Building a Campaign Gift Chart

This column begins a series on fundraising fundamentals. Over the next few months, we will review various tools to help you achieve your goals. This week, we review gift charts.

A campaign gift chart illustrates how many donors are needed at which giving level to achieve a fundraising goal.

It’s important to think of a gift chart as dynamic and not static. It’s a point-in-time document. The chart tells you, “On this day, this is what is needed and expected”. As a campaign progresses, the gift chart is adjusted as assumptions are tested and gifts are received or denied.

The following illustration is for a $3-million campaign goal. The assumptions include that there will be no gifts of $1-million or more but a sizeable number of gifts in the middle. Often, a campaign can be top heavy with 70-80-90% of the campaign goal from the leadership level, but in this example, it’s only 58% because the feasibility study did not indicate that a seven-figure gift was available.

Which gift amounts fall within the giving categories — leader, champion, or advocate — will vary by organization. For this client, leadership level gifts are $100,000 and above and advocate level gifts are less than $10,000.

The number of prospects needed for each gift can vary from two to four, so for this campaign, at least 630 prospects are needed to achieve 315 gifts. The variance in number of prospects may change depending on the gift level (potentially more prospects needed for larger gifts) but also on how qualified the prospects are (how well they know the organization and how ready they are for an ask).

The potential donor column is a place for your campaign committee members to make notes about who may be a prospect for that giving level. Development professionals can update that column as prospects are cultivated and asks are made.

The raised-to-date line item at the bottom is updated as pledges and gifts are received. As those commitments are made, reduce the corresponding prospect numbers by gift levels.

As the campaign continues, update what’s occurred and what’s possible. For instance, if more (or less) gifts at the leadership level become evident, then adjust the assumptions and make new projections.

The focus of early campaign asks should be those at the leadership level because the largest gifts are critical. As those gifts are realized, the strategy for the rest of the campaign becomes evident. We refer to this as a cascade. Allowing the largest gifts to dictate strategy is highly effective. Begin there. Don’t begin with lower-level asks, even if those donors are ready.

Let us know how you use gifts charts for your fundraising goals and campaigns.

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