How to Make a Gift Chart to Reach Your Annual Giving Goals
One of the most critical tools in an annual giving director’s toolkit is a gift chart. This chart should be based on accurate target ask amounts for each potential donor in your database with appropriate success ratios.
A gift chart should include these elements:
- Gift levels
- Number of donors needed at each level
- Number of prospects at each level
So how do you go about making a gift chart? Let me show you how with this four-step process.
1. Determine Giving Levels
Every organization has its own historic annual giving levels. To determine how to identify the different levels, the dividing line should be where major gifts start. Once you’ve determined the levels that make sense for your organization, add them to the first column of your spreadsheet.
If you’re having a hard time figuring out what works best, I recommend these basic levels:
2. Set Target Ask Amounts
The best way to define target ask amounts is to determine what amount you intend to ask an individual and family for over a given period of time. I highly recommend adding that amount to your database for all outreach throughout the fiscal year. Keep in mind when setting your target amount, if you don’t ask, you don’t know.
To create your target ask amount list, pull a list of all annual (non-event) donors from the past five years with annual giving for each year and total giving to your organization. (And if you have a donor reactivation strategy or a specific acquisition strategy add those folks in, too). For each donor, assign an ask amount based on the most recent gift and historical giving patterns.
3. Fill Out Your Gift Chart
If you haven’t used spreadsheet formulas, this is a great opportunity to do so in order to build out your gift chart quickly and efficiently. Ideally, you build a chart that allows you to adjust as gifts come in over the course of the year. Your completed chart should look similar to this:
Here are some tips on how to create this:
- Update each number of donors needed until the total giving reflects your overall goal for the year.
- Determine your prospects versus donor ratio. A simple way to do this is to determine how many individuals you have in your giving database versus how many gifts you typically receive. I have used the very conservative 1-to-10 ratio to make certain there are enough prospects at each level.
- Add in the number of prospects identified from your targeting exercise.
- Adjust your chart so that the prospect delta evens out. That might mean you need more bottom level donors or you need to ask your board to make stretch gifts at the top level.
4. Monitor and Update
As gifts come in, you will want to update your pyramid to reflect additional gifts over time. I recommend adding columns to your spreadsheet to monitor and measure against your original assumptions:
- What you have raised to date
- What you still need to raise
- Donors to date
- Donors still needed
Gift Table Dos and Don’ts
- To give yourself a starting point, multiply each person’s (or family’s) most recent gift by 1.25. Once you’ve done that, round that total up or down to match the levels in your table.
- Look at those who have historically increased year over year and push their levels up a little bit to see if stretch ask amounts are possible.
- If you have recently done any sort of screening, it is helpful to take a look at giving capacity and the largest gift to other nonprofit organizations. If the delta between what a donor is giving to you and what that same donor is giving elsewhere is significant, consider bumping that ask amount up even further.
- Each month you should update the spreadsheet in a new tab to see your progress month to month. This can become the basis of your leadership and board success reports.
- Do not be afraid to iterate as you move through the fiscal year. Additionally, do not feel like you must stick with your original number of prospects. You can update based on responses at each level.
The key to any great campaign is information. The more you know about your prospects and donors, the better you can curate your message, figure out how to ask for and determine the best way to stand out from the noise and reach these donors.
Erin Crotty serves as the vice president of customer success at boodleAI, a company that specializes in enriched analytics for sales, marketing and fundraising teams. Over her 25-year career in fundraising, Erin has served in almost every advancement role — from annual giving to major gifts to advancement services and consulting — and helped organizations raise more than $100 million. Erin lives in Northern Virginia with her blended family of five.