Annual donations to a charitable organization tend to follow a power-law size distribution specific to that organization's purpose. Organizations may be able to use this information to help plan future campaigns.
Reflective of income and wealth distributions, philanthropic gifting appears to follow an approximate power-law size distribution as measured by the size of gifts received by individual institutions. We explore the ecology of gifting by analysing data sets of individual gifts for a diverse group of institutions dedicated to education, medicine, art, public support, and religion. We find that the detailed forms of gift-size distributions differ across but are relatively constant within charity categories. We construct a model for how a donor's income affects their giving preferences in different charity categories, offering a mechanistic explanation for variations in institutional gift-size distributions. We discuss how knowledge of gift-sized distributions may be used to assess an institution's gift-giving profile, to help set fundraising goals, and to design an institution-specific giving pyramid.