A successful pledge campaign requires a good amount of detail work but is worth your while to increase donations. A pledge campaign, simply put, is asking people to commit to giving to your organization or cause at some point in the future or on a regular basis. Compare a pledge to a “buy now pay later” promotion!
It allows donors to commit to you without having to actually write you a check in the moment. People are often likely to give more if they can defer their payment to the future or pay in installments – monthly, quarterly, or over a set number of years. Pledges can also help your nonprofit plan better, by knowing how much funding you will have by the end of the year or going forward into future years. Here are six tips to ensure a successful pledge campaign for your cause.
1. Communicate in your appeal that you are seeking pledges
You need to offer the idea of pledging first and foremost in your appeal letter, website, or conversation. A strategy is to ask for a pledge instead of an outright gift. The donor will give you a one-time gift anyway if she prefers to do so, but you will be advertising immediately that she has another option. Asking for a pledge is much softer than asking for an outright donation, so this is a good idea for those hesitant fundraisers on your team that find asking for gifts scary, like your board members!
2. Create an interesting pledge condition
Using a condition for the pledge campaign can inspire donors to pledge more. For instance:
- Asking donors to pledge for future crises or events that may or may not happen. For instance, Fuel Relief Fund, a nonprofit that helps local communities source emergency fuel needs when disasters strike, asks corporations to pledge to give certain amounts immediately when a disaster strikes. If no disasters strike, they are not bound to give a gift.
- Asking donors only to fulfill their pledges if a campaign goal is met. Just like a lot of crowdfunding platforms, you can collect pledges and only fulfill them if you raise all of your campaign goal. Make sure you set a realistic campaign goal if you use this strategy.
- Have donors pledge to give more if you meet certain milestones, either fundraising or program-related. For instance, you can ask that they pledge $100 for each new volunteer you manage to recruit. They could pledge to give $1,000 for each $10,000 you raise. Or they could pledge to give $1.00 for every signature you manage to get for a petition. Be creative!
3. Include a pledge card with your donation appeal
You should receive a signed letter or card from your donor with the exact terms of their pledge. Make a copy and send the copy when you follow up with her to fulfill her pledge payment to you, whether that is one time or every month. The pledge card should be as simple as possible and offer options for the pledge terms. Include your contact information and logo/letterhead. It should explicitly state how to make payments as well. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope if mailing your appeal.
Yes! I pledge to support Sample High School this year. I will give (please circle one) $25 $50 $100 monthly from June 2016 to December 2016. I will make a payment by the final day of each month on the PTA’s online giving system found on their homepage, www.samplehighschool.org, or by mailing a check to your address on this letterhead. I would like to be reminded of my pledge each month with:
- A phone call to this number:
- An email to this address:
- A letter to this address:
4. Organize a tracking system for pledges
If you plan ahead and develop a good system for organizing your pledges, you will avoid an administrative headache later. The best system is using an online program that automatically charges a credit card. If you do not have that type of technology or are using a more grassroots or personal approach, you will need a system to send reminders or prompt your fundraising staff to call pledgees to remind them of their gift dates.
Most fundraising software systems include pledge programs that will remind you, or if your organization is too small for donor tracking software create a good spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets and set a day on your calendar to follow up each month.
5. Don’t hesitate to ask for past due pledges
The most likely scenario is that your donors forgot to pay, even with your reminders. Do not hesitate to (nicely) pester your pledgees to own up to their word! Send an additional reminder if necessary.
6. Thank your pledgees for their gifts
Thank your donor every single time she makes a payment. Don’t make the mistake to wait until the entire pledge is received or only thank them for making the pledge in the first place! Once the entire pledge is received, you can send an even more special thank you and ask your donor to consider renewing the pledge for an additional six months, year, or multi-year gift.
Pledges offer extra room for donor communication, so take advantage! You can send updates, newsletters, blog links to recent work, etc. (See here for more on writing thank you letters.)
Pledge campaigns can be a great means to increase your donations, by creating an alternative for your donors or by just making your fundraising appeal more interesting!