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Most institutions typically have a donor sign a pledge form that indicates
amount, payment schedule, and designation.
Generally an email from the donor can be accepted.
It depends on the donor, the amount of the pledge and other circumstances. It makes more sense to accept for a one time gift, but for a pledge and schedule covering multiple years, it's better to send the donor a confirmation letter that they can sign and return.
Obviously for higher amounts you would definitely want to get additional confirmation of the donor's intent.
There are times that donors may tell major gift officers they will make a pledge. A pledge normally shouldn't be booked on a verbal commitment, but could be booked based on the major gift officer's confirmation letter or email.
Your auditors can also help you determine what is the minimal amount of acceptable documentation required from a donor for a pledge to be recorded.