6 Guidelines to Create a Gift Chart for Your Fundraising Campaign

How to Make a Better Chart

Jersey City, New Jersey, Man's hand putting dollars into donation box
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What Is a Gift Range Chart?

A gift chart is a planning tool to tell you how many gifts and prospects you will need to raise a specific amount of money.

Gift charts came from the observation that giving is a pyramid. In just about any fundraising campaign, most of the money will come from just a few donors, with the rest donated in more modest amounts but by more people. Consequently, one can construct a chart that shows how many donors you need for each level of your funding goal.

 

The chart helps you to see if you have enough potential donors at various levels to meet your goal. In the chart above, the most significant figures are how many donors needed at a particular level, and the number of potential donors required to get that many donations.

Gift charts will be different for various types of fundraising campaigns. For instance, in a capital campaign (where you raise funds for a building, endowment, or other capital expenditure) the chart will likely have more major donors at the top of the chart. You might expect to receive 60 percent of your goal with only six to eight people.

With an annual campaign, there may be more donors at the middle and lower levels. So you could expect to receive 30 percent of your final goal from six to eight major donors.

In either case, it's typical to secure major donors first and use the fact that those donors have bought into the project or the campaign to motivate donors from the lower ranges.

 In annual campaigns, charities often use a major gift as a match to motivate donors to give smaller amounts.

You can even use a gift chart for a crowdfunding campaign, but most of the donations will be smaller ones. One source suggests that the average individual contribution is more than $80 for campaigns like this, but people who mount fundraising pages for your cause raise on average $500 plus.

Your gift chart for a such a campaign could use your estimates of how many people will respond to your appeal and how many evangelists you're likely to have.

Creating a Gift Chart Is Job Number One for Any Fundraising Campaign

Creating a gift chart should be your first step in determining whether a campaign goal is attainable (or perhaps not ambitious enough!).

Gift charts are not created using this math: to raise $100,000 we will need to ask 100 people for $1,000. Instead, they are built like a pyramid — we need one top gift, several major gifts, and many smaller gifts.

Six Guidelines for Creating a Gift Chart

  1. The lead gift should be at least 15 percent and maybe up to 25 percent or more of the goal.
  2. Build the chart downwards by cutting the gift size in half and doubling or tripling the number of donors at each level.
  3. Round the donation levels up or down to avoid weird numbers.
  4. Roughly 80 percent of your goal will come from 20 percent of your donors.
  5. For each gift, you need three or four qualified prospects (not everyone will say yes to the amount you are seeking). “Qualified” means that you have some reason to believe the person would consider a gift at that level.
  6. As you go down the list, you need fewer prospects because people who said no at higher levels may give smaller gifts.

    Of course, no campaign ever goes exactly according to the chart. But the gift chart is a place to start. It can guide your planning throughout your campaign.

    If you have an established donor base, your chart may be heavier at the top with more major gifts. If you are just developing donor programs, your chart will be bottom heavy, with many small donations. 

    Identifying Prospective Donors​

    Your next step would be to start putting specific prospect names at each level. Major givers must be cultivated and approached in person. Small donors can receive direct mail appeals or even be reached through crowdfunding.

    Want an easy way to calculate your gift chart? Visit this handy Gift Range Calculator. Just plug in your target amount and see the results.