Fundraise Smarter

How to Grow Your Nonprofit's Audience Using Creative Pledges

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on Aug 17, 2015 10:00:00 AM

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I want you to envision something for me.

Think about the last time you saw an advertisement that was so compelling you immediately went online and bought the product.

You know, like this:


If you’re having trouble thinking of an instance, you’re not alone. It’s pretty rare that anyone goes from first knowledge of a product to buying, all in one step. Why would you buy immediately? You don’t know or trust the seller yet, and you’re still learning about what you’ll get for your money.

In fact, conventional marketing wisdom tells us that we have to hear a message upwards of seven times before it sticks with us.

Your nonprofit’s donors are often in the same boat, yet many organizations expect online donations to just pour in on their own, without building any kind of relationship first.

Why should they give? You haven’t given them any reason to trust you yet or display what they’ll get for their money!

But how can you build a relationship with anonymous online visitors?

Turning Anonymous Visitors Into Supporters

The problem with many nonprofit’s online presence is that they go straight for the kill: securing a donation. But what about the thousands of people who are learning about your organization for the first time? They’re unlikely to make a donation, but you don’t want to lose them forever.

What you really need is permission for future contact and communications. And that’s where email capture comes in.

Getting online visitors to exchange their email address opens the door for future communications, which you can then use to build a relationship and encourage deeper engagement (including volunteering and donating).

But it’s not enough to just ask someone for their email address. This too is a transaction; they want something in return.

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The Pledge

One of the best (and most under-utilized) methods of capturing supporter emails is the online pledge. This isn’t a pledge to give or even volunteer, but rather a pledge to simply take a micro-action that supports the cause.

The pledge offers several strong benefits. They can effectively collect email addresses for new supporters, they utilize social proof (“Join 47,000 others”), they’re low commitment, and highly shareable.

Let’s take a look at some examples of nonprofit’s utilizing pledges to grow their audiences.


World Wildlife Fund - Act Now to Save Elephants

The World Wildlife Fund put together this landing page that asks animal lovers to add their name to a letter that will be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They’ve set an ambitious goal of 1,000,000 signatures on the letter, and at the time of this writing, they’re 86% there!

There are a couple things about this campaign that make it work so well:

  • Low commitment, big pay-off: supporters don’t need to commit time or money, but they also get to make a difference. A million names on a letter will get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s attention.

  • Setting a goal: By setting a goal for signatures, they encourage supporters to share the letter with their networks. Anyone who signs it is going to want to see the goal met!

  • Asking for a phone number: While not required, WWF asks for a phone number that will opt supporters into their text service. Texting services have a HUGE open and response rate.

Stonewall - No Bystanders

LGBT rights group Stonewall encourages people to take the “No Bystanders” pledge. In doing so, supporters promise to intervene and speak out against bullying and discrimination when they see it.

One of the things that make this particular campaign so effective is the social sharing aspects of the campaign. Those who take the pledge can then share their decision on Twitter, asking others to join them. In fact, the hashtag #NoBystanders has been used over 500 times in the last month!

R-Word - Spread the Word to End the Word

The R-Word campaign exists to encourage everyone to stop using the “r-word” as a derogatory word and to ask others to stop using it when they hear it. The campaign has been highly effective, garnering over 570,000 pledges.

How is it so successful? Partly because of the partnerships they formed to make it happen. The R-Word campaign is supported (and promoted by) the Special Olympics, Best Buddies, and over 200 other organizations across the country.

Beagle Freedom Project - #CrueltyFree Pledge

The Beagle Freedom Project helps find homes for beagles and end animal testing. They also have a pledge called the #CrueltyFree pledge, in which participants agree to stop buying products that are tested on animals.

The coolest thing about this one is that it comes with an app called the Cruelty Cutter. The app lets you scan barcodes on items and find out if they use animal testing or not. Cool!

It’s also effective because beagles are the cutest dogs in the world, man. Just look at that face!



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Image credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0

Topics: nonprofit marketing,

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