New year, new funds! As we roll into the new decade, it is important that we start off on the right foot when it comes to fundraising. Pledge fundraising is an excellent way to rally donor excitement for your cause and to encourage donations. If you’ve never run a pledge campaign before, then now is the perfect time to start— because this year is all about trying new things!

nonprofit board membersAnd in case you’re interested in reflecting back, check out this compilation of some of the top fundraising tips from 2019. Hopefully you and your team have already implemented some (or many!) of these tips into your strategies over the past year and seen excellent results. However, there’s always room to keep experimenting with new fundraising techniques, like pledge campaigns.

Getting into pledge fundraising can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not entirely sure what it is. When executed correctly, pledges can take your nonprofit fundraising strategy to the next level by maintaining donor excitement for you and your cause. 

If you’ve never conducted a pledge campaign before, you probably have some pressing questions, including:

  1. What is pledge fundraising?
  2. What should I know about pledge fundraising?
  3. How can I get the most out of a pledge campaign?
  4. Which type of pledge campaigns are effective?

Don’t worry, here we have laid out some of these answers along with helpful ideas and insights on how to get started. Read on for all you need to know about how to set up a pledge campaign for your nonprofit.

1. What is pledge fundraising?

First, the basics. You might be asking yourself, “what is pledge fundraising, and how is it different than a traditional campaign?” 

The answer is this— a pledge campaign is one that accepts pledges of promised support at a later time instead of the actual funds immediately. 

Three of the major differences between pledges and traditional donations are as follows: 

  • Payment time frame: Whereas in traditional fundraising campaigns the donor would be asked to complete said donation on the spot, a pledge allows for a more flexible payment usually via an online giving platform.

  • Type of campaigns: Pledges tend to do best in situations attached to a sense of urgency (disaster aid, advocacy work, unexpected costs), while traditional donations remain key for more classic fundraising campaigns to support your mission-related initiatives and projects throughout the year

  • Momentum: Pledge fundraising is all about speed and strong user experience. You want the donor to have completed the pledge process before any of that excitement leaves, while traditional donors are a little more likely to lose the momentum when they go rifling for that credit card.

The main focus here for ensuring the success of your campaign is on the emotional connection between the potential donor and your message. This is where you see similarities between pledges and traditional donations— that connection. 

It comes down to this: you have to emotionally connect with your audience (quickly) and then make it super easy for them to click that “pledge” button. 

2. What should I know about pledge fundraising?

Now you’re convinced that your nonprofit needs to run a pledge campaign, but you’re not quite sure where to start. If you’re wondering what to do next, check out these 5 tips:

  • Don’t forget about annual fundraising. Despite pledges being used primarily for campaigns of urgency, it is vital to recognize that pledge campaigns have been notably effective for annual fundraising as well. A great example? The NPR annual pledge drive has been a longstanding tradition necessary to fund the nonprofit’s activities via listener donations. Consider whether this would be a good fit for your organization.


  • Make sure to brand yourself. Branding strategies can help your nonprofit to stand out by differentiating itself from other organizations. While this can include seemingly simple aspects like the logo, color scheme, and font choices, branding also goes far deeper— into a comprehensive understanding of your vision and mission. Establishing your brand can lay the groundwork for the emotional connections necessary to receive donations.


  • Take advantage of the election effect. With 2020 being an election year, donors are more eager than ever to support the causes they care about— especially when they relate to social, political, or environmental issues. If part of your brand focuses on one of these related subjects, make sure to highlight that element as the election draws near.


  • Write a donation request letter. A well-written donation request letter can tap into the donor’s emotional connection with the mission by explaining what your organization is striving to accomplish and how each donor can help out. In order to do so, you want to make your letter as personal as possible; but if you get stuck, check out this how-to guide on drafting the perfect donation letter with 14 different templates. Finally, consider these 6 potential issues with your letter and try to correct before sending off. 

Following these tips will increase donor engagement with your organization by positioning your nonprofit as relevant in the world around us. When you connect with your audience through a meaningful message, they will be more likely to give to your mission.

3. How can I get the most out of a pledge campaign?

If you’re going to run a pledge campaign, you’re going to want to run the best one possible for your nonprofit. There are so many things to take into consideration in this planning phase, but we believe that these three tools will be able to make your campaign work for you

  • Decide which pledge software to use. There are so many choices to comb through when looking for the perfect donation platform, and so many factors going into that decision, especially when you’re looking for more specialized tools like pledge software. Does the software provide a quick, simple process for the donor to input their contact information? Is the interface user-friendly? Are there other tools available for purchase together? These are the kind of variables to take into consideration when making such a choice.

  • Encourage text-to-give. One such tool included in many software packages is text-to-give. Incorporating text-to-give in your pledge campaign will allow for your audience to more easily access your donation platform. As it becomes a more popular and convenient option across campaigns world-wide, donors are more accustomed to donating via text message. This approach also offers an easy way to follow up with donors by sending out a thank-you and/or an update.

  • Use social media. The urgency conveyed through a pledge campaign is something that can translate easily to a social media campaign. Social networking platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can allow you to communicate with your donors in an instant, providing updates on fundraising goals, event logistics, and any other relevant information. Check out this guide on how to use social media as a fundraising tool.

Through the implementation of online software, text-to-give programs, and social media platforms, you will be ensuring the accessibility of your campaign in our increasingly digitized world. These tools will allow for your campaign to reach a wider audience and provide a user-friendly giving experience that will work together to draw in those funds you need.

4. Which type of pledge campaigns are effective?

When it comes to running a pledge campaign, there are so many options to choose from. These four categories are some of the most popular types of pledge campaigns, each with their own particular sets of pros and cons. 

  • A-thons: From the root word marathon, the classic walk-a-thon has since been expanded into run-a-thon, swim-a-thon, bike-a-thon, dance-a-thon, read-a-thon, etc. Participants get involved in the fundraising process by drawing in pledges from supporters, who agree to give a fixed amount per lap (or mile, book, dance, or other interval), with the total being paid out after the event. This is an exciting way to get involved for both participants and supporters alike. Read more about setting up a walk-a-thon fundraiser with 99Pledges.


  • Offering rewards: Providing unique prizes for certain donations can encourage donors to give with that little extra push in knowing they will get something special for themselves out of it. Although we know that your donors give from a heart for others in their community, it is human nature to desire these little thank-you gifts. A branded tee shirt, baseball cap, water bottle, etc. could be the perfect thing to inspire new donations. And another plus for you— free advertising!


  • Gift matching: Finding a business or a group in your community that is willing to match the total incoming donations is something that can take your campaign up several levels. Not only can this quite literally increase your total funds by 100% or more, it can also encourage potential donors to give more than they originally would have. 


  • Contests & games: Adding a little extra fun to the campaign will drum up both awareness and funds, leading to a more successful fundraiser. One way to do this might be through some sort of battle of the sexes, where men and women compete to see who can raise the most money. Drawing out the competitive side of your audience is a surefire way to get the donations flowing.

So many choices. How will you know which one is best for you and your organization? Figure out how to best connect with your unique donor network and what you think will most appeal to them. Choose one that you like best, or combine a few to create your own unique pledging campaign strategy.

Be sure to take advantage of these fundraising tips and tricks for starting a pledge campaign. We know that fundraising can be stressful, but we hope to have answered some of your big questions. If you’re ready to jump into the planning process now, head on over to this list of more than 75 fundraising ideas from Snowball. Good luck and happy planning!

Author: John Killoran

John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations. 

Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.