The Fundamentals of Fundraising Gift Tables

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The gift table is one of the most important pieces of your arsenal as a fundraiser. But how well do you really know how to build, maintain, and use a gift table? This series goes deep on how to use this tool to advance fundraising efforts. Keep an eye out for more articles in this series, as well as an upcoming webinar!


 

In my 35 years in development, many tools have come and gone, but fundraising professionals have consistently used gift tables to organize their fundraising efforts. Constructed effectively, gift tables bring clarity to our work, allowing us to gut check our goals and share with others how almost any type of fundraising effort can be successful. It’s a campaign design boiled down to its simplest form.


A basic gift table can be constructed with just the following information:

  • Gift levels
  • Donors needed at each level
  • Qualified prospects needed at each level based on a 3:1 ratio—three qualified prospects for each projected donation
  • Subtotal of the gifts needed at each level
  • Cumulative total of the gifts needed at all the previous levels
$10 Million Gift Table
Level Gifts
Needed
Qualified Prospects Needed Subtotal

Cumulative Dollars

Cumulative
Percent
$1M 1 3 $1M $1M 10%
$500K 5 15 $2.5M $3.5M 35%
$250K 9 27 $2.25M $5.75M 58%
$100K 18 54 $1.8M $7.55M 76%
$50K 20 60 $1M $8.55M 86%
$25K 30 90 $750K $9.3M 93%
$10K 40 120 $400K $9.7M 97%
Less than $10K Many Many $300K $10M 100%

The gift table above shows a potential $10 million campaign and details how many donors will be needed at each level.

As you can see, this is a traditional pyramid-shaped gift distribution, with a small number of donors making larger gifts and a larger number of donors giving at lower levels. It captures the campaign in a static state, showing you how your $10 million goal breaks down into giving levels, prospects, and revenue.

As useful as they are as planning tools, fundraisers are increasingly realizing that gift tables are just as useful for tracking progress once you’ve launched your effort. To use a gift table for tracking, just include the actual state of your donor and prospect pools as compared to the ideal scenario in your gift table.

You can do this manually or use Beam Insights to automatically feed your data into the gift table to keep your eye on these additional data points:

  • Solicited donors at each gift level
  • Total dollar amount of gifts received at each level
  • Remaining dollars needed at each level
  • Active proposals
  • Identified prospects (determined through a scoring process)
  • Surplus/gap of identified prospects to donors needed (the number of qualified prospects needed minus the number of donors, active proposals, and identified prospects)
  • Future prospects (determined through a scoring process) 

Beam-Insights-gift-table-example

This “smart” gift table (generated by Beam Insights) shows the same campaign as the gift table above, but now it reflects the fundraising situation on the ground. The organization has already secured one gift of $250,000. It has a good bench of prospects for its remaining high-level gifts and has a few active proposals—but more solicitations will be needed.

Using a tracking gift table helps us get beyond individual donor interactions and focus on what really moves the needle on a fundraising effort. It helps us pair our fundamental fundraising knowledge with a visual to understand how we can reach our goals. For instance, we can use the gift table to uncover the following data points:

We know that... So...
Every gift will likely come only after four to six cultivation touch points. We can use a gift table to see whether we have the resources to do the work we need to do.
A strong relationship with a team member can lead to increased giving. A gift table can help us determine whether our major gift team is spending its time in ways that add value.
Tracking the donor pipeline is as important as tracking total revenue in the door. As a fundraising effort progresses, we can use the gift table to see at what levels we have been successful and where we need to adjust our strategy.

Because of their simplicity, a smart gift table can be a great way to share campaign progress beyond organizational leadership. An accurate gift table is an effective tool for staff and volunteers alike, giving everyone the information they need to fulfill their roles more effectively.

Leaders will find this tool especially useful. The executive director, president, CEO, or head of the organization can use a gift table to focus on the top gift levels of the gift table. These will be the best prospects who will need personal engagement at the highest levels—and strategic input from the most senior leaders.

The chief development officer can use a gift table to assess the amount of activity it will take to reach goals. Using a gift table, a CDO can confirm that all major gift prospects are assigned to frontline fundraisers to make sure appropriate cultivation and stewardship is happening.

Staff outside of leadership roles and even volunteers can also benefit from using these tables. In addition to helping major gift officers see how their fundraising goals fit into the larger strategy, gift tables can also convey the importance of cultivating three times as many prospects as donors needed at each level and meeting visit goals each month.

Database managers can help the team understand which prospects fit into which level of the gift table based on past giving and capacity scores, as well as where fundraisers can identify additional prospects when there are gaps in the gift table. And volunteers can see their own progress and the progress of the fundraising effort overall.

At least, that’s how it works in an ideal scenario. Creating a gift table with all the right pieces of data poses many challenges even for organizations that are sophisticated with their data:

  • Prospect and donor information lives in database systems. Mapping prospects to the gift table can be difficult and time-consuming.
  • As gifts come in and you identify prospects at different levels of the gift table, keeping the table updated takes constant work.
  • Understanding which levels donors “map to” based on wealth screening and giving information can be challenging without effective wealth and propensity scoring.
  • When reviewing a gift table, it can be difficult to remember if a proposal is in process or submitted without linking to the database.

So the question is: How can we make sure the gift table is updated enough to be useful and hassle-free enough to be worth using?

Beam Insights revolutionizes the role of a gift table in all fundraising efforts. It builds a gift table based on a few easy data points (largest gift, major gift threshold, and distribution of gifts from broad-based to top-heavy) and then creates a customized gift table that connects directly to your database. With just a few clicks, Beam Insights shows you:

  • Donors needed at each level
  • Progress toward the overall goal
  • Gaps in qualified prospects needed at each level
  • Prospects at each level based on a customized capacity score

Users can adjust each level of the gift table with automatic recalculations as they learn more about how prospects slot into each level of the gift table, so neither an unexpected mega-gift nor a totally different balance of gifts mean you have to start from scratch.

And since the gift table is tied to real prospects in your database, the prospects at each level aren’t just numbers: You can click through to see the real donors and prospects who have capacity to give at each level.

Follow our gift table series over the next two months as we dig into the functionality of gift tables and how they can help your fundraising team. And to see a Beam Insights gift table in action, click the button below.

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