I taught a marketing workshop on “message and media” for our local United Way agencies here in Davidson County, North Carolina about a week ago (the slides are below). Since I had an op-ed column due for our local paper the same day, and no real topic in mind, I decided to ask the nonprofits in the room to tell me what was different or challenging about summer for them.

I said I would use the stories they told me in the column and set up a fundraising page at change.org to see if we could raise a few bucks online for them at the same time (online fundraising is practically non-existent among our local nonprofits, so that part alone was going to be an interesting experiment).

Here are just a few of the stories they told me:

— The domestic violence shelter sees an increase in family stays in summer because as the temperatures rise, so do tempers.

–Special Olympics offers sports programs all year long, but there’s a widespread misperception that their Spring and Fall Games are the only events they do, leaving them short of volunteers for summer sports.

–Our local free clinic director says about 40% of their patients need transportation assistance, and due in part to high gas prices, they are seeing many more appointment cancellations. While gas prices go up every summer, this year is especially hard and people who rely on friends and neighbors for a ride are getting turned down much more often, leading to the cancellations.

Here is the column I wrote. And here is the change.org page I set up. We’ve raised over $500 so far.

But here’s the take-home lesson for you: Look at how summer changes your work and pitch the story to your local media. Trust me, they are tired of the same ol’ baby/dog-in-hot-car, working-outside-in-the-heat summer stories. Give them something fresh to tie to the hot temps and I bet they’ll go for it.

Your donors may not even be aware of these challenges. While I had a hunch that I’d get some good stories out of our local nonprofits, some of them truly surprised me. Why not send an email appeal to your supporters asking for help with a particular summer challenge? Or write a personal letter to your biggest donors letting them know how critical their ongoing support is all year long, but especially during the summer months. Who knows, maybe you can use it as an angle to get some people to sign up for monthly giving plans.

Here are the slides I promised . . . this is one version of my Nonprofit Marketing 101 talks.

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