Following Up on Outstanding Pledges — the Right Way


Fundraising Tips

Nonprofits Mar. 21st, 2024

It can be uncomfortable — for both sides — to reach out to someone who promised to donate but hasn’t. Read on to learn how to prevent outstanding pledges, and the best ways to follow up on those past due.

Nonprofits expect to have some past due pledges for any number of reasons: Bad timing, down economy, honest forgetfulness, and unfortunate circumstances, to name a few. While outstanding pledges are often outside of your nonprofit’s control, there’s always one thing that is: staying loyal to your donor. They believed in you when they promised to donate, so now it’s time to believe in them. Here’s how to do it.

#1 Be persistent, but not annoying

Just because a pledge is outstanding doesn’t mean you have to give up on it — actually, quite the opposite. But it also doesn’t help to call and email every day. So, where’s the balance?

Most Customer and Donor Relationship Management (CRM) platforms keep track of every pledge, so you can ensure that aged pledges are getting the attention they deserve. When several letters or emails go unread, reach out through call, text, or DM. These low-pressure, multi-channel approaches are effective ways to nudge your past-due donors, without annoying them. 

#2 Be communicative 

Following up quickly with every donor after a pledge is crucial — but it also sets you up to handle outstanding pledges with accountability. Pre-written pledge templates built into a CRM go a long way to keep the communication flowing. For instance, FundHero’s templates directly link the donation page into each pledge letter — offering a quick and seamless way to pay without it looking like an invoice. 

In each communication, whether it be an email, letter, or phone call, make sure it has the feel of a good-faith reminder. Words like “past due”, “invoice”, or “bill” are off-putting to past-due donors. Instead, show your gratitude,call it a “pledge reminder”, and keep them updated on what your nonprofit is up to.

#3 Listen to their concerns

Past-due donors rarely intend for it to happen, so sympathize with their circumstances when it does. And while no nonprofit wants to hear it, sometimes, donors will simply change their minds. So, when you reach out to them to follow up on their outstanding pledge, listen to what they have to say. 

In the case of a specific concern about their pledge, your nonprofit, or both, have an open and honest conversation about it. Let them know your managing a budget and checking in with outstanding pledges to see if the donor is still planning to contribute. Being on the same page lets you know if you need to extend a deadline, reaffirm your nonprofit’s impact, and answer any questions the donor may have to show them they’re in the loop.

Tips for preventing outstanding pledges

When it’s all said and done, the best way to deal with outstanding pledges is to prevent them in the first place. A few simple steps can help safeguard your pledges without putting off your donors:

1.) Set Firm Deadlines: If donors know exactly when they need to pay, they’re far more likely to fulfill their pledges on time.

2.) Ask for Hard Pledges: Soft pledges (pledges without a specific amount) are far more likely to fall into past-due status than hard pledges (asking them to give a certain amount) — the firmer the pledge, the more likely the donation will match it.

3.) Quick Confirmation: After a pledge is made, communicate directly with your donors — this can be a thank you email, letter, or text confirming the pledge and due date. In fact, experts say that pledges not followed up with within 72 hours are significantly less likely to turn into donations.

4.) Thorough Follow Up: Before the deadline is up, reach out to your donors at least once — additional thank yous and gentle reminders go a long way. Additionally, when following up, reinforce the impact the donor will have with their gift.

You never know if you’ll have to follow up on a pledge, but remember to stand by your donor anyway — in both good times and bad.

Eric Bloom

With 17 years of experience, I have become accustomed to identifying key issues in order to craft impactful operational strategies, while fostering trust through exceeding expectations. My cross-industry experience (from politics to finance to healthcare to name a few) informs innovative solutions, tailored to address unique concerns and bolster the reach and effectiveness of initiatives.