Nonprofits: Making Good Use of the Slow Season

Nonprofits: Making Good Use of the Slow Season

Reposted and adapted from by Cathy Qori

For many nonprofit organizations, September through December is the busiest fundraising season. Employees and volunteers typically spend the summer getting ready for the September to December sprint. Whenever your slow season, here are 7 ideas to help you make the best use of it, to ensure a successful fundraising year.

1.  List Maintenance

So much fundraising is dependent on the quality of your house list — email and physical addresses — that maintenance has to go on continuously, but the slow season is a good time to tackle the big list hygiene tasks. No matter how much we automate, sometimes a human review is required. Make this review a part of your regular routine so that over the course of 1 to 3 years, depending on the size of the list, a real person actually reviews the entries. It’s always embarrassing to send a good donor a message that begins “Dear First Name.” You should also consider purchasing updates to your street addresses and email addresses, but only from reputable companies. These updates are never 100 percent successful. Done regularly, however, they will help to keep your house list in better shape.

2.  Test Campaigns

When you are deep into the planning cycle or the busiest part of the year, you don’t always have time to test unusual ideas. The slow season is the time to do this. Just because your nonprofit organization has never done a certain type of campaign doesn’t mean it won’t work. The only way to find out for sure is to test it. It’s probably a bad idea to sink your entire marketing budget into an untried idea, so try some limited tests in a non-critical period to discover the new campaign ideas that have a good chance of being winners.

3.  Seasonal Campaigns

Try to develop a campaign theme that’s related to the off season For example, if your off season is summer, you might use a theme like “Kids may get a break in the summer, but the people we help are always in need. You can help us this summer by making a gift or donation of…” Your off-season fundraising will never exceed the busy season, but every bit helps. Try developing campaigns around seasonal themes.

4.  Hold an Easy Event

Typically, event attendance is low in the summer. The winter holidays may be the busiest fundraising season, but people have many demands on their time then. Try having a low-key event during the slow season. Connect the theme with a campaign you’re testing or with the season. Try something completely different. If you usually have an elegant gala, try a picnic, road rally, or paddle boat race. If you usually have casual events, try an elegant seated dinner for a small number of middle to high-end donors.

5.  Training and Networking

Invest in staff development during the off-season. In many organizations, the staff is the largest single expense and therefore your biggest investment. During the slow season, send the staff to conferences, training, and networking events. You’ll not only reap the benefits of new ideas and up-to-date preparation, your staff will be re-energized for the busy season.

6.  Expand your Social Media Presence

There are few guarantees in the social media arena. Everyone is trying to figure out what works best. Use your slow time to expand your social media presence beyond just Facebook and Twitter. Try new platforms like Pinterest, Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, or others. Try to find where your constituents are online. If you start a dialogue, keep it going.

7.  Search for New Target Micro Markets

Searching for new micro markets is essentially what you’re doing when you try new social media platforms. Social media isn’t the only place to look, though. Experiment with different demographics, age ranges, zip codes, and special interest groups. Talk to your known constituents with formal or informal focus groups. Try to find the people you may have overlooked. There may be some unpolished gems who would be great volunteers or donors for your NPO.


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