“Winter is coming,” the seminal words spoken by Lord Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones, serve as both a warning and a reminder for constant vigilance. Winter is a metaphor for the lean times in everyone’s lives, the motto an admonition to be prepared for the lean times. Even when things are good, we must always be ready for a dark period when things will turn against us.
In church and nonprofit fundraising it is a truism that the summer months bring with them a decrease in giving. The period from Thanksgiving through the New Year is usually peak giving time when budgets are made or broken by donor support. Much like the House Stark where winter hits the hardest, churches and nonprofits are the most susceptible to cyclical changes in giving patterns.
The metaphor is reminiscent of the words in Shakespeare’s Richard III: “Now is the Winter of our Discontent / Made glorious Summer by this sun of York.” Throughout history and literature winter has been utilized as a symbol of harsh and desperate times. What can we learn from Game of Thrones to guide us through our fundraising winter?
“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
Everyone deserves a respite, time away from work, school, and other obligations. Perhaps they’re saving up a little extra money to take their family somewhere special while the kids are out of school.
To truly move people to give when they’re in the middle of family vacations, barbecues and reunions, or just time away enjoying the summer weather, you must provide an emotional hook. Remind them of the good your organization does and that need doesn’t stop. Be open and honest about your fundraising needs, and don’t fear making the ask.
Your organization is unique, with its own needs and its own story to tell. It is vital that you tell it. Simply asking for money won’t get the job done. A clear and compelling call for donations will help cut through the distractions. Make good use of social media, your email subscriber lists, video, and every other tool at your disposal to remain connected with your donors.
“A man who won’t listen can’t hear.”
Whether you know it or not—and whether or not they express it in words—your supporters are telling you what they want from you. Perhaps you’ve noticed a decline in the amount of donations made with cash or checks. Fewer and fewer people are carrying these forms of currency, relying more on credit or debit cards and now mobile wallets and apps.
Maybe you spent good money on a text-to-give campaign and saw that the majority of potential donors didn’t finish the donation process, resulting in a net loss for your organization. Or it could be the tried-and-true pledge cards you gave them never made it off their desks.
Each of these scenarios is actually giving you donor feedback: they want other options. This is especially true over the summer when church attendance is down, fundraising events are numerous, and life events compete for donor attention and dollars. Responding to their needs and making giving accessible are critical to mitigating the summer giving slump.
At the very least a mobile-optimized website and online donation form are essential. Even better, a mobile giving app ensures that your supporters can give from wherever they are, whenever they are moved to do so. But to keep doing things in the same old ways, turning a deaf ear to the needs of your donors, will ensure failure.
“A bruise is a lesson, and each lesson makes us better.”
It’s quite possible (or even likely) that despite your best effort, your organization will take a fundraising hit this summer. Being aware of this fact going in can end up being beneficial in the long run by providing benchmarks against which you can measure future fundraising expectations and performance.
The first step is making a plan. An audit of previous years’ giving patterns will help you set realistic goals for the current year. Not only can you plan your budget but all activities associated with your fundraising including events, messaging, email and social media outreach.
Once you have established your plan for the summer, it is vital that you constantly measure your activities with results (ROI). Especially in the digital world, these metrics are inherently both measurable and malleable. Use analytics to adjust the plan, emphasizing what works and throwing out what doesn’t. While the giving dip might be a bruise that hurts in the short term, over time you will see which strategies and tactics bear fruit and you’ll be able to use these lessons going forward.
Nonprofits and churches should start spreading the word about downloading Givelify and making donations. Prepare your supporters and get them accustomed to using the app so it becomes an ingrained behavior before they start off on their summer adventures.