You already know that using a pledge campaign can be a fantastic and innovative way to engage your supporter base and build momentum in your community for supporting your mission.
But are you ready to take your pledge fundraising campaign from “good enough” to great? With our simple strategies, you can create a strong pledge campaign that exceeds your goals and helps your organization achieve its mission.
Our best tips are:
- Create a strong, compelling ask.
- Include an interesting condition or reward.
- Make pledging as easy as possible.
- Stay organized in tracking your pledges.
- Say thank-you multiple times.
These suggestions may seem basic, but when you implement all these strategies into one cohesive action plan, you’ll see your pledge campaign take off. Let’s get started!
1. Create a strong, compelling ask
The first step in any fundraising campaign is to make your campaign worth donating to. If you can’t present your mission in a way that makes your community want to support it, then you need to go back to the drawing board.
How can you make sure that your ask is engaging and compelling? Follow these best practices:
- Tell a memorable story: include the who, what, when, where, and why.
- Be clear about why your nonprofit is raising money and what the money will do.
- List the most important information first.
When you’re making your ask, ensure that you’re emphasizing that you’re collecting pledges, not donations.
Supporters often react differently to pledge requests than direct solicitations for a few reasons. First, they’re more appealing on a fundamental level because it's easier to commit to giving in the future since the money doesn't immediately leave your bank account.
Promising to donate, with the option of doing it at a later date, is a powerful motivator.
It also incites a different reaction because pledges are great for creating a sense of urgency. They’re great for when your organization needs to raise money for a specific, time-sensitive event.
Your ask should include the following information:
- Specific cause for the pledge campaign
- Deadline for receiving the completed pledge
- Fundraising goal of the campaign
Including these hard deadlines and specific goals makes your campaign seem more actionable, and making your ask compelling makes people invested in the cause. These two strategies are a surefire way to get your campaign off to a strong start.
2. Include an interesting condition or reward
To inspire your pledgers to commit to making a gift, you need to create a sense of urgency surrounding your campaign. For instance, one example of a common type of pledge campaign is one for a natural disaster.
In this situation, companies or individuals would pledge a certain amount of money for relief efforts in the event of a hurricane, earthquake, or something similar. But if the natural disaster never comes, the pledges are never fulfilled.
This engagement creates an atmosphere of urgency and unpredictability for the donors, which can be an incentive to give.
This atmosphere can be emulated through raising other sorts of stakes for your pledge campaign.
Some strategies for doing this are:
- Offer a reward for pledging a certain amount of money: if someone donates $50, they get a custom T-shirt from your organization after the campaign is over, or something similar.
- Run a pledge campaign for a specific crisis, whether that be a political or social event or a natural disaster as mentioned above.
- Give your nonprofit a goal that it must meet before calling in the pledges, such as raising a certain amount of money or gathering enough signatures on a petition.
- Partner with a willing company or individual for a matching period: your nonprofit gathers $X amount in pledges and the company or individual matches it after the deadline passes.
These conditions or rewards incentivize donors to contribute their pledges by the deadline, either for the good of the community or to earn their rewards.
Either way, your nonprofit and your mission both benefit from the competitive or urgent atmosphere that can grow around campaigns with higher stakes.
If you still need help raising the stakes, check out Snowball’s guide to creating a powerful pledge campaign.
3. Make pledging as easy as possible
Once your ask and campaign are both compelling to your donors, it’s time to start collecting pledges.
For this step in your pledge fundraising campaign, you need to make sure that you have the tools necessary for your nonprofit! No two nonprofits are the same, so you need to make sure that you have the right software for the job.
What are the three most important things to look for in your pledge fundraising tools?
- Speed. If your forms take too long to load or fill out, your donors will lose interest or patience and not finish their pledges.
- Ease of use. The same goes for ease of use. If your form is too complex to be filled out by someone without a PhD in rocket science, no one will pledge to your campaign.
- Flexibility. Your tools need to be customizable for your needs, and easy for you and your team to manage and manipulate for your purposes.
Don’t forget that transparency is key—if your form is easy to use but impossible to understand the requirements of, donors will be less likely to continue with their pledge.
