Gift Range Charts


What Every Nonprofit Needs to Know

Gift range charts are a valuable resource for any nonprofit tackling a major, strategic fundraising initiative. When done correctly, the charts provide direction, decrease stress, and can even be a relationship-building tool in the grantwriting process.

We’re going to explore the essentials of gift range charts through the following points:

  • What are gift range charts?
  • When are gift range charts a helpful resource?
  • How do you create a gift range chart?
  • How do you use a gift range chart in your fundraising?

If you’ve never tackled a strategic fundraising project on this scale before, using professional-grade techniques like gift range charts, organized by fundraising tiers, is a smart move.

Fundraising consultants work with these tools to lay out concrete, actionable plans for their nonprofit clients, and that level of planning and direction is often the deciding factor between fundraising success and falling short. If outside help would benefit your organization, learn about hiring a fundraising consultant here.

What are gift range charts?

Gift range charts show how many gifts, and of which sizes, your nonprofit needs in order to reach a fundraising goal. It takes what you’ve learned during your fundraising feasibility study and lays out a roadmap for getting to your goal by organizing your needed donations into fundraising tiers.

The basic format of a gift range chart includes tiered gift amounts, the number of donors you would need to give at each tier, the number of prospects you’ve identified for each tier, and how much of your total goal you need to raise at each tier.

These charts help guide your donor acquisition strategy by showing you where to allocate resources and focus your energies.

When are gift range charts a helpful resource?

Organizing your needed donations into a gift range chart can be a helpful exercise anytime your organization is planning a strategic campaign.

These charts are often associated with major campaigns, like when you develop one with the help of a capital campaign advisor for a major building project. However, gift range charts are not necessarily confined to that type of campaign only.

From annual fund and year-end giving initiatives to capital campaigns and other major fundraisers, a gift range chart provides you with a framework for measuring progress and focusing your efforts throughout the entire fundraising process.

These charts can even be helpful outside of straightforward fundraising efforts, extending to the world of grantmaking.

One example is challenge grants, an extremely common way that grantmakers offer funding these days. A gift range chart increases your chances to meet the challenge by breaking the goal into more manageable segments.

Just as you should pay attention to grantmaking trends for the next year, you should instill confidence in grantmakers when proposing funds. One way to do this is by laying out a plan, with quantitative benchmarks, showing how you’ll meet their challenge over time.

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How do you create a gift range chart?

Pre-tier research

Before you break out the excel workbooks, you need to completely understand your goal. If you’re employing a gift range chart, you’re already looking at a large, strategic fundraiser. Just as with any other type of major initiative, you should ideally complete a fundraising feasibility study before you begin.

A feasibility study involves interviewing key organizational stakeholders and community leaders to determine two things: the public’s perception of your nonprofit and support for the proposed project.

There are a few steps to successfully completing the process, and it’s important that you pay careful attention to each:

  1. Set clear goals for your fundraising campaign that are specific and quantitative.
  2. Hire outside assistance to conduct interviews with key stakeholders.
  3. Prepare a case for support, which is the document sent to interviewees to familiarize them with your organization and potential campaign.
  4. Identify key stakeholders to interview, choosing a variety that have a strong connection to your work and community. Include supporters and critics.
  5. Conduct the study, remaining open to the findings.

The last step is to implement what you’ve learned from the study. This could mean anything from breaking your campaign into a series of smaller fundraisers to adjusting your goal/timeline/project.

Check out this Double the Donation article on conducting a fundraising feasibility study for more information. 

Building your chart

This is the point at which you break your goal into a series of smaller, more achievable tiers. In general, there are a few rules to help guide the creation of your gift range chart.

For example, in terms of donation size, your highest fundraising tier should ideally comprise 10-20% of your total donations.

Further, when you’re estimating the needed prospects for each tier, you should include more than you actually need. If you need two donations from a certain tier and reach out to four prospective donors, you’re more likely to reach your goal for that tier.

Your feasibility study findings inform your gift range chart by telling you how to strategically distribute the gifts you need across fundraising tiers. Reviewing your feasibility study and the performance metrics of past campaigns with your fundraising consultant or in-house team can give you solid insights to build your tiered strategy on.

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How do you use a gift range chart in your fundraising?

The biggest benefit of incorporating a gift range chart and fundraising tiers into your strategy is that it gives your team a concrete starting point. Use your tiers and goals to guide your initial prospect research and solicitation strategies, then refer back to it throughout the campaign to make sure you’re on track to hit your goals.

However, any gift range chart you create has benefits far beyond simply showing you which and how many donors to reach out to. They’re also very useful as resources for gaining internal and external buy-in for your projects.

For example, these charts can help you to:

  • Demonstrate to potential grantmakers how you plan to meet their challenge, instilling confidence and boosting your chances of success.
  • Provide grantmakers with a concrete reference point to keep in sight as you begin pursuing their challenge funding.
  • Encourage donors to give more to reach the next tier and have a major impact on your campaign.
  • Show donors the impact their gift will have in the larger picture.

Just because you have a well-built chart doesn’t mean that putting it into action is an easy process. A fundraising consultant can help you develop the strategy needed to reach the goals outlined in your chart. 

Gift range charts are a valuable resource in any major fundraising initiative. The next time you embark on a strategic fundraiser, consider the following action steps.
Action steps you can take today
  • Consider hiring a fundraising consultant with expertise related to your mission. (Check out Aly Sterling Philanthropy's top firm recommendations here.)
  • Complete a fundraising feasibility study to begin shaping your goals and the direction of your project and to ensure that they’re ambitious and achievable.
  • Create a gift range chart to guide your fundraising efforts. Even for smaller-scale campaigns and initiatives, this is a best practice.