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Updated: Jun 12

Ahhhh. The sun is shining brighter and longer. The temps are warming up. The skies are blue and the leaves are green.

It’s summer.

And with summer comes vacation.

And even if you are not taking a physical vacation this year, I think many non-profit folks tend to take a mental vacation during the warmer months. Maybe you don’t work quite as hard. Maybe you kick off a little early on Friday to enjoy those summer weekends. There are no galas to plan, no holiday campaigns to oversee. The stress eases.

I get it.

But before your mind drifts off to sandy beaches and drinks with umbrellas, a word to the wise.

Donor love gets no vacation.

Donor love is a year-round, long-haul, in-it-to-win-it play.

In fact, I see summer as the PERFECT time to spread a little extra donor love. Thanking for the sake of thanking. Sending an unexpected, joy-evoking surprise. Pre-prep for year-end.

But, Juuuuulie, I’m tired, you say. My creativity tapped out two months ago. I have a summer-fried brain.

It’s ok. I got you friend and I’m here to help with some clever, cost-effective ideas to make you stand out and sizzle like sunshine on asphalt. So, cop a seat in front of a fan with a cool libation and read on!


TAKE A PICTURE: Remember the good ol’ days when you had to wait two weeks to see your selfies? The anticipation? How you raced to the drugstore full of unbridled anticipation? How you couldn’t wait to open the package of glossy treasure? Yes, there is something magically nostalgic about photography and the ability to hold a tangible memory.

Why not evoke this same nostalgic feeling in your donors by sending them a photograph related to your mission? A cute puppy. A smiling child. A beautiful piece of art. Something to create a smile.

My favorite place to order photos is, which offers cool retro prints (think Polaroid) for around $.50 each. Even better, you can add a short message at the bottom of the print if you wish. Like, maybe, “Thank you for being ____________” (fill in the blank).

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, drop the print into a small thank you card with a quick note . . . “Hi Julie, Hope you’re having a delightful summer break! Sending a quick photo of one of our (puppies, children, pieces of art) for you to enjoy and to thank you for being there for them.”

Or drop the photo in with your regular thank you letter for a period of time with a special PS . . . ”Enclosed is a token of our appreciation. . . . a photo of one of our (puppies, children, pieces of art) for you to enjoy. I hope you’ll hang it where you can see it every day to remind you of the difference you make with your support!”

PS, I am receiving no kick-backs from FoxPrint… pinky swear! Hot Tip: Like most online vendors, FoxPrint offers a percent off your first order if you sign up for their emails so be sure to take advantage of that opportunity!

PAINT A PICTURE: Painted rocks have become a nationwide trend meant to promote positivity and kindness. The concept is to paint small rocks with inspirational words or messages and leave them anonymously for others to find and brighten their day.

You can adapt this trend for your organization for donors. Buy a bag of 3-4 inch landscape rocks, some inexpensive acrylic paints, and brushes, and get your creative juices flowing!

But who will paint these rocks, Julie, you ask? What about:

  • If your organization has a summer camp, make it a creative activity for the children attending.

  • At the start of the next board meeting, ask board members to paint a rock.

  • Ask volunteers to drop by the office while volunteering and paint a rock.

  • Make it a team effort . . . order pizza and ask your team to paint rocks over lunch or on their break.

Of course, due to their weight, this donor gift might be easiest to deliver in person, but that makes the gift even more special! Place the rock in a small craft box or brown paper lunch bag with a note such as “This rock was painted by our (summer campers, team, volunteers, etc.) with loving care to thank you for your support!” and drop it in your donor’s mailboxes or on their front porch.

PS, If you think this idea seems childish, take a look at the rock in the photo. A homeless shelter delivered it to me 5 years ago after I made a donation. The rock STILL sits on my desk. I see it every day, and it makes me smile. :)

MAKE A MOVING PICTURE: Videos are hot, have been hot, and show no trend of cooling off! So why not take advantage of the beautiful weather to shoot some quick, personal videos outside and send them to your donors?

Think creatively. . . are you a humane society or children’s organization? Take a video of the dogs or kids playing outside in the sunshine! Visual or performing arts organization? Shoot a snippet of your summer show! Educational organization? Take a video of your campus in full bloom!

Of course, you will also want to include a message to the donor at the beginning and/or end of your video, like “Hi Julie! I hope you are having an amazing summer! We wanted to take a quick moment to show you what our organization is up to this month thanks to supporters like you!”

The process is even easier if you use a video messaging platform such as BombBomb, Gratavid or ThankView (to name a few I know!) that allows your organization to film short videos within the platform and deliver them right to a donor’s inbox. This warm, personal touch can make a huge impact on a donor's perception of your organization because it makes you stand out from the crowd and allows you to provide the donor with a heartfelt, customized acknowledgment.

Of course, if you are feeling ambitious, why not go all in and have a day of thanks? Simply choose a random day (or week!) this summer and dedicate it to thank donors.

There's a special satisfaction that comes with thanking donors without the pressure of an ask. It feels good to give something back - even if it's just for one day.

And don’t just give thanks, but make it a day of thankfulness. Share all the things you are thankful for, especially those made possible by your donors. And incorporate the ideas above into the day such as taking painted rocks to your local major donors, sending videos to your donors farther away, and mailing photos to others.

So make a splash this summer with your donors by raising the donor love bar with some or all of these low-key, low-cost creative touches that are sure to create a smile and make your organization shine as bright as the summer sun!

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