We know your nonprofit needs the money today, but what if you could get a much larger gift by offering donors the option to pledge their gifts over time? An effective strategy to grow your major gift donors, who often become your most loyal donors, is to recognize them for their total gift committed.

“But what if they don’t pay?”

We hear this all the time. Many nonprofit leaders are hesitant to offer a naming opportunity or give recognition until the gift is paid in full. They don’t treat a pledge like real money until it’s in hand. This is the wrong way to think about pledges! Instead, why not trust people to do what they say they will? In fact, research shows that less than 10% of pledges to nonprofits go unfilled, and the vast majority of those are low-dollar pledges. You can increase the average if you treat your donors well.

Here are a few strategies for an effective, strategic approach to pledge fulfillment:

Establish a donor-centered approach.

Work with donors to ensure a donor-first approach. Listen to donors, and treat them how you would want to be treated. You would want to be treated like a person, not an ATM.

Be flexible with the timeline.

There may extenuating circumstances where donors can’t fulfill the original terms of their commitment. If donors have lost a job or been sick, etc. and gotten behind on payments, offer to pause or extend the pledge period by a year. Be flexible with the timeline. Assume they want to honor their promise as best they can. Develop a pledge timeline in pencil, not pen!

Communicate regularly.

Don’t be a debt collector and send monthly bills to your donors. A reminder is not a “bill.” One of the most important ways to ensure pledge fulfillment is to communicate regularly with donors. Keep them informed about how their gifts change lives. Thank them often, as if the commitment was already paid in cash.

The most important pledge fulfillment strategy is to treat donors like people who care, first and foremost.

Janell Johnson

Janell J. Johnson
Executive Vice President