“Summer Slump” is on the rise!

We’ve been making this strategy work for years – that “Summer Slump” appeal that talks about rising needs and falling income over the “lazy, hazy days of summer.” For most clients, it happens every year. So the creative challenge is to make the situation look different from year to year along with solid, logical positioning so the financial squeeze is not a reflection of poor planning on the ministry’s part.

One of our most successful summer slump efforts recently was an integrated campaign for one of our larger clients in the summer of 2011. This client was sensitive to the fact that they didn’t want our communication to sound like “a last resort cry for help. We won’t be closing our doors if the response to this campaign isn’t what we anticipate.”

Rather, the summer campaign was used as an opportunity to engage donors and constituents in meaningful dialog about the ministry’s financial condition, short- and long-term goals, ministry impact and extending its vision into the future. It’s the kind of message you would send to family members you love and appreciate, not “customers” you’re selling in order to motivate a “transaction.”

Bottom line . . . the integrated “Summer Slump” campaign did well. And we attribute that success to 7 strategy essentials:

1. Engage this strategy only if there is a real need.
2. Send versioned mail appeals to all donor segments with a strong follow-up appeal.
3. Design email impacts around the traditional mail packages.
4. Integrate across all media. Use a homepage overlay or promotion on your website. Feature the “Summer Slump” offer and logo across all partner/co-branded websites along with Facebook and Twitter.
5. Lead with the opportunity for a 3-month summer pledge. Follow that with a fallback, one-time gift offer.
6. Customize your “thank you” letter to feature the “Summer Slump” for those who responded to this particular offer.
7. Report back on the need being met and/or ways the ministry cut costs and redirected resources to save money without compromising ministry. That’s good stewardship of the donor’s gift.

Results were good in a summer (2011) when the economy wasn’t. And average gift was up by about 30% over a typical appeal. That’s significant for a season that, without proper “care and feeding,” usually “slumps.”

It’s still not too late to do something special this summer. The economy is on the upswing. That opens the door for us to do even better during those lazy, hazy days of our favorite season. Relax. We’ve got your back.