You put so much work into your pledge campaigns! You developed special pledge conditions, chose the perfect tools, and promoted your drive to the community. Your team worked hard to keep up momentum and drive your campaign to completion.
Now comes one last tricky step: learning how to collect pledges.
Once your deadline has passed and the campaign draws to a close, it’s time to get started with this most important part of fundraising pledge drives. Your donors pledged their support to help you achieve your goals and address a time-sensitive or emotionally-compelling issue. Now you need to leverage that support. For many, this is one of the most difficult parts of fundraising.
Fundraising pledges must be collected at a later date after the campaign ends, and this is part of why they’re often so successful. The sense of delayed payment makes it easier to build excitement among supporters, helping them focus on helping you rather than simply making a donation. This also means that you’ll need to very actively collect those pledges when the time comes.
Becoming more comfortable and learning how to collect pledges doesn’t have to be such a challenge, though! We’ve broken it down into 5 precautions and steps you can use to simplify the whole process:
- Use the right tools from the start.
- Immediately send thank you messages.
- Automate a catch-all reminder message.
- Compose personal follow-up emails.
- Send your final reminders.
- Analyze results and review how to collect pledges.
The need to actively collect them is just one of several differences between fundraising pledges and traditional donations. While understanding how to collect pledges can be tricky, some proper planning and preparation ahead of time will make it much simpler.
Use all that momentum you built up during the campaign carry you through the collections process! Let’s get started.
1. Use the right tools from the start.
This is a point that we describe in fuller detail in our more comprehensive guide to pledge campaigns. Make sure you’re familiar with all the moving parts of your drive as you begin to collect pledges!
Using the right online or mobile pledge tools can make a huge difference in the final collections process. That’s because they’ll cut out half the work!
There are 2 primary ways in which your pledge tools can do this:
- Automating data collection and reporting to your database.
- Providing your supporters with easy donation completion options.
The first is fairly self-evident. Ensure that all your campaign data, including the supporter’s name, contact information, and amount pledged, is cleanly reported and organized in a single location. This practice alone can dramatically streamline an otherwise chaotic collections process.
The second way in which your pledge tools can make it easier to collect pledges relates to user experience. Providing your donors more options is a smart idea, but only when those options don’t get in the way. Securing their pledge of support is the top priority.
Supporters feel good after submitting their pledge with a fast, easy-to-use tool. This makes them much more likely to agree to take the time to complete their donation by entering payment information.
Finding a pledge tool that provides supporters an unobtrusive, fast, and easy way to complete their pledged donations can dramatically simplify collections. This is because it reduces the number of pledges that still need to be collected!
2. Immediately send thank you messages.
During your pledge campaign, prioritize (or automate) sending confirmation thank you messages to each supporter who submits a pledge. Be sure to include their contact information and pledge amount for verification.
This should be done within 48 hours or less following their pledge submission, although the right fundraising software will help you easily automate the process to send immediate confirmations.
Another crucial piece of information to include is the donation deadline for your campaign. As you familiarize yourself with how to collect pledges, never overlook this step. Forgetting to clearly state a deadline for paying pledges can have a major impact on the success of your pledge drive!
Here’s how you might draft a pledge thank you message that hits all the important marks:
Include simple instructions for completing the payment with your online donation form or using your mobile tools. Be sure to mention other ways that they can submit their donation, too, like via mailed check.
3. Automate a catch-all reminder message.
Next, ensure that your fundraising software is configured to send automatic reminders to supporters with unfulfilled pledges. Choose a date about a week ahead of the final deadline.
Ideally, your pledge tool should be a part of a larger fundraising software suite. If not, make sure that your pledge drive data has been properly reported to your CRM or other donor database. From there you should be able to build a mailing list or set up automated email messaging.
Of course, if you have no other choice, sending these email reminders manually won’t be the end of the world. While some steps can be tedious, they’re simply part of how to collect pledges. Just make sure your team has the time and attention to devote to any task you assign them!
Start by writing a script for your basic reminder email. It might go something like this:
An email like this reiterates all the most important points: your organization, the pledge amount, the donation deadline, and instructions for completing payment. The broad sweep of this catch-all reminder email will likely make a big initial difference in reducing your number of unfulfilled pledges.
