A fundraising checklist: Should you consider “Summer Fundraising”?

Published by Patrice Simonnet on

I recently asked to some colleagues if they were running specific fundraising campaigns during the summer. Most of them answered they are not! Business as usual seems to be the moto. Worst, some programs are put on hold during the holidays. How can they be wrong? At the end of July, European cities get emptier than ever since kids are out of school and families are on vacation.

But my own experience of being a fundraiser has always been associated with very busy summer months: the period from June to mid August reminds me only to work hard, fully dedicated to analyse first semester’s result and to close planning for the upcoming semesters. On the operational side, I can remember only two tests run in July and August. But what if there was a real potential for fundraising during this time of the year?

Or even more simple that that: can fundraisers still afford not to consider summer as an opportunity and concentrate only on busy Christmas?

Let me propose some activities you should or may consider doing as a fundraiser instead of eating too much ice-cream and/or running on facebook the countdown of days to go before your vacation.

3 things you have to be doing during the summer.

1- Define all elements of your Christmas campaigns:  by the end of the summer, you should have a clear idea of how you will run your Christmas appeals. It can be a generic one or even better, adopt a specific approach for each of your audiences. You have to go into details: run the numbers, check your budget, choose the providers, define creativity. In September, it will be to late and you could jeopardise your success by not meeting the perfect timing.

2-Analise first semester’s results: summer is the right time to analyse the performance of your programs and then to check if your targets are still reachable by the end of the year. Uncertain economic times make it even more strategic. Make sure to allocate enough time to a mid-year review of your key numbers. Check the total income per program or per product, the average donations, the current costs of acquisition of new donors… also knowing exactly how much of your budget is still available is important.

3-Plan income and budget for next year: based on your mid-year analysis, it is crucial to look ahead and plan until the end of the following year. A fundraiser needs to show the Board how the future could look like both in term of income and in term of extra-budget need. Don’t be shy, just present different scenarios including a conservative and an ambitious one.

3 things you should be doing during the summer.

4-Organise to attend summer events: summer is traditionally rich in fairs, town celebrations, music events, craft fairs, expos…Renting spaces are available and you may even get them for free. The hard part of organising an event has been done for you, so all you have to do is show up. So organise with staff or volunteer and a proper ask. Are you there to fundraise by selling crafts, by asking generic donations? Is your aim to get as many addresses as possible?  Could it be only advocacy opportunities that will promote your cause and your brand awareness? Just remember that summer events are a way to be where your audience will be.

5-Create your own fundraising summer event: consider that the most world famous bike race, the Tour de France, was created over 100 years ago in order to sell more copies of a French newspaper called “L’auto” during the summer. Then try to find what you could do to get your audience mobilizing for your cause and you will have a lot of new ideas. Still not believing me? So get familiar to the amazing Alpe d’HuZes which is a Dutch cycling event which aims to raise money for research into cancer: from 370.000 euro fundraised in 2006, it is now a 30 million euro income event.

6-Send your Face-to-Face’s teams to summer holiday locations: just do a quick search on Google and you will see this is already happening! Many organizations or providers are looking for extra workforce for specific summer face-to-face campaigns. Students, volunteers could be an asset but remember to have strong team leaders to organize and follow the campaigns.

And finally, 1 thing you COULD be doing during the summer.

7- TEST! Please TEST the summer!

There is not one recipe. I can speak to you about a very successful middle donors mailing (the target was familiar with this project and reacted really well at an July appeal). But I also remember a terrible address-collecting campaign at the seaside (people were interested in getting gadgets and did not convert to our follow-up mailings). I could also tell you that some of your donors are probably home during summer: older people or families with no children that prefer to postpone holidays to less busy months. And nobody is actually stressing them! They could even be more responsive. Test it! What about a legacy activation mailing in August?

To conclude, stop eating ice-cream and find a way to convince your board that you have to do that amazing fundraising campaign on the French Riviera…. sounds good, no?


Patrice Simonnet

Patrice is a French fundraiser lost and happy in Italy since 11 years... There, everyday, he discovers what cross-cultural means! After experiences as DM officer for Unicef and Head of Fundraising for ActionAid Italy, he is currently Head of Fundraising of a foundation taking care of Italian cultural and environmental heritage (FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano). There he manages a team of 30 dedicated and passionate staff. In a past life, he lived in Africa and South America, graduated both in "international business studies" and "development studies".


Jess Green · July 30, 2012 at 16:12

Great suggestions! My previous organization definitely looked at the summer as down time, but my current organization actually runs their main donation drive in July/August and it has been really successful in the past (it starts next week). They still do an end of year campaign, but I think the summer is definitely underutilized!

Christian · July 31, 2012 at 11:47

I agree with Jess, great suggestions! Actually to make an event in Madrid during July/August is very interesting. People could think “Madrid is lik a desert in summer” but is such a big city that allways will be enough people to go a good event and… in July/August is easier to prepare them an there is less competition… Thanks Patrice!!!

Heather Stewart · August 1, 2012 at 09:22

I like the suggestion of running a legacy campaign – or a campaign targeted at that demographic. As previous organisations I have worked with focus on major donors, there was always a cooling down period during the summer months in terms of asking. It is, as you suggest, an ideal time to start planning future fundraising and social media campaigns. Or maybe even having a team away day to generate ideas and recharge your fundraising. Great post Patrice – lots to think about.

Vesna Savnik · August 6, 2012 at 14:50

I have just started my summer DM campaign (prospect and house) for the first time in my 14 years of DM fundraising. So I’m looking forward fot the results .

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