Could you imagine being approved for a mortgage or a higher limit on a credit card, without providing I.D. or a current address, a credit check or income verification, or signing any paperwork? Why wouldn’t a bank or other financial institution accept a verbal agreement or handshake?
Now, before you start questioning my sanity, let’s consider: How different is that scenario from basing your ministry’s budget on pledged giving? We’ll look at the benefits pledge drives provide, the potential problems unfulfilled pledges create, and an alternative means of raising funds.
Benefits of Pledge Drives
Many ministries, like this church group, use pledges to determine annual budgets. For secular non-profits that may achieve high-value pledge amounts, this method of fundraising may be nearly as iron-clad as cash given up front. Why? In 30 states, carefully drafted pledge agreements are considered legally enforceable documents.
Of course, for Christian ministries, clear biblical instruction against lawsuits (1 Corinthians 6) would prohibit legal action against those whose pledges remain unfulfilled. Even for those with no qualms about taking legal action, though, PR could struggle. Even if that was of no concern, the size of promised donations could make taking givers to court financially counter-productive.
Problems with Pledged Gifts
Depending on the type of organization and a host of other factors, pledge fulfillment is unpredictable, at best. The smaller your ministry, the more intensely you feel the ramifications of unfulfilled pledges. Many givers fail to realize that their failure to meet their obligations leads to your ministry’s being unable to fulfill contracts and other expectations, from payroll to lease agreements.
For missionaries, this can mean having to come off the field prematurely; for ministries of all shapes and sizes, lack of funding leads to limited ministry potential. Even when 90% or more of pledged gifts are fulfilled, they’re usually only for a year’s time, and then the same fundraising efforts need to be made in order to fill next year’s financial needs.
Exceptional Alternatives to Pledges
Recurring electronic giving tools provide an alternative to pledges, with all their weaknesses. eGiving.com has seen a retention rate of 95% over a 5-year period. That means not having to host costly, labor-intensive fundraising campaigns. That means having secure funding that hinges on something stronger than a promise or good intentions.
If your givers are truly willing to sacrificially give to your ministry, why wouldn’t they be willing to attach their bank accounts to their promises? Only one reason comes to mind: They don’t really intend to follow through.
If that’s the case, your ministry certainly won’t want to budget based on their “pledges,” anyway. When you request that givers move from pledges to eGiving.com EFT-based electronic giving, they don’t have to remember to write a check each month; instead, they continue to give when they do nothing. Call it a failsafe for faithfulness. Call it an answer that works.
Photo credits: Top © photo-dave / Fotolia. Bottom © Edyta Pawlowska / Fotolia.