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August 12, 2020
With Your Campaign Over, It's Time to Collect Those Pledges
By John Killoran

John Killoran
John Killoran
After your team worked hard to keep up momentum and drive your nonprofit campaign to completion, there's one last, critical task to perform: collecting pledges from donors.

While understanding how to collect pledges can be tricky, some proper planning and preparation ahead of time will make it much simpler. The following will help.

1. Use The Right Tools from the Start

Using the right online or mobile pledge tools can make a huge difference in the final collections process, because they’ll cut out half the work. You can do this by automating data collection and reporting to your database, or by providing your supporters 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.

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. 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.

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: We haven’t received your donation yet, so we just want to make sure that it hasn’t gotten buried in an inbox or lost in the mail.

Depending on the size of your campaign, you may choose to automate this process. In any case, make sure that the emails contain the supporter’s name, the pledge amount, very clear instructions and links for completing the donation online, and a mailing address to send a check.

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 two 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:
  1. Make a phone call to the supporter about a week after your first personal follow-up email.
  2. If no response, send another personalized email reminder a day or two later.
  3. If no response, try another call or email after a few days have passed.
  4. After a total of 4-5 reminders, it might be time to move on.

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.
John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and founder of Snowball Fundraising, which provides a range of fundraising services and tools for nonprofits.

June 2019
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