Your Gift Chart: A Bother, Or Your Road Map to Success?

If you decide to take a backpacking trip in to the wilderness, you will most likely take a map and a compass to help you stay on track and reach your desired destination. You will study topographical maps and have “benchmarks” along the way to measure your progress.

In the same way, if you were on a road trip to a new State or region, you would more than likely have a road atlas, ‘trip tics’ from a travel agency, maps generated from your computer and a highlighter so you can find all the points of interest along your route. In a private plane, you will have all the required FAA charts, GPS, compass headings, clearances from air traffic control along the route, and alternate routes planned in case of inclement weather or reduced visibility.

Your Road Map For Success

So, why do we balk when we are asked to develop a Gift Chart listing anticipated or needed donations at various dollar levels for our capital or endowment campaigns? Gift Charts are our “maps” to keep us on course until we reach our final destination – a successful campaign.

Staff and volunteers in the early stages of campaign often look upon the development of a Gift Chart as an exercise in busy-work – unnecessary and time-consuming paperwork. However, in reality local foundations, major donors, and national foundations such as The Kresge Foundation recognize that a properly developed gift chart is your road map to success.

Foundations request a Gift Chart because it helps assure that their investment is going to be secure. The Gift Chart, in their eyes, verifies your organization’s capacity to reach your intended goal. It allows them to understand your campaign committee’s thought process for soliciting the gifts needed to support your mission. It gives them a snapshot of your readiness to manage and successfully complete your project. In other words, it gives the foundation, and you, a map to follow for success.

The 80/20 Rule

We are all familiar with the old 80/20 rule of fundraising: 80% of your gifts come from 20% of your donors. We have also become aware that over the past few years, the ratio is rapidly moving toward a 90/10, or even a 95/5 split. When developing a Gift Chart, it is imperative to employ this concept to “map out” your campaign in order to best utilize your volunteer and staff resources.

If you have done your homework correctly and determined potential major donors and gifts in the “non-public” readiness stage of your campaign, you will already know where 40% to 50% of your major gifts are coming from. You will also have a good grasp of how many potential mid-size gifts are available and which volunteers can help you find more.

As you move down on your Gift Chart to smaller gifts, the staff and volunteer time you will need to raise those gifts increases dramatically. So, if you want to reach your goal as efficiently as possible, staff and volunteer time should match the 80/20 rule: 80% of your fundraising time should be spent cultivating and soliciting the upper 20% of your prospective donors.

Another way to look at your “map”: Most of your campaign fundraising time should be concentrated on the top few lines of your Gift Chart.

Sadly, what often happens is the most time and effort is spent on the lower giving levels on the chart much too early in the campaign. Often, this can stall your campaign, discouraging volunteers and wearing out your staff.

Allocating Staff and Volunteer Time

When time and energy are spent on the highest gift levels early on, the campaign accelerates to the 70% to 80% mark well before the public and community phases have even begun. During this time, proper planning can be developed to make the community solicitation much more fun for the volunteers and much more rewarding for the staff.

When it is time to focus on the smaller gifts, your hard-working volunteers can begin to relax and really have fun. The “community” – or public – phase of a campaign is the “Rah-rah! Look at us!” phase. It is a time to generate excitement, broad-based community awareness, and support for your project from the grass-roots community. It is time to say, “Look at us and what we are doing for our community!” It is not time to generate significant dollars.

When the public phase of your campaign begins, if your Gift Chart is well thought-out and adjusted as you go along, you will know you are on course and close to the final destination. Most of the fundraising is over. Most of the goal is raised. The goal is in sight and you know you are going to make it. It is time to announce to the world what you are doing, and why.

Your campaigners will feel the same anticipation we have all felt when we are close to home, or close to the end of a journey. The excitement will be contagious and your organization will be free to focus on building good will and future support for your mission among thousands of people. It is a time to enjoy the ‘final ride’ of the campaign. It will all be possible, if you appreciate and follow your map – the Gift Chart for your campaign.

On September 26th, 2010, posted in: Campaign Planning, Gift Charts by

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