know as a fundraiser is that you should always make your message more about the donor than about yourself.

So just to keep you on your toes, I’m going to give you a little piece of advice that seems to contradict that principle — it seems to be a look at my issues approach: It’s an often-successful fundraising theme you can use during the summer: Summer Slump.

We all know that most fundraisers experience a drop in giving during the summer. But it turns out you can tell your donors about this drop in giving, and ask them to help you overcome this annual phenomenon in a Summer Slump appeal. The first time I encountered this, my immediate thought was, That’s a terrible fundraising topic! It’s about us, our problems — not the donors’ values and experience! But an older, more experienced fundraiser told me he’d seen it do well for many years. I bit the bullet, wrote the appeal, and guess what: The appeal did well. Not a record-breaker, but strong for a summer appeal.

(Summer Slump as a fundraising topic is specific to the northern hemisphere. Down under, the December Holidays are right in the middle of summer and seem to counteract the Summer Slump in giving.)

Here’s some typical Summer Slump language:

Summer can be so tough for homebound seniors here in the Springfield area.

Living on limited income, they struggle to keep the air conditioning on. You know how the heat can take it out of you! Preparing meals can be a struggle any time of year, but in the summer, it’s sometimes just too much …

Especially when you’re on a tight budget. But there’s something else about summer that you might not have heard: During the summer, donations tend to dry up. Just when the need is greater than ever, fewer people remember to give.

I can understand why. Summer is just a busy time. Vacations, visits from family, special activities. But this “summer slump” in giving is a real problem!

That’s why I hope you’ll make a special summer gift right now to make sure we don’t skip a beat for the seniors who need us!

You’ve probably noticed that this gently breaks (or at least bends) a couple of smart fundraising principles. Normally, fundraising shouldn’t be about the organization’s problems — it’s about the real problem that the organization and the donor mean to solve together.

But notice how the real problem (seniors going hungry) is not omitted. In fact, the “summer slump” is secondary to that problem. Notice a few things about the approach:

  • It’s about how giving drops in general. It’s not wagging its finger at the donor and saying, “You haven’t been giving” — even though quite likely she hasn’t been. It treats her a little like an insider.
  • It touches on the problem by referring to the donor’s life — it’s harder for people to donate during the summer for specific reasons. It makes it understandable.
  • It asks the donor to be special — it assumes she is special and will help overcome this problem caused by other people’s lack of summer giving.
  • It even adds another reason for giving during the summer — summer is more difficult for the hungry seniors than other times.

And this might be important, but I don’t know for sure: There’s something about the phrase Summer Slump that’s memorable. Maybe it’s the consonance (both words starting with S and including M) and the assonance (the short U vowel in both words). Short memorable phrases really help people take note of almost any concept!

You can see how Summer Slump isn’t really an organization-focused appeal when it’s done right. As the Dog Days approach and you’re wondering what you can do, consider a Summer Slump appeal!

See also: How to Feel the Holiday Season When It’s Still Far Off 

Want practical help with fundraising ideas year ’round? Join The Fundraisingology Lab and get equipped, empowered, and encouraged!

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