As the new fiscal year rapidly approaches, many alumni/development professionals are working on revising their gift range charts. These charts are invaluable tools that can help drive fundraising appeals throughout the year. One can see clearly how many gifts are needed at each level, and how many prospects are needed for each gift. Gift range charts can also help in tracking the number of gifts received at each level, and they can assist in noting progress. This is not a post about how to construct gift range charts, however. Rather, it is about an often-overlooked benefit to using them that might just reveal some valuable insights.

Gift range charts are intended to help plan for fundraising initiatives, but they can also help you spot potential gaps in your donor base. For example, consider a chart for an annual fund. The best charts are going to be constructed using historical data, not those goofy online calculators (never use one of those). Once you have your gift levels figured out, go back and plug-in actual numbers from previous years and compare. Obviously, if your prospective numbers and your actual numbers are more or less in sync, then you know you are on target. If they are not, then you can see where the problem is.

One organization I know did this recently and found that they had made certain assumptions that proved to be false. They believed they had a lack of larger gifts at the top of the chart, and that this was the reason for not meeting their annual fund goal in previous years. What the historical data showed, and what its inclusion in the new chart helped them to visualize, was that their calculations for top-level gifts were actually just right. It was the bottom end of the chart in the $0-$500 range that was the problem. Once they were able to identify the issue, they made changes to the way they were appealing to donors in that range.

As with any tool, gift range charts can be misapplied, but if used properly they can reveal useful insights about your donor base over and above helping you plan your fundraising strategy.

Question: Are there other ways you use gift range charts in your work besides planning?

Posted by Dr. Mark Zobel

Director of Annual Giving at Blackburn College

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