What is the proper protocol when you have emailed and invoiced a donor who pledged and you receive no response? An askAPB question from LH in Porter County, Indiana.
Great question, LH!
I always like to assume the best about people--they pledged their gift wholeheartedly, voluntarily, and in good faith at the time of the pledge. There are three reasons why folks aren't responding:
- They haven't gotten around to it. Donors lead complicated lives. Check out my earlier post about pleasant persistence vs. donor stalking.
- Something has changed in their financial situation, and they can't fulfill the pledge right now.
- They just plain aren't interested in the cause anymore.
Your job is to figure out which of these situations applies. So, pick up the phone and invite them (to coffee or for a tour) for a project update. Share your goals for the meeting: (1) to provide real examples of how their financial commitment has been working for your clients, and (2) to discuss the status of fundraising progress toward your goal.
The phone conversation alone may provide the detail you need.
- Folks may respond, "Oh, LH, I'm so sorry I've forgotten to put that check in the mail. I'll take care of it right away. It would be lovely to see you."
- Donors may say, "Yes, of course. We've had a delay in our payment schedule, but I still plan to make a payment... hopefully in 60 days." Remember, gifts are made on the donors' timetable, not always yours. Tell them you understand and you appreciate their commitment. Perhaps you can negotiate partial payment terms, or monthly auto-billing on a credit or debit card. If it is a larger payment, you could suggest fulfilling the pledge with a gift of appreciated stock or a gift directly from an IRA distribution.
- People may not take your call. Continue to try periodically with paper, email, and phone check-ins. Always be optimistic. After a significant amount of time has passed and you've had a thorough discussion with your CFO, you may need to write-off uncollected pledges. However, I would remain positive in periodic (minimal cost) communications with the pledge-maker. You may not know or understand the reason for the delinquency, but that pledge-maker still has a voice in the community and may still have an affection for your cause.
Hope this helps, LH! If other readers have additional ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments below.