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How to set realistic fundraising goals with a gift pyramid

Updated January 31, 2022 by Virginia Davidson

Set fundraising goals with gift pyramid

Have you ever been disappointed by the results of your fundraising appeal or event? A fundraising effort can fall short of its goal simply because the goal wasn’t realistic. Oftentimes, it’s only when you’re looking backward that you recognize the goal was nearly impossible to achieve. If this scenario sounds familiar, don’t despair! Next time around, you can set up your fundraising effort for success by using a Gift Pyramid as part of your planning process.

A Gift Pyramid is a powerful planning tool for fundraisers. It helps you determine a realistic goal, identifies how many gifts of each size you’ll need, and can be used to guide your fundraising strategy. The concept is based on a mathematical principle known as Zipf’s Law.

Sound complicated? Lucky for us fundraisers, Cause & Effect created a fantastic Gift Pyramid template that makes things easy for you. You can access this free resource here: How to Set Goals to Raise Money.

Why is it important to use a Gift Pyramid?

Maybe your organization decided that your event needs to raise $75,000. Your appeal letters, newsletters, and website all promote this goal. Your event comes and goes, and in the end all of your hard work brought in $50,000.

During a post-mortem, the event committee has an “ah-ha” moment. With event tickets priced at $100, you needed 750 event attendees in order to reach the goal. Your invitations were sent to 250 constituents. The goal itself was unrealistic. If more constituents had been invited and if the fundraising plan included a strategy for bringing in sponsorships at $2,500 each, in addition to ticket sales, that goal of $75,000 may have been attainable.

Or, imagine that your organization wants to ramp up its membership program and increase membership revenue from $15,000 to $25,000. The strategy is based on moving introductory members ($50 annually) to the next level up ($75 annually). In order to achieve this goal, 200 introductory members need to increase their giving. If you only have 125 introductory members, though, there’s hardly a chance that this goal is attainable.

In both these scenarios, the use of a Gift Pyramid would have helped determine a realistic goal as well as a plan for how to reach it.

At Little Green Light, we’re big believers in fundraising plans. Sometimes, the process of making a plan reveals that the plan itself needs to be revised. That’s an important realization to have, and it’s best for your organization if it occurs before the fundraising effort is launched. By incorporating a Gift Pyramid into your fundraising toolbox, you’ll have a valuable and straightforward way to execute a successful fundraising effort.

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