how to create donation tiers

Why and How to Create Donation Tiers for Your Event

What are Donation Tiers?

Why Nonprofits Should Use Donation Tiers?

Donation Tier Dos

5 Types of Donation Tiers That Incentivize Donors

How to Create Donation Tiers

What Are Donation Tiers?

Consider a donation tier as a micro-goal that offers an immediate reward for the donor. You can apply a suggested level of giving from which your donors may choose, paired with an appropriate “reward” to entice them to open their purse strings. Those rewards can be tangible things—such as tier-exclusive giveaways—or something as simple as a “title” that you bestow upon them in relation to your fundraising. This is how your donation tiers could look on your Ticketstripe event page:

Donation Tiers Example

Why Nonprofits Should Use Donation Tiers?

When you tailor donation tiers to your audience, you boost donations and can even increase the average amount given. Donation tiers incentivize giving by offering a reward and instant gratification.

But don’t take our word for it:

  • A study from The University of Chicago found that setting a “low bar” for your default donation dramatically increases the amount individual donors are likely to give.
  • Giving your donors the ability to see what their money is doing positively affects how those people see your organization and how they feel about themselves!
  • Charitable giving is actually “contagious” and has a built-in competitive nature that spurs some individuals to “keep up with the Joneses.”

Donation Tier Dos

If you’re new to creating donation tiers, here are a few quick tips to make the most of your fundraising efforts.

  • Limit your donation tiers to 3-6. This allows your donors to select between a few options easily and minimizes the risk of overwhelming them. It also reduces any “guilt” about choosing a lesser donation tier.
  • Keep your tiers simple. This goes for everything from the tier descriptions to the reward scales. If you complicate the giving process, you’ll limit your potential donors.
  • Find your “average donation” from previous fundraisers and base your tiers on that. Give donors a tier or two lower and a tier or two higher. Consider creating an “Angel Tier” for donors who want to make a hefty buy-in.
  • Clearly state the impact and reward of each tier. To do that, assess the “value” of a given donation tier accordingly.

Now that you’ve got the basics let’s look at some types of donation tiers that can boost your donor’s generosity and tap into the competitive nature of charitable giving.

5 Types of Donation Tiers That Incentivize Donors

We’ll dive into five standard donation tiers that nonprofits and other organizations have used successfully to help incentivize donors and chip away at those big fundraising goals. Use any of these types of tiers in your fundraising efforts but be mindful to match your tiers with the kind of organization you are and the type of donors you’re trying to reach.

1) Emotional Bribery (in a Good Way)

As mentioned above, multiple psychological studies have shown that people get emotionally involved when donating. The positive emotional response donors experience is authentic, measurable, and enormously powerful.

If you can create donation tiers that isolate that “good feeling of giving,” you can help your donors feel good while doing good.


  •  Local food drives that show donors how many meals their money will buy
  • Gift-giving drives that equate a specific donation with a toy for a child
  • Fuel assistance programs that equate donation tiers with keeping in-need families warm

The YMCA has used this type of tiered donation method for years to equate charitable donations with an individual child’s ability to go to summer camp for a week during their annual Send a Kid to Camp drive.

The key concept behind this type of donation tier is that it converts an impersonal financial donation into a direct personal benefit for an individual in need. Donors aren’t just forking over cash to a faceless organization. They’re helping real people and families.

2) Tangible Exclusives

Sometimes people give because they want to get. There is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, many crowdfunding operations and individual artists have tapped into the profitable “Exclusive Unlock” donation tier methods to raise the money they need to produce finished products.This type of donation tier relies upon “giving” tangible rewards in connection with donation tiers.

HasLab (a division of the Hasbro Toy Company) has successfully crowdfunded multiple Star Wars-related toys by giving donors tier-locked exclusives, including one-of-a-kind action figures as rewards.

Similarly, comics creators have successfully used tier-based unlocks such as exclusive pages, posters, and one-of-a-kind art on sites like Patreon to fund entire print runs on independent graphic novels.

You can tweak that same methodology to your organization by providing tangible unlocks your donors will enjoy. The key to success with this donation tier type is to make the reward “worth” the financial investment without cutting into the profit generated by the donation—something as simple (and affordable) as organization-branded swag is often enough.

3) Time Waits for No Donation

When enticing a potential donor to give, there is nothing wrong with applying a little pressure. Time-based donation tiers are a great way to stimulate generosity by tapping into the competitive nature of donors.

This type of donation tier equates monetary value to a period. Essentially, donors get to see just how long their donation will support the receiving organization.

Ronald McDonald House Charities has been using this format for years by informing donors that for every 80 dollars given, a family in need can stay one night at a Ronald McDonald House.

This tiered structure entices additional giving because generous people want to support organizations for as long as possible. Plus, it specifically calls out exactly how their donation will be used.

4) Recognition as a Reward

Donors are, by definition, generous people. But that doesn’t mean stroking their ego a bit won’t help them decide how much to give. Publicly recognizing your donors can greatly increase donations and generate repeat or continuous support.

This is especially true when dealing with business donors and sponsors. Often such companies will see the donation as a marketing investment or a token of goodwill toward the community.

How can you recognize donors?

  • Offer to display sponsors’ names prominently on your marketing material, newsletters, or any press you generate.
  • Send a “thank you” letter to all donors at the end of your fundraising process and call out exceptionally generous individuals and corporations.
  • Include a representative of a donor organization in your live events (dinners, award ceremonies, sporting events, etc.)

The key to success with this donation tier method is tailoring recognition levels to specific donors.

5) Titles

Can’t afford tangible rewards? Sometimes a title is just as good. Could you consider giving away titles and labels? They don’t cost you a thing but can have an immeasurable impact on the people who give.

The ASPCA urges all donors to become monthly donors and labels all such donors as Heroes because their regular donation allows them to spend less time fundraising and more time rescuing animals from cruelty and abuse. What’s more heartwarming than becoming a Hero to poorly treated and defenseless animals?

How to Create Donation Tiers

Creating donation tiers is incredibly simple with Ticketstripe!

1.  Log into your Ticketstripe account or create a free one here

2. Click on your event (or create one), then Donations, and click the +Donations button

3.  Enter the Title for your donation

4.  Enter your desired donation tier amount and delete additional suggested boxes

Creating a donation tier

5. Uncheck the box Allow custom donation amount

6.  Click More Options to do the following:

    • Add a Short Description that will display next to this donation on the Event Page (RECOMMENDED for reasons mentioned above)
    • Enter Start and Stop dates (You can keep donations live on your event page long after your event has ended)
    • Enter the Fair Market Value for this donation if you know it
    • Select Your Fee Option:
      – Pass all fees to the buyer
      – Absorb all fees (merchant and service)
      – Pass the service fees to the buyer and absorb the merchant fees
    • Enter a Message which will display on the receipt after purchase, i.e. “Thank you for your donation and support.”

Click Save at the bottom of the page and you’re all set!

Plucking the Right Heartstrings with Donation Tiers

These five types of donation tiers are just some of the ones out there. We’ve shared the most common and effective. Pick and choose from any giving level to create a donation program specifically tailored to your organization and the types of donors you’ll target. Get your donors invested, excited, and help them feel good about doing good with a donation tier set up expressly for them.