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When to Use an Open-Ended Pledge Card

Interested in pledge cards? We’ve created the Ultimate Guide to Pledge Cards.

Have you ever wondered what type of donation pledge card is best for your non-profit direct mail appeal?

When was the last time you took a close look at the pledge card you’re sending with your direct mail appeal? Did you know that certain kinds of pledge cards work best with different groups of donors?

We did a research project where we asked our clients to send us their pledge card examples, along with all the strategies that went into the layout and design of each card. Then we compiled the data. What we learned is that there are essentially two types of pledge cards: open-ended cards and pledge cards that use ask strings.

Here’s what we learned, and what we recommend as best practices for using those two kinds of cards.

What is the Difference Between Open-Ended Pledge Cards and a Pledge Card with Ask Amounts

An open-ended pledge card contains all the usual components of a pledge card such as donor name, address, and phone number, but it leaves the donation amount up to the donor. On this type of pledge card, the donor is invited to write in the amount of his or her gift on the line provided.

A pledge card with ask amounts contains several suggested gift amounts, allowing the donor to simply check the box next to the desired level of support. There is also a spot where the donor can choose to write in a custom amount instead of selecting one of the suggested amounts. Pledge cards with ask amounts provide a great opportunity to encourage donors to make recurring gifts, as the design typically breaks down the suggested gift amounts into monthly increments.

For both options, remember to include a link for online giving and customize the donation pages for each type of pledge card.

Open-ended pledge card

open ended pledge card


Pledge card with ask amounts

pledge card donation form

Which Type of Pledge Card Performs Best

While research shows that pledge cards with ask amounts raise the most money and outperform open-ended pledge cards in most circumstances, we learned there is an exception to this rule, and it has to do with soliciting major donors.

Presenting major donors with pre-determined ask amounts on their pledge card can actually depress the gift size from your best donors. For example, if someone has been giving more than $10,000 to your organization, your best approach is NOT to send them a pledge card with a checkbox next to $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 etc. Instead, thank them for their generosity and present them with a pledge card that allows them to write in the size of their gift. It’s a better donation experience for the major donor, and it will raise you more money as well.

For all other donors, make sure to send pledge cards with specific ask amounts or “ask strings.” This will elevate giving and encourage recurring gifts. The pledge card should be personalized to each donor and contain 3, 4, or 5 suggested ask amounts and a spot for other, allowing the donor to check the amount he or she would like to give.

When setting your ask strings for each donor, you want to present them with gift options that are not too high, and not too low.

Strategies for Donation Pledge Cards

When designing your pledge card, the most critical factor is the ask amount you’re presenting to the donor. The second most important factor is the design – how easy it is for the donor to make a gift to your organization. Resist the temptation to overcommunicate and instead, focus on designing a card that includes these elements

  • Easy to read and orderly
  • Starts with an affirmation statement (“Yes! I want to feed the hungry…”)
  • Invites donors to make a gift online through an easy-to-use URL and a QR code
  • Includes donor recognition badges where appropriate, such as highlighting the fact that the donor has given to each of the previous four appeals

To elevate your nonprofit direct mail campaign, create easy-to-follow donation response cards with ask strings for all donors not identified as major donors. Help donors elevate their giving by offering 3, 4, or 5 giving options and offer monthly recurring gift options. Use open-ended pledge cards to help with major donor cultivation. When sending donors to your online donation pages, make sure the donation pages are personalized to the donor and not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Would you like to learn more about how to set personalized ask amounts for thousands of donors at once? Sign up for our upcoming webinar where we will give a full platform overview and live demo of AskGenius. This webinar will include how to set the perfect ask string for every prospect on your mailing list based on giving history, wealth research, demographics and behavioral science.

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