The math of fundraising

Math of FundraisingHow do you reach a fundraising goal? There are many activities that together can guide you to your fundraising destination. One of these is knowing how many people you need to ask to give to your nonprofit, and at what level people need to give at. A simple solution is to raise $100,000 by asking 100,000 people to give one dollar, or 10,000 people to give $100. That could work, but that’s a lot of people to reach. Some organizations have that reach – but in most cases they also have a much higher fundraising goal!  You could raise $10,000 from ten people – that’s easier – but you would have to know ten people who can give $10,000.

All these methods are feasible in the abstract. The question is this, which one is right for your nonprofit?

Here are ten things for you and your team to consider as you put together your plan.

  1. Who gave the ten largest gifts or grants to your nonprofit last year?
  2. What percentage of your revenue do they represent?
  3. Do you believe your top ten will renew their gift at the same level or higher this year? (Is that a guess, or do you have information to back up your belief?)
  4. How many people currently give to your organization and at what level?
  5. How many give year-over-year?
  6. How many increased their gift from last year to this year?
  7. Who responds to your email appeals?
  8. Who gives in response to sponsorship opportunities, or by attending your events?
  9. Who has been personally asked to give? (Is someone scheduled to ask these donors this year?)
  10. Who isn’t giving but “should?

Look at your data. Fill in the numbers that answer these 10 questions.

Study the data to learn what exactly you need to do to meet your fundraising goals. For example, if there are five donors who give a combined 50% of your budget, make sure you have a strategy in place to sustain these relationships. Make the time. Don’t assume people will give this year because they gave last year.

Look at who didn’t give last year. Reach out to those donors through their preferred medium of communication. Focus on retaining your current donors, growing their giving, understanding their connection to your organizations, and stewarding the relationship. Don’t forget to ask! The number one reason why people don’t give is because they weren’t asked!

Finally, remember that fundraising is both an art and a science. One of the fundraising “sciences” is the creation of the prospect/gift chart. Creating this chart helps ensure your organization cultivates and solicits enough people to meet your financial goal. The “gift chart” helps determine how many prospective donors need to be identified for each gift you want to actually receive. It reduces guess work and impresses upon all parties the amount of work required for success.

Learn more about the prospect gift chart in Prerequisites for Fundraising Success – chapter 7 Building Your Road Map.

Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw believe you can mix passion and math for the good of your fundraising. Learn more at

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