Another thing to consider is how your pledge fundraising tool integrates with your existing software. You want it to be compatible with your current CRM (customer relationship management), so that you can collect new data from your pledges as well as get your previous donors involved in this campaign.
If your supporters feel good about the way they made their pledges, they’re more likely to follow up with their donations after the fact. It makes the whole process easier for them and better for you!
One more way to make pledging as easy as possible is to ensure that the platform that you choose has a mobile pledging option! Allowing people the option to pledge from their phone is a great way to make sure you can reach as many people as possible.
If you’re not sure that your CRM will be compatible with your pledge software, or you feel like it isn’t up to the task of managing your pledge data, check out Salsa’s list of essential nonprofit CRM features for suggestions.
4. Stay organized in tracking your pledges
This next step is vital for getting the most out of your campaign. All the pledges in the world won’t do anything for your mission if you don’t follow up with the donors to ensure that they complete their pledges.
The first thing that you have to remember is that you shouldn’t fear the follow-up stage! Don’t feel as though you’re harassing or annoying your donors. They volunteered to give.
Odds are, they’ll be more relieved that you reminded them than irritated that you’ve been contacting them! Donor acquisition and retention relies on communication and persistence.
To ensure maximum success through your pledge fundraising, automate levels of reminders through your pledge platform or other resource. Consider sending out reminders about unfulfilled pledges at these dates:
- A week before the deadline
- Two days before the deadline
- A week after the deadline
- Two weeks after the deadline
“But won’t they get annoyed?” you might ask. Nope! Deadlines are hard to meet in a busy, professional world, and emails get lost in the shuffle all the time.
Not all of these reminders have to be emails, either: use your donor database to use a donor’s preferred method of communication to reach out to them. Email, phone call, or text are all viable channels to remind someone of their pledge.
If they don’t respond to automated messages by the deadline, personalize the outreach afterwards to convince the donor that your organization cares about your relationship with them.
Consider this person’s history of volunteering, donating, or other forms of engagement with your nonprofit. Mention these things when you talk to them, and remind them of the good that they’ve been able to do through supporting your organization in the past.
Of course, sometimes things happen, and a donor will be unable to fulfill a pledge because of unforeseen circumstances. If this does occur, offer the donor other methods of engagement like sharing the nonprofit’s posts on social media or attending an event.
A pledge is an indication of future support—don’t be afraid to remind your donors of what they promised to do!
To further incentivize your pledgers into completing their donations, follow up with them with information about matching gifts. If your pledger’s employer has a matching gift policy, offer the donor resources about taking advantage of these programs to help your organization.
They’ll feel good about helping your organization beyond their original donation, and your nonprofit will get to take advantage of corporate philanthropy to help achieve your goals.
5. Say thank-you multiple times
The number one rule of donor relationships is that you should always say thank-you. Displaying gratitude is the best way to maintain a strong connection with both your donors and the community in which your nonprofit serves.
There are multiple opportunities to say thank-you during a pledge campaign:
- Immediately upon receiving the pledge
- When the pledge has been fulfilled
- After the campaign deadline has passed
- At the end of the year
It’s important to thank your donors multiple times, because it shows them that you genuinely appreciate their gifts and that they’re more than just a wallet to you.
Giving should be relational, not transactional. Frequently, your donors are also your volunteers, your event attendees, or your most vocal advocates. Saying thank-you is a great way to make giving feel more like a gift, instead of just a payment.
Saying thank-you will also make your donors more willing to support you in the future, because they know that their contributions are recognized and appreciated.
You may have started today asking, “But what’s the difference between fundraising pledges and donations?” Now you’re an expert!
It’s easy to take your best traditional fundraising strategies and apply them to your pledge fundraising campaigns.
But by tweaking those approaches to fit this new campaign style, you can maximize your success and breathe new life into your organization’s supporter base.
John Killoran is CEO of Snowball, an exciting new fundraising technology that makes it easy for people to donate in two clicks from text, email, web and social media sites. John pioneered SMTP payments and has been a major innovator in the mobile payments space for the past 5 years. When he is not running a company, he is cooking food for his family and telling his dogs to stop barking.