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Season 2, Episode 21

A Gift Range Chart shows the pattern of gifts your campaign will need for you to reach your goal. A well-crafted Gift Range Chart will serve as the primary planning tool for your capital campaign.

Join campaign experts Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt as they discuss the best way to create gift range chart for your campaign and the many ways you can use it to achieve success.

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This episode was recorded as part of a live webinar held Monday, January 10, 2022. To participate in future webinars, register at ToolkitTalks.com.

Amy Eisenstein:
We are talking about gift range charts, which are really the roadmap to campaigns. So as always, Andrea, why don’t you get us started on the very important topic of gift range charts?

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yes. Thank you, Amy. And I really do think this is an important topic. I think most of you on this call probably have some notion of what a gift range chart or a gift chart is for a capital campaign or for any fundraising. It’s that chart that shows you how many gifts you need at what level to complete your campaign goal. And on the surface, it sounds like an utterly simple thing to do. But what I found is that it’s things. First of all, if you show people and your board a gift range chart that is well-designed to fit your campaign and your organization, they will suddenly and magically understand what your campaign is going to take.

A Gift Range Chart is a Practical Guide to Your Campaign

A gift range chart is such a practical and tangible way of presenting what’s going to be needed for your campaign that board members and other people who have sort of scratched their heads about, well, what is this campaign? And where is this money going to come from? And how is it going to work? And how are we ever going to raise this amount of money? Actually look at a gift change chart and once it’s explained to them, you can see the glaze fall off their eyes and all of a sudden they realize that they have to go out and ask these people for gifts of this size. And there is no better tool in a gift raiser’s tool chest or toolkit than a gift range chart to create clarity and even more than that, to hang your entire campaign plan on. And Amy, what’s your experience with it?

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, I just want to add just in case anybody’s still scratching their heads, a gift range chart goes by a lot of names. You might call it a gift table, a gift pyramid. They’re all the same things.

What we’re talking about is just a simple document that lays out exactly how many gifts you need at what levels in order to get to your goal. And while there’s a series of formulas, you might say, there’s no one formula. It varies from organization to organization depending on who’s on your board and who’s in your donor base, what your gift range chart or your gift table or your gift pyramid may look like. And some are very, very steep with a few gifts at the very top getting you the vast majority to your goal, and others are a little flatter if you have a much broader donor base. So Andrea, let’s talk about what an ideal gift chart might look like and then people understand that it needs to be adjusted based on who their donors are and who’s in their community.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yes, I’m happy to do that. But first, Amy, let me tell a very little story, which is that when I was very… Even before I began as a professional in this business many years ago, I remember going to the person who would become my mentor in this business and who really was the person from whom I built my career, who taught me. And I said to him, “John,” I said, “I am running this little concert series and I need to raise, I don’t know, whatever it was, $10,000 for this concert series,” which at the time because I knew nothing about fundraising, seemed like a lot of money. I said, “Would you give me some advice about how to do that?”

And he took out a pencil and a piece of paper or a napkin and he said, “Okay, Andrea, let me make a little chart for you and I’ll show you how to do it.” He said, “Okay, let’s take $10,000, which is your goal.” He said, “You’re going to need to go to one person probably for $1,500 and then maybe one or two people for $1,000 and then maybe three or four people for $500.” And he just wrote it out on a little napkin.

And I member as he was doing this to this day thinking, oh, this makes such sense. And having that sense be followed by this wave of panic that I actually had to find these people and go to them to raise that money. It made it so clear that I almost said, well, I’m not sure I want to actually raise this money because I knew I had to go out and talk to those people.

Amy Eisenstein:
It got real.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
In the end, I didn’t use that chart and I did go out and find those people and ask them for money and raise the money and the concert series was a success, but that was my very first fundraising experience.

Gift Range Chart: Rule of Thumb

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, that’s a great example. Let’s give people a rule of thumb though. When we’re first starting out to think about a gift range chart, honestly, no matter what the goal, whether it’s $1 million or $10 million or $100 million, we generally start with the first gift being in the range of 20% to 25%. So if you are trying to raise $10 million, you would think about the very top lead gift being in the $2 million to $2.5 million range and then go down from there.

And I’m sure you can say more about that, Andrea, but I’ll insert a story. I was talking to a woman the other day from a school and she was working on her gift range chart, and we quickly discovered that the way she was thinking about it was in fact, she didn’t even have enough families in the school for all the gifts that she would need to get to her goal because she didn’t have a big enough gift at the top of the gift range chart.

And so we came to the conclusion that her goal probably wasn’t realistic and they would need to scale back the project and scale back the program because if you run your gift range chart and you’ll run it a few different ways until it works for your donor base, if you need 500 gifts and you only have 300 kids at the school, you quickly realize that you’re going to have to either seriously get some much bigger gifts at the top of that chart or change it in some way. So it really will tell you story once you run it a few times.

How Many Gifts? How Many Donors?

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Amy, I’ve often been amazed and delighted by how much there is to learn just by the process of developing your gift range chart. Not even all the other things that come from it once you’ve developed it, but just by going back and forth and seeing what the lead gift has to be in order to be sure you have enough prospects within your donor pool, you start to become comfortable with the numbers. You start to think about your organization and who you would have to talk to at various levels to be successful. And in doing that, it’s like you sort of put under your skin what it’s going to take to do this capital campaign. It’s a powerful process.

