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How to use a gift pyramid to prepare for your year-end appeal

Posted September 22, 2021 by Virginia Davidson

Gift Pyramid planning tool

When it comes to planning your year-end appeal, using a gift pyramid can be a handy and effective tool.

It takes planning and preparation to launch a successful fundraising appeal. Setting a goal for your appeal is a crucial component, but it’s also important to set a goal that is realistic. To eliminate guesswork and pinpoint an effective strategy to reach your goal, use a gift pyramid to aid in your planning.

A gift pyramid can help you determine the following:

How many gifts, and of what size, will you need to raise to reach your goal?

The concept behind a gift pyramid is based on a mathematical principle known as Zipf’s Law. If you aren’t yet using a gift pyramid as part of your appeal planning process, you can access a great template created by Cause and Effect, called How to Set Goals to Raise Money. It’s straightforward and easy to use.

Is your fundraising goal achievable?

When you use a gift pyramid, you’ll be able to assess your fundraising goal to make sure it’s realistic. If it’s not, you can adjust your goal accordingly. Then, once you’ve established your goal, you can delve deeper into setting your strategy for reaching it.

How can you reach your fundraising goal?

As an example, let’s say you’ve worked through the gift pyramid worksheet and determined that you need to receive five gifts of $1,000, the largest amount you’ll ask for. You’ll need to solicit 15 to 20 donors for that amount of money in order to bring in at least five gifts at that amount.

As you create your appeal plan, consider how you’ll identify and approach those 15 to 20 prospective donors. If you find you don’t have 15 to 20 constituents who are likely to make gifts of that size, you can adjust your gift pyramid accordingly. Maybe you’ll set $500 as your largest solicited gift amount instead or make another suitable adjustment to your plan.


The power of the gift pyramid is that it helps you get specific about how you can reach your fundraising goal, and it reveals potential shortfalls while you’re in the planning process and have the opportunity to address them. That means you’ll be able to set a realistic fundraising goal and implement a targeted, well-defined strategy to reach it.

Looking for more ideas on how to effectively manage and streamline a successful appeal? Watch our free training webinar on using Little Green Light to manage your appeal solicitations, or check out our free ebook, Six Steps to a Successful Appeal.

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