An annoying legal loophole--that one about charities. But the theory was that philanthropists should continue to be philanthropic, which is usually a good thing.
Your instincts were right about the potential legal ramifications of pledging. A pledge may be considered a legal contract, although state laws differ as to whether charitable pledges are actually enforceable. Since your mother has Alzheimer's, however, she would likely be regarded as lacking the capacity to enter a legally binding contract. And in deciding whether to actually go after pledge promises, charities are encouraged to consider:
- The overall impact of the gift on the organization
- Whether the pledge came from a longtime donor
- How the nonprofit's board would likely react, and
- How the action might look to the public.
Applying these guidelines, no charity is likely to go after your mom for her relatively small pledge promises. But unfortunately, that doesn't mean an end to the hectoring calls by the volunteers or staff members trained to be dogged about collecting them.
While charities are exempt from state and federal Do Not Call list provisions, every charity must maintain its own such list--and is not supposed to call potential contributors who ask not to be called again. There is leakage in reality, but if you are present when such calls come in, you can make the request. You might also write down a brief statement for your mother to make to such callers and encourage her to keep it near the phone if that is feasible for her.