One of the things that a gift range chart is often used to show is not only how many gifts you need, but how many prospects you need because you know and we know that you’re not going to get the gift you ask for from every prospect you ask. So most gift range charts also have a line that show if we need one gift of $1 million, we need three prospects for that gift. If we need two gifts of $0.5 million, we may need six prospects for that gift, right? So it calculates, there’s a simple multiplier and we can talk about that later, but there’s a multiplier that shows that you need more prospects than you do gifts.

And when you get to the end of creating your gift range chart, you can add up all the gifts, but you can also add up all the prospects and you look at the number of prospects you need and you compare that with the number of donors who have ever given to your organization. And if you don’t have the number of donors you need for that number of prospects shown on the gift range chart, again, as Amy said, you have to go back and do some recalculation.

Hint: You’ll Need More Prospective Donors than Gifts

Amy Eisenstein:
Now, this is where the rubber really meets the road of your campaign because you’re not just going to say three prospects, you’re going to actually at some point say who the three are that you’re going to ask for those top gifts. And so you’ll know once you start to lay it out and there are some really good, clear tools online. And of course, we have these tools to help you work this through at the Toolkit, but if you have three perspective donors for your top gift, let’s say it’s $1 million, if one or two don’t say yes to the million, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be anywhere in your gift range chart. They may drop to $750,000 or a $500,000 gift or maybe even as low as a quarter of a million dollar gift.

So it’s not that they won’t give any gift necessarily, it’s just that they may not give the gift you ask for. And some people will say no. So Andrea is absolutely right. You need significantly more prospective donors than you do gifts in order to have a successful campaign because some people will say flat out no and other people will not give the exact gift you ask for.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Amy, I’ve often thought about that process as what I think of as the waterfall effect.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yes.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
And that is that you ask people for a gift of, let’s say you ask three people for a gift of a million and as Amy said, maybe one will give you a million. Maybe one will give you a half a million, and maybe one will give you $100,000, right? It may fall way down. But that means that in doing that, if you start by asking the people at the top of your gift range chart for gifts, then you also will be gradually filling in the middle of your gift range chart by asking the people at the top for the highest level gifts. So I think of it as sort of a waterfall effect, right? You ask at the top and the water starts falling over and filling in in the middle. I’ve always thought that was a great way to understand why it’s important to solicit the largest gifts first.

Solicit the Largest Gifts First

Amy Eisenstein:
Yes, it’s critical in capital campaign fundraising. That’s one of our strategies, our rule of thumb is that there is a specific order to solicitation. You really do want to start with the top gifts and work your way down. So let me give folks one other rule of thumb. And that is that 10 to 20 people in your gift range chart, the top 10 to 20 gifts, will get you to 50%, 60%, 70% of the way towards your goal. So it really is an uneven distribution, right? It follows the 80-20 rule or the 90-10 rule. And that is that 50%, 60%, 70%, 80% of your gifts will come from 10% of your donors, the top 10 or 20 donors.

And so once you are able to identify those potential donors, put names to those donors, your campaign will become much clearer. You’ll have a much better sense of whether or not you can be successful once you lay out the gifts you need and the amounts that you need and the potential people that have the capacity and the interest, the inclination, to make those gifts. All right, Andrea, what else do you want to say about gift range charts?

Gift Range Charts Tend to be Broken into 3 Sections

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yes. We have just a couple more minutes, Amy, and here’s what I’d like to say. Usually, gift range charts are broken into three sections, a top section, which you might think of as lead gifts, the middle section, which you might think of as major gifts, and the bottom section, which I often call general gifts. And they go from the highest gifts to the middle size gifts to the lowest level gifts. And they’re organized around different giving levels. You can use that structure and that gift range chart to organize a tremendous number of things in your campaign. You might, for example, organize your job responsibilities, your portfolio responsibilities around that breakout, right? Whereas some people are specifically targeted and assigned to work with the top of the gift range chart, some people in the middle of the gift range chart, and some people working on the bottom of the gift range chart.

You can develop your communications plan accordingly. You can think about your communications differently with those top 20 or 30 people who fill out the top of your gift range chart. And you can put together a little communications plan specifically for that top level. You can put together a different communications plan for that mid-level of donors. There are going to be many more of them. You will communicate a little more broadly with them. And the same for the bottom. You can develop the timeline of your campaign factoring in the gift range chart so that the first part of your quiet phase is going to be soliciting that top third, the top piece of your donor base. And then gradually through your campaign timeline, you’re going to go down in your gift range chart.

So, if you start taking the chart seriously, not just in terms of developing it so you know what gifts you have to bring in from your donor base to be successful, but then looking at all of the other aspects of your campaign and seeing how they can be fine-tuned according to the various levels of giving starts to make… Oh, your donor recognition plan. I left that one out. That’s a big one. Your donor recognition plan should fit the patterns of your gift range chart, right? And once everything hangs on that structure, what you’ll find is that you and everyone else starts to understand how the campaign works and how it should function much more effectively. And you’ll stop feeling like, oh, what am I supposed to do next? Right? It’ll start to feel well-organized. It’ll start to make sense. I’ve always loved that about a gift range chart.

Amy Eisenstein:
Excellent. And you have written a terrific blog post on gift range charts, which of course will be on our website tomorrow. If you’re listening to the podcast, it’s already up and just go to capitalcampaigntoolkit.com to check out Andrea’s amazing detailed post on gift range charts. Also, if you’re looking for all of these tools in an organized system that you can download and use right away, we encourage you to join as a paying member of the Toolkit. And that’s at capitalcampaigntoolkit.com and you can get all of these tools that we have referenced as a member of the Toolkit.

All right, well, thanks for joining us today. It’s been great talking to you, Andrea. Thanks for that crystal clear explanation of gift range charts and we’ll see everybody next week.


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