Gift Range Calculators: How to Build a Custom Gift Chart

Salsa Labs
July 29, 2015

As a fundraising professional, you're likely familiar with the basics of gift range calculators and how they can help you create an impactful fundraising strategy. 

A gift range calculator is a fundraising tool that tells you how many prospects you need at each giving level to reach your overall fundraising goal. Gift range calculators are designed to help nonprofits determine their overall strategy for a campaign or event.

By the end of this guide, you'll not only have a completed gift range calculator to use in your next fundraiser, but you'll also have a plan for how to use it. In this guide, we’ll provide insight into:

Let's begin by digging into everything gift range chart-related: why a gift range chart is helpful, when you might want one, and what can go wrong in making one.

If you're in a hurry, check out our free gift range chart template below. Keep reading on to learn more about building a custom gift range calculator for your next fundraising campaign.

You can use this gift range calculator template to create your own gift chart.

What Is a Gift Range Chart?

There's a lot of terminology surrounding gift range calculators and gift charts, and you've likely heard a few terms being used interchangeably.

To clear up confusion, a gift range calculator is the tool you use to predict donation levels and amounts, and a gift range chart, also known as a donor pyramid, presents the final results of a nonprofit's gift range calculations in an easy-to-follow structure.

Gift range charts and calculators are particularly popular for major giving campaign preparation because they segment major giving opportunities into different levels and let you see where your major gift donors will fall. You can then use this information to guide your major gift cultivation and solicitation strategy. In general, as the gift amount increases, you will need to secure fewer and fewer gifts, so your required number of prospects will also decrease.

While most gift charts and gift range calculators are used for capital campaigns, they can also help with planning out any fundraising goal. For example, you might also use the gift range calculator to factor in sponsorships, ticket sales, or grants. Don't pigeonhole the capabilities of the calculator!

In the next sections, we'll walk through each step necessary for how to use your gift range calculator to make a gift chart as well as how to leverage it in your fundraising strategy. Ready to walk through the process of creating a gift range chart? Let's get started!

How to Make a Gift Range Calculator: 6 Steps

A gift range calculator is crucial for establishing gift charts with accurate fundraising predictions on which you can take action.

While there are many gift range chart generators online, these use standard formulas that can't be tailored to your unique situation and donor pool.

To provide your nonprofit with more accurate guidance, instead of giving you a generic calculator, we'll go through the process of creating a calculator with sample figures that you can replace with your organization's own numbers using the template above.

1. Set Your Gift Range Parameters

In this sample scenario, imagine we have an upcoming gala for which we need to raise $300,000. We'll use this fundraising goal amount as the starting point for the calculations in the following sections.

When determining your goal, don't forget to factor in the cost of staff hours, donor recognition, and marketing for your campaign. If you're following along with your own campaign, add your own goal at the top of the gift range calculator template.

2. Estimate the Largest Gift You'll Be Able to Secure

A gift range chart's largest anticipated gifts will determine the rest of your calculations and smaller gift sizes. Most chart generators and sample charts will predict the largest gift to be somewhere between 15% and 30% of your fundraising goal. 

Unfortunately, however, the top gift amount has a large potential for error when creating a gift range calculator. Who is to say that your biggest gift will be exactly 18% or 20% or 25% of your total?

For example, your wealthiest donor could end up contributing only 10%. On the other hand, an engaged, wealthy donor might meet with your organization and be happy to contribute closer to 45% of your total. In either case, you’d want to spend time up front making sure your predictions align as closely as possible with reality.

For the sake of this example, let's estimate the largest gift is 20% of the total goal. For our gala example, 20% of $300,000 would be $60,000.

If you're following along, fill in the Gift Amount ($) cell in your Tier 1 row with your largest anticipated gift amount. 

Annual Development Plan Checklist

3. Assign the Remaining Gift Amounts

Now, we'll calculate the gift amounts at our remaining tiers. In this example, we have a total of five giving tiers. However, depending on your audience, you might choose to have more. For example, if you have a large base of reliable small gift donors, you'll want to add tiers that include their impact.

Generally, as we move down the tiers, we'll halve our anticipated gift amount. For example, if our top gift amount is $60,000, the following tiers down would be as follows:

  • $30,000
  • $15,000
  • $7,500
  • $3,750

If you're following along, fill in the rest of the Gift Amount ($) column in our gift range calculator template, halving the amount for each subsequent tier.

You might notice that $3,750 is quite a high number for the lowest giving tier for an event aimed at raising $300,000. It makes the math easier, but it isn't entirely realistic. Don't worry if your calculations here seem unreasonable for your fundraising situation as we'll further adjust the numbers in the following steps.

