Pledge drives are an excellent way for nonprofits, churches, and advocacy groups to get donors to commit to a particular giving amount regularly. Pledges are promises that a donor makes to a nonprofit about donations in kind or cash at a later date. Running pledge drives greatly helps nonprofits make predictable estimates of income and funds and how they can allocate them throughout the year.
Pledge drives are a reliable source of income for nonprofit organizations because 84% of event fundraising pledges are fulfilled with an average donation amount of $167 via mobile pledges.
This article explores pledge drives in detail and how you can leverage this fundraising method for your nonprofit organization.
How does a pledge drive work?
Many people confuse a pledge with a donation. A pledge is different from a donation.
A donation is an immediate exchange of money between parties.
However, a pledge is a promise of payment at a later date. It leads to a donation eventually, just not right away.
Pledge drives are the easiest way for nonprofits to raise predictable, large-scale money. Donors can make a pledge that is:
1. Conditional, meaning they will only pay out a certain sum when certain conditions are met.
2. Unconditional, meaning the donor has committed to donating an amount irrespective of circumstances.
Nonprofits can organize events such as a walk-a-thon to boost pledges, or it could be an ongoing campaign with no specified start date.
How do you organize a pledge drive?
Organizing a pledge drive will help your nonprofit:
- Raise predictable income.
- Gain long-term, recurring donors.
- Build awareness about your organization.
- Create a fundraising funnel for the future.
For all of that to be possible, your pledge drive needs to be memorable, build donors’ faith in you and prove successful. We’ve listed a few ways in which you can organize an excellent pledge drive.
- Decide on the type of event you want to host.
- Select a date and time.
- Determine your goals.
- Choose what type of pledge you want to accept.
- Choose your method of fundraising.
- Build your team and divide responsibilities.
- Choose the right tools.
- Promote your pledge drive.
Let’s explore these points in detail.
Decide on the type of event you want to host
To begin with, you need to decide whether you want an event-based pledge drive or not. Here are 4 of the most popular types of pledge drives that you can organize:
- A-thons: walk-a-thons, jog-a-thons, read-a-thons – you get the drift. Organizing any of these events can help you receive pledges from participants. Participants can pledge a certain amount per lap that they run, for example. Volunteers can also solicit pledges from observers at these events.
- Rewards-based pledges: Yes, donations and pledges come from a place of altruism. However, receiving little rewards for the amount you have donated only gives a serotonin boost to donors to make them feel good about making a pledge with you. You could announce rewards based on donation amounts and arrange for higher rewards for higher pledge amounts.
- Matching gifts: For every dollar a person pledges to your organization, find a business or high-value donor willing to match it. Not only will it double the amount you have raised immediately, but it will also encourage individual donors to give more.
- Contests: A contest-based pledge drive is a fun way to raise funds for your nonprofit. You can organize friendly, competitive contests and games where volunteers and participants can compete to gain more pledges, raise more money, etc.
Choose from these 4 popular pledge drive campaigns to begin yours.
Select a date and time
Depending on the type of pledge drive campaign you decide to run, you will need to select a suitable date to begin. A few good pointers to choosing the perfect date for your pledge drive are:
- Consider the season and if it influences the type of pledge campaign you want to run.
- Eliminate dates with high competition. For example, you may not want to host your pledge drive on thanksgiving day – a day which people would prefer to spend with their families or loved ones.
- Factor in any public events that might hinder your plans.
- Know days of the week when your audience is most likely to attend. A weekend could be a good possibility.
Use these pointers to select the perfect date for your pledge drive campaign. Once you have the date in mind, you can begin reverse planning your event and set a schedule you can follow.
Determine your goals
Work backward and determine what your pledge drive goals are. Here are some questions to give you clarity:
- Is there a pledge amount I will be happy with?
- What pledge amount do I need to raise to meet my annual goals?
- Do I want to begin a donor nurturing journey post the event to get more people committed?
Every nonprofit organization can have very different goals regarding pledge drives. The common one, of course, is raising funds. It is up to your organization and key decision-makers to determine the goals of your pledge drive. These goals will guide most of your decisions when launching a pledge campaign.
Choose what type of pledge you want to accept
There are two types of pledges that you can accept:
- Variable pledge: A variable pledge is an amount that a participant, family members, or friends can pledge depending on the effort that was put into the event. It is a conditional pledge. For example, a participant could pledge a certain amount for every mile they walk in a walk-a-thon event.
A variable pledge can be complicated because you will need to collect the amount after the event. People might change their minds, or take time to calculate the effort put in. However, if you want to offer flexibility, you could opt to accept variable pledges.
- Flat pledge: Flat pledges are a fixed amount that people commit to donating, prior to the pledge drive event. It is an unconditional pledge. You should always accept flat pledges because it guarantees an amount even before you’ve begun your pledge drive. Ensure your volunteers swiftly collect these pledges.
