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Using a Gift Table in Your Assessment

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of fundraising, campaigns, and our process, let’s review one of the most important tools that will be utilized through the pre-campaign and campaign phases - the gift table. What is a gift table, how do you read a gift table, and why is a gift table important?

A gift table is one of the more scientific aspects of giving involved in fundraising. The gift table is an important step in assessing the financial capability of your organization or community. When working to determine the feasibility and strategy for moving forward with a particular project, the key is to identify the top 12 to 16 people in a community/organization to determine whether or not their support is forthcoming for the project.

The gift table should be evaluated by your steering committee or group of influential community leaders during the interviewee brainstorming session. Are you interviewing community members who have the capacity to fit into the top categories of giving? At this point, you are looking for individuals, corporations, businesses or foundations who have the financial capacity to give as well is if they would consider if they WILL give at the early juncture of a capital campaign. During the personal confidential interviews of influential community leaders or organizational stakeholders, the gift table will be used to determine which level they might feel comfortable considering over a three-year pledge period. This amount could also extend to five years if your board has determined they are able to accommodate the financing needed for five years as pledges are remitted.

One very important maxim in fundraising is this: Whether you are raising $500,000, $1M, $10M or more, traditionally 60 to 70 percent of your funds must come from 12 to 16 donors. The last sentence is the key, and it is true. It is absolutely vital to try to speak personally with those folks who can make or break the project. The other $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, etc. donors are necessary as they all are, but they will not make or break the project like the top prospects. The remaining gifts will be given once donors see the project being supported by larger donors.

See the example gift pyramid below to help bring the concept to life. Start by looking at the third column from the left named “number required field”. Based on a $3.5M campaign, you will need at least one gift ranging from 10 to 15 percent of your goal. You will need two gifts from $300,000 to $400,000 in this example. For the third major gift amount, you will need three gifts totaling between $100,000 and $150,000. You will see in this particular example, that once you obtain 20 donors in these ranges, you will have reached 69 percent of your goal!

Another key maxim in relationship to determining prospective donor amounts is to analyze the number of prospective donors needed in each level. In the top-level gift of 10 to 15 percent, you will need at least six prospective donors to complete one gift. For the next two levels, which are equally as significant in terms of impact on a campaign, you will also need at least six prospective donors for each gift.

However, once you move below the two three tiers, a rule of thumb is that you will need three prospects to complete one gift in those ranges. Do not expect to move down the gift table in order. Some donors who were identified may give at lower levels because of their commitment to other organizations and causes. Be thankful for every gift you receive, because even at the lower levels, you need a greater number to fulfill those giving levels.

The gift table acts as a guide during the campaign readiness study or feasibility study and the actual campaign to determine how you need to proceed if some entities give a generous gift, but perhaps less than what you may have originally hoped. The gift table serves as pieces of your entire campaign puzzle. The key is to try to fit those major corner pieces in first – that is why we usually solicit those with more financial capacity first, to see where they may decide they want to support the project.

Finally, most campaigns, if correctly and strategically planned, will reach their goal with 120 donors. In this example above, 160 donors were required to meet the goal. This is because in this instance, more major donors were not identified during the study. The campaign still won, but it required a slightly different strategy for more mid-level donors.

We’ve just scratched the surface of the definition and uses of the gift table. But we hope it’s a great start to utilizing this important tool. Have questions about how you can put your gift table to use for your project? Give us a call or submit a question or comment via our contact page.

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