Four Summertime Tips to Bolster Your Email Program

Hello from the other side of Memorial Day weekend – summer has unofficially begun!  

Between school closures, family vacations, and long weekends, the summer months bring us nonprofit digital marketers and fundraisers a welcome opportunity to rest and recharge – to sit back and unwind, if you will. (#IYKYK)

We deeply appreciate the chance to disconnect and spend more time with our friends, families, and loved ones. (Frankly, we need it, given that we so rarely have a chance to unplug during the hectic year-end season). 

But even if you’re sticking around the office this summer, you should take some time to plan your nonprofit’s digital content strategically. Summer might also be a slower season for email marketing, but that doesn’t mean you should let your program slide. 

In fact, letting your email cadence drop for weeks (or more) on end can seriously hurt your email program – and your fundraising bottom line, come December. Keeping your supporters active and engaged all year long is the best way to ensure the long-term health of your digital fundraising program.

With that in mind, here are four easy moves you can make now to help you set that summer vacation out-of-office signature with confidence.

Refine (or define!) your audience segments

If summer is a slower season at your organization, we recommend that you leverage that downtime to revisit your segmentation strategy. Taking a regular look at your email data helps you stay on top of changing trends, create personalized, relevant content for different segments of your audience – and improve engagement and retention in the long run.

Did you run a recent email campaign that converted new donors to your audience on a specific issue or event, for example? Creating an automated customized welcome series journey specific to your new supporters will keep them interested – and increase the odds they’ll give again. 

Alternatively, are you noticing any trends that indicate that your lapsed audience is growing – or shows no signs of budging? Consider a personalized re-engagement email campaign to try to win them back! Your supporters’ priorities can change quickly – and given that you have to work harder for every dollar you earn these days, you should steward your donors and supporters as regularly as you can. A lapsed email campaign will help you recapture some of those donors, siphon out those remaining unresponsive), and keep your email list healthy and active.

Leverage opportunities for thematic summertime content

Timeliness and relevance are two core tenets of any compelling content – and the summertime offers its own opportunities to leverage dates and trends to your program’s advantage. For example, the month of June is Pride Month. Organizations whose programs serve the LGBTQIA+ community or include LGBTQIA+ rights in their issue areas can raise the visibility and impact of their work by sharing related updates in June. 

Even if your mission or programs don’t specifically include the LGBTQIA+ community, they’re likely a part of your audience – and they may be motivated to engage and support your nonprofit if your organization centers LGBTQIA+ equality and rights in June.

Beyond commemorative holidays, you can educate your audience on how summer intersects with your nonprofit’s work and programs. For example, many food banks and other hunger charities run summer fundraising campaigns to explain why the demand for their services spikes during the summer, when schools are closed and millions of kids lose access to free breakfasts and lunches. 

As another example, wildlife, clean water, and other environmentally focused organizations can showcase their work to protect, restore, and revitalize natural areas during the summer months, as the season is prime time for celebrating the outdoors and spending time with neighbors, family, and friends.

Get creative with your summer calls to action (CTAs)

Federal and state lawmakers aren’t in office as much during the summer. But whether Congress is in session or not, you can still mobilize your audience and encourage them to speak up and take action on the issues they care about. 

Of course, if your organization has a healthy segment of digital rabble-rousers, you should keep pressing them to support or fight policies related to your nonprofit’s mission or issue(s). But even without specific policies to promote in between congressional sessions, you can still lean on evergreen petitions and pledges to engage your list – and acquire new supporters with small buys on petition sites!

You can also mix up your CTAs with cultivation emails during the slower summer months. We’re big fans of quizzes (which have yielded great engagement metrics for our clients who have incorporated them into their email programs). But between asking your audience to forward an email to a friend, or spread the message on social media, or ask your nonprofit’s experts anything, there are endless options you can test to gauge what resonates most with your audience. 

Show your audience some love during the summer

Thanking your supporters is a cornerstone of meaningful donor stewardship. Your online audience helps your nonprofit fund its programs, achieve critical policy wins, and create meaningful change – and the summer months are an especially timely window to share some love – and prime them to give generously during year-end. Expressing your gratitude during the slower summer months is a practical, easy way to steward your audience and prime them to give again at year-end.

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