Choose your method of pledge collection
There are two ways in which you can collect pledges:
- Offline pledges: You can ask donors to pledge a certain amount offline and hand cash to you as payment. They can fill out pledge forms, gather the cash and drop it off at your center.
However, it might be an inconvenient way for donors to donate pledge amounts, especially if they have to travel to make this donation.
- Online pledges: Online pledges are more accessible to make donations. Decide if you want to include online pledges as part of your drive. You can ask donors to donate through links you share via texts, through your website, or payment partners such as Venmo or PayPal.
A good idea would be to include offline and online pledges as a part of your strategy since different donors have different preferences. Some might prefer the accessibility of an online pledge donation, while others might prefer the trustworthiness of an offline donation.
Build your team and divide responsibilities
A pledge drive is a huge undertaking, with a lot at stake for a nonprofit organization. You need a team to make your pledge drive a success. Here are a few roles you can assign or hire for:
- Event manager
- Finance and sponsorship manager
- Outreach coordinator
- Social media manager
When you hire or assign people to these top positions, you can divide the rest of your staff and volunteers under each team. Ensure everyone gets adequate help to make their work easier.
Choose the right tools
The right tools for pledge drives are essential for a smooth campaign. Here’s a list of tools you might want to consider:
- Communication tools: Communication tools help you conduct outreach campaigns to let people know about your campaign, send invitations via texts, make calls for sponsorships, follow up after the event, etc. It helps further when the communication tools, such as CallHub’s calling and texting software integrate with your CRM to ensure all your data is in one place for easy access.
- Social media platforms: Social media platforms are a must to ensure higher outreach to prospective donors and participants in your pledge drive. Choose the platforms on which your ideal donors are most likely to be and promote your campaign there.
- CRM system: A good CRM software will log all your data, help your outreach plan, help you plan your event, and coordinate with team members. A good CRM system is a must-have investment for a successful pledge drive.
Promote your pledge drive
The only way donors will show up and participate in your pledge drive is if you promote it well enough. Here are a few ways to promote your campaign:
- Email newsletters: Regularly share emails with your donor database to speak about your pledge drive and its goals.
- Text messages: Share mass text messages to your donor list to remind them about your event. You could also share campaign posters via MMS. 49% of all pledges come through text messages.
- Phone calls: Make your outreach team run a calling campaign, especially for high-value donors to invite them to the event personally or talk about the pledge drive. You can even run a robocall campaign to reduce effort and cost and save time. 51% of pledges come through call centers.
- Flyers: Print and distribute flyers in your neighborhood to let your local community know about your pledge drive. Flyers can reach people who may not be a part of your database and encourage them to attend.
How can you receive pledges?
There are many ways in which your supporters can pledge money to your organization. While we’ve explored some in the section above, there is still more you should know.
Donors fill pledge cards to show their intent to donate to your organization. A pledge card can ask for information such as a donor’s name, address, phone number, and email ID. A donor can also fill in the amount they wish to pledge to your campaign.
You can use a pledge card to your advantage by also asking donors to indicate their payment preferences, communication preferences, etc.
Donation pledge forms
Donation pledge forms are similar to pledge cards. However, it also includes a section where donors can fill in the payment information to start contributing immediately. Donors can fill out donation forms either in-person or online through your website.
Text to pledge
You can run a text-to-pledge campaign using texting features such as SMS opt-in. Prospective donors can text you on a shortcode or 10DLC number that you advertise and pledge their support for your organization. This method eliminates manual data entry, can reach a large number of people, and is accessible to many.
Are pledges legally enforceable?
Imagine this, you have done all the groundwork for your pledge drive, conducted a successful event, reached all your goals, and planned your budget for the year ahead. What if a donor refuses to honor their pledge now? Is a pledge legally enforceable?
A pledge is a contractual agreement between a nonprofit and its supporters and not a mere promise. Therefore, the rules that apply to general contracts also apply to pledges. However, different states have different rules for the enforceability of a pledge.
A charitable pledge is enforceable under two circumstances:
- If it is a legally binding contract. This means that there is an agreement between you and the donor through a legal document.
- The charity has relied detrimentally on the pledge. This means that a donor knows that not fulfilling the pledge will incur significant losses for the nonprofit in question.
To avoid most of your hassles when receiving a pledge donation, ensure you receive written pledges instead of oral ones so that you have evidence if need be.
Setting up a pledge drive is a great way to generate much-needed dollars for your organization. However, ensuring as many people are aware of it as possible is a key step in ensuring its success. You can read our article Text Message Marketing for Nonprofits: The Most Effective Use Cases
CallHub can help you in your mission with its range of communication tools to assist you. You can even try CallHub for free for 14 days, to begin with. All the best for your pledge drive!
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