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What to do with unfulfilled pledges

Posted September 24, 2019 by Virginia Davidson

How to manage unfulfilled pledges

If your organization collects pledges as part of its fundraising efforts, you’ve likely come across a pledge record that has an outstanding balance and the payment is long past due. How do you handle these unfulfilled pledges?

Tips to manage unfulfilled pledges

You probably have a system for sending pledge reminders. It’s a good rule of thumb to have a system in place for dealing with late pledge payments, too. For example, once a payment is overdue, you could take the following approach:

  1. Send reminders at 30, 60, and 90 days overdue.
  2. Follow up with a phone call if the payment reaches 120 days overdue.
  3. If the pledge remains overdue as your fiscal year draws to a close, send one final reminder.
  4. If the pledge is still unfulfilled at the end of your fiscal year, write it off. Are you using a donor management system like Little Green Light? If so, there will likely be functionality allowing you to write off the remainder of the pledge balance.

You might decide to send fewer reminders than the approach described above, but whatever you choose the important thing is to determine a plan that is comfortable for your organization—sending these pledge reminders takes an investment of staff time and effort. You’ll need to have the capacity to implement your plan consistently, and you should confer with your organization’s bookkeeper to make sure your process is in line with accounting practices.

Ideally, your donor will respond with the pledge payment, in which case the payment can be applied to the pledge. In other cases, the donor may respond to tell you that they are no longer able to fulfill the pledge. While not the desired outcome, that’s valuable information to receive. You can then proceed with writing off the pledge.

Strike the right tone in reminders

Just as you need to strike the right tone in your pledge reminders, it’s equally important to do that when you’re communicating with donors about overdue pledge payments. Avoid mimicking the look of an invoice, and don’t stamp “Past Due” on your communications or otherwise make your donor feel scolded. It’s better to write off the pledge and preserve the long-term relationship with the donor than to leave the donor with an unpleasant feeling about your organization. They were interested enough to pledge to begin with; even if this pledge is written off, presumably they’ll make another gift when they’re able.


An unfulfilled pledge is disappointing for the organization, and probably unpleasant for the donor as well. With a thoughtful plan in place, you can ensure that the donor still feels respected and remains an ally of your organization.

3 thoughts on “What to do with unfulfilled pledges

    1. Hi Megan,

      We recommend striking a balance between the two: include key details about the pledge and make those stand out, but also reiterate your appreciation to the donor and share a brief update about your organization. You don’t want the donor to feel like they’re getting a bill in the mail, but you also don’t want those pledge details to be buried among the text. Hope that helps!

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