4. Assign How Many Donors You'll Need for Each Amount

For most gift charts, as you halve the gift amount at each tier, you'll double the corresponding number of gifts. We'll use this standard as a starting point to determine our gift range calculator's Number of Gifts column.

The number of gifts we'll want at each tier in our example would be as follows:

  • 2 gifts of $30,000
  • 4 gifts of $15,000
  • 8 gifts of $7,500
  • 16 gifts of $3,750

Now, go through this process with your calculator for your own fundraising campaign. 

You'll notice, in each case, that the gifts will add up to the same amount. In our gala example, each tier adds up to $60,000. However, in reality, this won't always be the case. Your exact number of gifts will fluctuate depending on the size and giving capacity of your donor pool.

5. Determine How Many Prospects You'll Need to Secure Your Top Major Gift

Not everyone you contact to donate to your campaign will end up giving. At our gala fundraiser, for example, a donor might be out of town, given recently, or simply not be convinced by your call to action.

For every actual gift you're anticipating in your gift range calculator, you'll want to have a list of three to five prospective donors. At each giving tier, your prospective donors shouldn't be just anyone in your constituent relationship management (CRM) system, but those who have a documented likelihood of actually leaving a gift of that size.

In our example, we'll anticipate a ratio of four prospective donors needed for every gift earned. For example, for our gala's top gift, we'd need four prospective donors. For our Tier 2 gifts, we'd need eight prospects. For our Tier 5, we'd need 64 prospects.

For your own gift chart, you should look at your historical fundraising data, including email open rates, conversion rates, and past donation amounts, to determine the percentage of prospects likely to convert to actual gifts at each giving tier. Then, fill in under the Number of Prospects Needed column in the template.

6. Adjust Your Gift Range Chart

Let's take a look at the resulting gift chart. If you've been following along with your own campaign, your chart will look similar to this one:

This image shows a rough draft of a sample gift range calculator.


However, to use this chart for practical purposes, we'll need to make adjustments to our calculations.

For example, we might find it difficult to convert two Tier 2 donors for our gala. Or, perhaps, we'd also have lower costs of entry to the gala with tickets starting at $100.

We'd need to add and adjust our giving tiers to reflect this information. In this instance, we might anticipate an influx of small to medium donors to that missing Tier 2 gift.

Our gala example's chart, then, might look something like this:

In this image, this completed gift range calculator shows the number and amount of gifts needed to meet your fundraising goal.


Following this model, adjust your gift calculator's numbers accordingly. Once you've finalized your gift range chart, it's time to turn to your prospect list and find candidates to give at each level.

How to Use a Gift Chart: Implementing a Fundraising Strategy

While the final gift chart may look relatively simple, it can be used to power your donor stewardship and fundraising strategies. Plan to leverage insights from your gift range calculator to guide who, what, when, where, why, and how you ask for donations.

Use your gift chart to: 

  • Help board and leadership set better goals. Often, boards and leadership will set big goals without realizing the unfeasible size and number of gifts needed to reach them. Reviewing your gift range calculator together can help put everyone on the same page and set reasonable goals.
  • Develop a clear understanding of your prospects and donors. Use your gift range calculator to understand exactly who you will need to ask for each gift size in order to meet your goals.
  • Determine your ask. Similarly, you can use your calculator to determine the context around asking for gifts from your different audiences. For example, for a large fundraising campaign, your gift range calculator might suggest you use different strategies at each giving tier. For example, at your highest tiers, you might leverage a handful of wealthy donors; at your middle tiers, you might host an exclusive event and apply for a handful of grants; and at your lowest tiers, you might reach donors via email and direct mail messaging.
  • Monitor and report on fundraising results. Finally, use your gift range chart as a tool to compare your ongoing fundraising results with your projected numbers. If you find you're not meeting or surpassing your projections, you can adjust your chart to stay on track.

While you should have a plan for every fundraising campaign, be prepared to alter your course and continue to adjust your gift range calculator as needed. A gift chart is only meaningful and predictive if it is built from up-to-date, accurate numbers. Ultimately, if your calculator is realistic and specific to your nonprofit, you'll be in a strong position to raise more funds and achieve your mission.

Additional Resources

You’ve got your gift range calculator ready to go, now check out these additional resources for the most impactful fundraising and efficient donor stewardship.

Personalized Demo Salsa CRM

Topics: Fundraising
Get a Salsa Demo

Get a Personalized Demo Today!

Smart Engagment Tools for Today’s Nonprofits

Download Now!