• Noah Maier

Chasing Pledges

Political pledge chasing wipes the floor with the non-profit world. Of course, it has to—most non-profit pledges come in without effort. Deadlines in the non-profit world are more relaxed. Non-profits concern themselves with donor retention. None of those things apply to the wacky world of politics.

Political fundraisers are the world's leaders in the art of chasing down promises. But never fear. If you're at a non-profit, you can use a watered-down version of this process to achieve the same results.

People don't like to write about this part of fundraising because it can feel like bill collecting. I prefer to think of it as an issue of justice. Justice because the donor promised you something and didn't fulfill it. At the very least they should have the courtesy to tell you no. My mama raised me to be polite, but it seems like many other folks don't have that same upbringing.

First, let's discuss pledges. There are only four categories of a pledge: "Will Give," "Try to Give," "Will Raise," "Try to Raise." Will Give means that you've promised me you'll write a check. Try to raise tells me you're pretty sure you can get $X from your friends.

You can project out totals with some accuracy by using these numbers. Will Give checks come in at a rate of about 80%. Try to Give is at 60%. Will Raise commitments yield about 40%. And the elusive Try to Raise brings up the rear at 20% completion.

In most circumstances, I use a systemic follow-up system – the 10-7-5-3 system. It's straightforward. Ten days after the pledge, follow up. If that doesn't get a response, try again in 7 days. Then 5, then 3. Once you're at 3, keep following up every three days until they send you a check, tell you they can't do it, or they die.

You'll vary the medium and the message. Try texts, calls, and emails. Use polls, campaign messaging, and news articles.

This all takes place days after the pledge. But the essential pledge chasing happens in the first 10 minutes.

After the donor hangs up, immediately send an email thanking them. Include the specified date and amount. Include the number of days until that date, and two ways to give: online and by check. Include links to your website and your mailing address. Text both of those to the donor as well. That 10-minute follow-up will bring in the majority of your solicited funds.

The goal here is to hold your donors accountable, but do it in a way that makes sense for you. Feel free to steal this system and tailor it to your needs.

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