Quartile Analysis – A Great Tool You Never Knew You Had

Quartile Analysis – This is a Powerful Stewardship Education and Management Tool                                                                                                           Bill Clontz, Stewardship Consultant

Bill Clontz

Bill Clontz

When we begin working with a congregation on almost any aspect of their stewardship environment, we usually start with a Quartile Analysis (QA). Oftentimes when we ask if a QA has been run by the leadership, we receive a quizzical look, followed by acknowledgement that the congregation not only does not have one – they don’t know what that is. Easily corrected, and well worth the effort.

Quartile analysis is a proven tool to illustrate for your members and pledging friends how well we share the distribution of gifts among the congregation and whether we are vulnerable to severe imbalances, (too few people contibuting too much of the total or too many of us contributing too little).

An ideal profile looks like a gradual set of steps, over which members can advance over time, moving from a lower to higher, as involvement and commitment develop.

Naturally, some of us are able to give more than others, and any distribution graph will show that. Quartile analysis takes that reality into account by providing a model healthy distribution and then compares our profile to that model.

Many congregations have too few donors making major contributions and too many contributing at the lower end. To some degree, that reflects financial reality within our congregations, but often this is also is a reflection of the membership not being aware of the distribution of gifts and what vulnerabilties result for the congregation.

Sharing a QA is one good way to have that conversation. Constructing a QA, sharing it with the congregation, and explainng what it means is an eye opener for many and an excellent way to start adult conversations about the future. It’s mostly visual, not just numbers, and respects everyone’s privacy in terms of individual commitments. That’s a powerful set of reasons for using a QA in your congregation, without delay.

By the way, some congregations use a quintile analysis, using five baselines rather than four. Either approach is perfectly fine.

So, how does it work? The following is an example of the process and outcome, based on a theoretical congregation. To create a quartile analysis:

  • Add up the total dollar amount of pledges received in a year.
  • Arrange all commitments in descending order, from largest to smallest.
  • Next, add up the gifts, starting with largest and continuing down until reaching a total equalling the first quartile (25%) of total dollars pledged. This is the first quartile.

In an ideal balance, about 10% of us contribute this first 25%; in our sample, we have only 7% of us contributing at this level.

Continue down the list until the total reaches the next 25%, (showing cumulatively 50 % of total pledge amounts) to determine the second quartile of giving. Ideally, about 15% of us contribute this next 25% of our total; we are fairly close here, at 11%.

Follow the same procedure to determine the 3rd and 4th quartiles of giving. A good balance for the 3rd quartile would have about 30% of us contributing this amount; for this sample, it’s only 21%. The last 25% comes from about 45% of donors in a good balance; in this sample, it is a much larger 61%.

And a number of households may not pledge at all, as in this example, with X waivers and XX contributions of record at very low levels.

Overall, the totals display might look as follows in the attached example – easy for anyone to read and understand: Quartile Analysis Example: http://stewardshipforus.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Example-Quartile-Analysis-e1448334337777.jpg

Take the time to build a QA for your congregation, share it with your members, and start the conversation about what being a member and a steward of the future means.


Bill Clontz is a stewardship consultant with The Stewardship for Us Team, supporting the UUA. Bill can be reached at bill@stewardshipforus.com, via the UUA’s Congregational Life Directorate (http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/index.shtml),  or through your regional staff.

This blog has a new posting no less than once a month. You may find it and more at our website, www.stewardshipforus.com. You are welcome to sign up for stewardship updates at the blog. Comments and discussion are always welcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *