Don’t Go Dark: Stay Connected with Constituents During the Summer Months

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By Megan Lepore

Ah, summer. Warmer weather, vacations, and memories with family and friends.

And over two months of potential radio silence from an organization’s constituents as they “go off the grid” for fun in the sun.

But, alas, this doesn’t have to be the experience of all nonprofits. The secret to success is strategizing and preparing several meaningful touch points including communication and fundraising that allow you to stay in front of your constituents and for them to remain engaged in your work.

It’s true that once the calendar turns to June, donors are counting the days until school is out and packing bags for vacation. Meanwhile, many nonprofits are preparing for the end of their fiscal year and looking ahead to the next.

Not too far behind is July – representing the beginning of the third quarter and what can typically be a “slow month” relative to donations and activities.

However, there are ways to make sure your supporters don’t forget the sunscreen or your organization. Here are a few ideas to pack away:

Go where your donors are. The summertime can be a great time to plan a grassroots fundraiser with your constituent base at the beach. A small event may be the perfect platform for a more laid back event (beach attire vs. formal attire), such as a happy hour, reunion or family fun event. Depending on the format of the event, the goal may be to host a fundraiser and/or a “friendraiser”. Either way, organizations can raise awareness and engage constituents at a time when they may not have otherwise.

Give your constituents some beach reading. Consider mailing out a quick “end of fiscal year” infographic with a letter highlighting accomplishments – essentially a precursor to an annual report to be mailed at a later date. This can also be sent in electronic form to your donor base for those who just can’t seem to truly disconnect from it all while on vacation.

Know the alternative addresses for your donors. As an organization gets to know its donor base, more personal information tends to be shared. This includes any seasonal change of address for donors who are snowbirds and spend off seasons in the Florida Keys or those who have summer homes. Knowing this information will help to ensure that your message reaches the right audience in a timely manner. In addition, take advantage of the “down time” and work with a mail house to conduct a NCOA (National Change of Address) update to your mailing list (best practice is at least once per year). This is an investment in the integrity of your database, and your postage budget!

Save the Dates for upcoming events. Though we don’t want to ever rush through the delight of summer, there is always planning to be done for upcoming events. Don’t forget to remind constituents of events and opportunities to be engaged that are on the horizon. If at all possible, offer early registration rates for events to begin to build your guest count. Determine if printed or electronic pieces are the best option for your organization.

Conversational Communication. Take a cue from the season and adjust the tone of your communication with constituents. Enjoy the opportunity to be more relaxed in your messages, and even have a little fun with them. For example, posts on social media can be converted to more activity based links than consistent programmatic updates. Share information about community events hosted by your partners, or offer timely tips related to water safety, educational opportunities, child safety, family friendly activities, etc. While making new memories, don’t hesitate to share a few throwback photos.

However you decide to communicate with your constituents during the summer months, continue to be purposeful in your approach. There are always opportunities to engage new supporters and steward current ones.

Happy summer!

About the author: Megan Lepore is a Senior Project Manager at Dunleavy & Associates and has more than 12 years of development experience in the fields of healthcare, education and human services. She holds a Master of Science in Communication Management from Temple University, where she has also taught undergraduate courses in speech communication, public relations and news writing. Building strategic communication plans, corporate sponsorship, grant writing, foundation relations and event planning round out her professional expertise.

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Should a nonprofit hire a consultant to lead its executive leadership search?

The executive leader of your organization is leaving and now your team is faced with the tremendous task of finding a replacement. You’re having visions of late nights spent sifting through resumes, reviewing interview notes, and calling various board members while searching for the perfect candidate.

Worried there might not be enough coffee in the world to get through the process, you consider seeking outside help. But do you really need to hire a consultant? What would you get for your money? And can you really afford it in the first place?

Staff members at Dunleavy & Associates have helped dozens of nonprofit organizations standing at these critical crossroads find the answers they need. The first thing we advise our clients to do is develop a positive mindset about the whole process: Anxiety is normal, but so much can be accomplished when you focus on the opportunity presented. This is a unique moment to regroup as an organization and bring together team members, board members, and stakeholders to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

The leader’s impending departure creates a tremendous amount of pressure to post the position and start receiving resumes. This is a knee-jerk mistake. First you need to take a step back and determine, “What is our strategy for the next era?” and “Who do we need to lead that strategy?”

An outside consultant can provide valuable insight in guiding this internal discovery process. Specifically, the consultant can help you identify responsibilities that should be in the executive director’s job description and responsibilities that should be shifted to other senior members of your team. Clarifying the job description will allow you to develop a posting that reflects your current needs and attracts the right candidate. You’ll not only engage existing leadership and strengthen your organization, but also set a clear path of priorities for the incoming executive director.

If this is the first time in institutional memory that you are seeking a new leader, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of work that goes into a search. Even if you’re not planning to restructure responsibilities, a lot of groundwork is needed to ensure a strong foundation for the process.

Doing the groundwork is too big a job for one person; you’ll need to form a transition team. Ideally, this team blends expertise from across your organization, including finance, communications, analysis, and even organizational psychology. In our experience, the team will need to devote more than twenty hours of combined time each week and have the ability to successfully lead focus groups, communicate with stakeholders, frame out operational priorities, and, of course, lead a comprehensive search for your new leader.

If your organization lacks the skills, knowledge, or time needed to conduct a search in this manner, it’s likely that an outside consultant is needed. Hiring an executive director is one of the most important decisions an organization can make, and even a high-caliber candidate may turn out to be the wrong choice for a nonprofit if compatibility pitfalls aren’t identified and avoided.

You don’t need to break the bank to get outside help, either. Any good consulting agency knows that many nonprofits operate on tight budgets, and will work with clients to share responsibilities and minimize fees. Hiring a firm such as Dunleavy & Associates means you won’t waste time learning how to conduct a search and ensures you’ll find the best possible leader for your organization.

 

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