Cashing in on Pledges with Respect and Tact

Dear Kim,

I am the Director of Stewardship at our human service agency. Yesterday, we had a fancy lunch for a group of donors and presented them with a pledge card with dessert. The card came after my “sublime and gothic” tour of our old church building wherein we admired the stained glass windows (sublime) and a spotlighted boiler room (gothic), showing big price tags for all the heating system work we had done this year.

Many people pledged substantial gifts before the end of 2004. How do I communicate with them about fulfilling their pledges? I would like to send a respectful note, very non-invoice in nature.

—”A promise made is a debt unpaid” (from the poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service)

Dear Unpaid,

I am going to make two assumptions about your event and the pledges you got. The first is that the pledge card which people filled out indicated when and how they want to pay their pledge. “I, Sally Smith, pledge $1,000 to Human Service Agency. I will pay this quarterly, starting in August.” Second, I am going to assume that you have written all the people who made pledges to thank them for coming to the event and for their pledge, and that those letters went out within 48 hours of the event. In this thank you letter, you have stated your understanding of how the pledge will be paid.

For example:

“Dear Sally,
Thank you so much for coming to our event and for your very generous pledge of $1,000. Your gift will do more good than you can even imagine. I understand you will pay this pledge quarterly starting in August. I will send you a reminder and a return envelope each quarter. Thanks again.”

A return envelope was enclosed in the letters to people you understood to be starting their pledge payments right away. For the people you refer to who made pledges to be paid by the end of 2004, but were not more specific than that, wait until the first week in December and then send a letter thanking people again for their pledge and noting that you have included a stamped return envelope for their convenience. In the case of really large pledges (over $5,000), you may want to call the donors in early December and ask them what they need from you in order to complete their pledge (i.e. information about making a gift of stock.)

Since you were able to get so many donors to the old church where you have your office and you were able to persuade them to make significant pledges, I imagine you have a good donor program in place now. So you will be in touch with your major donors at least twice between now and the end of the year anyway just to let them know how your new boiler is coming along, or what’s happening with your programs.

It will be easy enough in the course of those conversations or letters to thank them again for their pledge, which will serve as a gentle reminder.
—Kim