Frequently Asked Question

How permanent is a giving pledge?


A pledge is a promise, or oath, to be made seriously and with every expectation of keeping it. But if someone finds that they can no longer keep their giving pledge (for instance due to serious unforeseen circumstances), then they can simply revoke their pledge or contact us, discuss the matter if need be, and then cease to be a member if they so decide. They can of course rejoin later if they renew their commitment.

Some of us find the analogy of marriage a helpful one: you make a promise with firm intent, you make life plans based on it, you structure things so that it’s difficult to back out of, and you commit your future self to doing something even if you don’t feel like it at the time. But at the same time, there’s a chance that things will change so drastically that you will break this tie.

Breaking a pledge is not something to be done for reasons of convenience, or simply because you think your life would be better if you had more money. But we believe there are two kinds of situations where it’s acceptable to withdraw from the pledge.

  • One situation is when it would impose extreme costs for you. If you find yourself in hardship and don’t have any way to donate what you committed to while maintaining a reasonable quality of life for yourself and your dependents, this is a good reason to withdraw your pledge. (Note that during unemployment you aren’t required to donate.)
  • The other is when you find that you have an option to do more good. For example, imagine you pledged and are now deciding whether to found a nonprofit (which will take all your financial resources) or keep your “day job” in order to be able to donate your pledged amount. If you have good reason to believe that the nonprofit will do significantly more good than the donations, that founding the nonprofit is not compatible with donating your pledged amount, and that you would not be able to make up the gap in donations within a couple of years, withdrawing your pledge would be a reasonable thing to do.

The spirit of a pledge is not to stop you from doing more good, and is not to lead you to ruin. If you find that it’s doing either of these things, you should probably break your pledge.

We understand that some people have a very strong definition of “pledge” as meaning something that must not be broken under any circumstances. If this is your sense of the word, and you wouldn’t want to take a pledge if there were any chance of you being unable to keep it, you might find that taking one or more shorter duration Trial Pledges is a better fit for you.

Still have questions?

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