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Tony Poderis

Dan: Your caution is well advised regarding the automatic and fixed calculation table which, in this case revived, has the lead gift at about 10% of the goal. Following your reasoning, here is what I routinely send to folks contacting me seeking to establish a gift table with that base number.

The typical major campaign gift table development process is based on the traditional “80 - 20 rule.” That is, in any successful major fund-raising campaign, you should receive about 80% of your money from about 20% of your donors.

Thus, any campaign goal which is entered for calculation to that ratio, will result in one gift being needed to represent about 10% of the total goal --- and so on.

However, as you work to follow that time-tested guideline, be sure to consider that your calculations might need considerable adjustment depending on the size of your donor base. Circumstances might require that the 80 - 20 benchmark cannot be so rigidly adhered to in every instance.

For example, if an organization wants to raise $5 million for a capital or endowment campaign, the 80 - 20 rule would cite the need for one gift to be in the amount of $500,000, two gifts at $250,000, five gifts at $150,000 --- and so on down the line. Further calculations to descending amounts to equal the total goal, according to the 80 - 20 rule, would end up with the overall need for over 400 gifts to meet the goal.

Since every prospect cannot be expected to give, or to give in the amount requested, an organization in this case will require about three to four times the number of prospects for each of the required gifts. Here, the organization must have about 1,500 prospects identified and rated who are viable and likely prospective donors.

That’s OK for the organizations having a prospect base to be able to process prospects of that magnitude, but for those mostly many others not in that position, you can easily see that the top required gifts must be much larger if the goal is to be met. It those “top-heavy” gifts are not possible, the campaign will not succeed.

So, do work to the 80 - 20 rule, but watch out for problems if your prospect base is not able to support it.

Tony Poderis


Thanks for the link to the gift calculator. A funny thing happens to the calculator once you hit $50 million: every campaign, even up to $1 billion, requires 1884 gifts from 7536 prospects. Odd. I sent them a note.

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Sac Longchamp

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