Three to One Rule of Thumb

You probably already know about the three prospects for ever one gift rule of thumb when you are planning for a capital campaign. This rule has been around for a long time and it still holds true today. But too many organizations misinterpret what a prospect really is. I’ve had consultants look in an organizations database and come up with a handful of names that have been identified as major and lead prospect that satisfy the three to one rule for the top tier of donors. Unfortunately those prospects often have almost if not no connection to the organization.

Finding a name on another donor role or in a phone book does not make them a good prospect. Many organizations that I have worked for build their prospect list with names of individuals they would like to have a relationship with but do not. If you are planning on building your lead gift pool with a list of these kinds of names then you are going to have to look at more like a 40 to 1 ratio. You may get more gifts than that but you will rarely be able to secure a significant lead gift from a donor as their first gift to the organization.

My view on the rule of thumb is that you have to go to three people who already have a connection with and passion for the organization; people that believe in what you are doing and have a recent track record of giving. If you create your three prospects from this pool you will have a lot higher rate of success. You still will get some no’s on your lead gifts but you will probably get some kind of gift from the majority of your prospects.


One Response to Three to One Rule of Thumb

  1. Phyllis says:

    You’re absolutely right! Those not already connected and passionate with some giving history are “suspects” not “prospects.”

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