When going to raise $1,000,000, the biggest mistake nonprofit board members make is thinking they "just" need 1000 people to give $1,000. Mathmetically, that is 100% accurate. But not behaviorally.
Fortunately, our industry has been studying this since the 1940's and developed some helpful guidelines in determining gift amounts. For instance, the first gift tends to need to be between 10% and 25%. The second gift needs to be between 7% and 15%. And we know that you need 3 to 5 prospects at each level to land a gift.
We've created a gift range calculator to help you determine those levels. Just type your goal in and the calculator computes the rest. This one is conservative. We figure, if you need to raise $100,000, it's just as "hard" to ask someone for $10,000 as it is to ask them for $25,000. So why not ask for the $25,000?! Even if they say "no," they're far more likely to land at $20,000 than if you started at $10,000!
This is a great place to start. Once you've done your work here, look at the gift range calculator at Blackbaud. They use the lower end of the ratios. This can make the goal feel more realistic. Their version is at: https://www.blackbaud.com/nonprofit-resources/gift-range-calculator.
There's an exciting calculator we helped create on Sumac's site: http://sumac.com/fundraising-gift-range-calculator/. This calendar lets you customize your gift ranges so you can make it fit your nonprofit's actually giving levels or known donors!
These are just guidelines to help your planning. If you can't name a person for the top gift, that does not necessarily mean your goal is impossible. Use this to help your strategy, not to dictate it.
Also, some nonprofits use events and direct mail appeals as a "donor" at a certain level. This can be particularly helpful if you're using a gift range calculator to help plan your annual fundraising.