How to Create a Gift Range Chart for Your Fundraising Campaign

Make the Most of Your Fundaising Campaign

Group of young people brainstorming a new nonprofit name.
Brainstorming a good name for your new nonprofit may be one of the most important things you do. Credit: CaiaImageJVCLOSED/OJO+/Getty Images

A gift range chart may seem a bit old fashioned in a digital age, but it still works. A gift range chart is a planning tool to help you decide 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.

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% of your goal with only 6-8 people.

With an annual campaign, there may be more donors at the middle and lower levels. So you could expect to receive 30% of your final goal from 6-8 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 donation is more than $80 for campaigns like this. However, in peer to peer fundraising where individuals mount fundraising pages for your cause, donations 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.

6 Tips for a Gift Range Chart

Gift Range Chart for Fundraising Campaign
Here is an example of a gift range chart for a fundraising campaign of $50,000. You can create your own chart using this tool from Blackbaud. Screenshot of Blackbaud Gift Range Calculator

Here are six guidelines for creating a gift chart:

  1. The lead gift should be at least 15% and maybe up to 25% 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% of your goal will come from 20% 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. For instance, if you actually secure fewer major gifts for the top of your chart you'll need to adjust the percentages throughout the chart.

There may also be several ways to raise the money at any given level. For instance, you could apply for a grant from a foundation or plan a series of direct mail campaigns. The key is to stay flexible and adjust as you proceed.

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

Your next step should be to start putting specific prospect names at each level.

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.

But remember that fill in the blanks automatic gift charts may not work for your particular organization. Use it as a starting place, but adjust as needed.