For many nonprofits, the summer activity calendar slows down giving us much needed time to reflect and plan. However, with the welcome relief of a change of pace, there can also be a tendency to let this precious time slip by without utilizing the time effectively.  With so many clients and donors out of town, take advantage of the opportunities this creates to look at things in a new light – or to simply reconnect as a team.  

Here are a few tips to ensure your team isn’t a victim of the Summer Slump:

Do something out of the norm with your team (yes, we mean team building)

Let’s face it, the last two years have been tough.  Take a couple of hours and do something fun together. The introverts reading this will cringe, and type A leaders will likely scoff at the necessity.  However, there’s much to be said in the research about employees’ contentment in their job being correlated to company culture, bosses who show appreciation and mental health related to work/life balance. Get out of the office together and do something fun.  Order lunch and go have a picnic; book a cooking class (there’s something to be said about laughter and connection); or attend a daytime activity.  Whatever it is, the goal is to laugh, connect and NOT talk about work. I once had a boss that randomly took the entire team (a small office) to lunch at Medieval Times (one of those medieval horse shows where you eat a feast with your hands) and followed it up with a chocolate making session at a local chocolate store.  It was the most random day I’d ever spend at work, but also the most fun our team had ever had together. Yes, it cost money. But the positive effects that day had on our team were more than worth it. 

Schedule time to analyze (or write) the annual development plan

If a yearly review/update of the annual development plan isn’t already a regular practice, this is the summer to change that!  Set aside a day or two dedicated to nothing other than a discussion on annual activities.  Analyze what’s working, what’s gone stale and specifically dedicate a portion of the time for brainstorming new ideas. Often, we get into a routine of checking off boxes that we forget how productive we are when we stop and really spend time analyzing and planning our activities.  While this can be done anywhere there’s space, I’m a big proponent for making this as comfortable a process as possible.  Over the years, I often scheduled this at my home, catered in lunch and encouraged everyone to dress comfortably.  Maybe you rent a shared office space for the day, steal a corner of your favorite coffee shop or borrow another office’s unique space. A change of environment encourages a fresh perspective and decreases distractions.  When everyone feels comfortable to provide open and honest feedback and for their ideas to be heard, this lends itself to some team building as well. 

Clean Up!

According to research, clutter affects our mental health – be it in our personal or professional environments.  Citing this Harvard Business Review article, “The physical environment of the workplace has a significant effect on the way that we work. When our space is a mess, so are we. [Research shows] that our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior, affecting our decision-making and relationships with others. [O]ne international survey showed that information workers lose up to two hours a week fruitlessly searching for lost digital documents.” Set you and your team up for success by taking time to declutter. Clean out those files in your office you’ve forgotten existed; order pizza and spend an hour with the team cleaning out the promotions and events closets; and for the love – make this the summer you finally tackle the database!

Take a casual approach to donor cultivation

If you’re doing it right, donor cultivation is planned (hopefully in that summer development planning you’ve scheduled) and executed with great care.  As it should be! However, the calm moments of summer are a great time for some additional “spontaneous” touch points. Need some ideas?

  • When doing some of that clean up, you’re bound to come across something that makes you think of a donor. Send a quick, “came across this while cleaning out files that made me think of you and wanted to see how your summer is going” email (better yet, call them!). 
  • Take 30 minutes to write a few “thinking of you this summer” handwritten notes. If you have a small budget, include a $5 gift card for an ice cream. 
  • Ask a particular group of donors or volunteers who’s in town tomorrow and wants to grab a casual lunch or ice cream at your new favorite spot. 
  • Do any of your donors’ kids have summer birthdays?  Drop by with cupcakes. We all know showing love to kids is a surefire way to a donor’s heart – especially when their kid feels jilted with a summer birthday. 

Whatever your summer plans, make sure it doesn’t slip by without tackling some of those items on your team’s “we’ll get to it later” list. Summer slips by quickly but there’s plenty of time left to ensure your team enters fall refreshed, organized and ready to hit the ground running!