After all, many donors genuinely forget to complete their pledges and will appreciate the reminder!
4. Compose personal follow-up emails.
Target this next round of reminder messages to unresponsive, unfulfilled pledges about a week after the official deadline has passed.
Take the time to write personalized emails to catch the attention of your supporters. Here’s the kind of tone you might want to strike:
Of course, depending on the size of your campaign, you may choose to automate this process. Either way, make sure that the emails contain the following information:
- The supporter’s name
- The pledge amount
- Very clear instructions and links for completing the donation online
- A mailing address to send a check
If possible, it might also be a smart move to include the email address or phone number of a staff member who handles campaign wrap-up. This person should have quick access to the campaign database and be available to respond to pledged supporters who have questions or need to discuss their donations.
You certainly hope that none of your pledge drive supporters change their mind about making a donation, but it does happen. That’s why offering a live point-of-contact at this point is a good idea. Supporters who have changed their minds might be more willing to make a quick call and say so rather than start a more prolonged email exchange.
5. Send your final reminders.
Hopefully by this time you’ve only got a handful of unfulfilled pledges left. Every bit of support counts, so don’t give up just yet!
Send a few more rounds of reminders beginning about 2 weeks to a month after your deadline has passed. Adjust this timeframe to better reflect the scope of your pledge campaign and the size of the unfulfilled pledge in question.
Choosing how to collect pledges at these last stages can be tricky, but don’t worry about seeming too assertive. After all, your mission matters! Here’s how you might do it:
- Make a phone call to the supporter about a week after your first personal follow-up email.
- If no response, send another personalized email reminder a day or two later.
- If no response, try another call or email after a few days have passed.
- After a total of 4-5 reminders, it might be time to move on.
It’s always disappointing when a pledged supporter changes their mind, loses touch with your organization, or forgets to complete their donation. Unfortunately, due to the nature of pledge campaigns and drives, unfulfilled (and unfulfillable) pledges aren’t unusual.
However, this provides a great opportunity to build a more targeted list of supporters to reach out to in the future. Their donations may have fallen through the cracks this time, but they’ve still proven their interest in your mission. That deserves continued attention!
Donor retention is crucially important for nonprofits of all sizes. Always use your pledge campaigns and drives as learning opportunities to refine your strategies. Start by keeping all your unfulfilled pledgers in the loop on your next campaigns.
6. Analyze results and review how to collect pledges.
While unfulfilled pledges aren’t unusual, they represent a major learning opportunity for you and your team.
A small portion of unfulfilled pledges in any given drive are normal, but pay close attention to make sure that proportion doesn’t grow too large. If it does, that could indicate a major issue at some point in your campaign process, like one of these:
- Your pledge tool is malfunctioning or offers a poor user experience.
- The pledge data didn’t properly report to your fundraising software or database.
- Your time-sensitive project or goal became irrelevant over the course of the campaign.
Carefully review your process and final campaign analytics with your team. An ideal fundraising software suite will clearly display key trends for you to track and examine, like in this example interface from Snowball:
Share your own success stories and discuss any disappointing moments that occurred, too.
Most importantly, establish a clear set of steps and protocols to guide the collections process in the process. Training your team on how to collect pledges begins with developing a process that works best for your organization, fits with its mission, and suits its donor base. Direct your team to this article for a quick way to familiarize them with the process!
Learning how to collect pledges for your organization’s first major pledge drive isn’t easy. However, building a few best practices and basic steps into your campaign and collections process can make a huge difference!
Choosing the right pledge tool and establishing straightforward collection protocols for your team can dramatically simplify the process. Be sure to continue your fundraising research with some additional resources, too:
- Fundraising Pledges Vs. Donations | What’s the Difference? Explore how these different fundraising methods impact the kinds of strategies and missions that you can use for each.
- 15+ Best Crowdfunding Websites from Double the Donation. Crowdfunding is a great way to engage your supporters online. Similar to pledge campaigns, they require compelling goals and relatively tight deadlines.
- Getting Started with Grants: 5 Grant Writing Tips for Nonprofits. Grants represent another major source of funding for most nonprofits. Get started writing your next application today!