Webinar Recording: Using Gift Tables for Fundraising Planning

Read Time: 21 minutes

On December 2, 2020, we hosted "Using Gift Tables for Fundraising Planning," a webinar exploring the full extent of what a gift table can do for your fundraising. The webinar walked through how to use a gift table when:

  • Planning for a major campaign
  • Determining how to close the remaining dollars to meet your annual fund goal
  • Assessing fundraising capacity mid-campaign

Watch the webinar recording or read the transcript below:

Adam Wilhelm: Thanks everybody for joining us today. I'm grateful for your participation in the webinar today and excited to talk with you about the humble but extremely effective tool of gift tables and share a little bit more about how we use them in our work and how we're leveraging them to help our clients achieve their goals.

Caitlin Bristow: Thanks, Adam. Hi everyone, I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to walk you through what we use in our work with our clients in terms of a simple gift table and a more complex gift table where we can really use it as a tool to affect tracking and planning for specific fundraising efforts.

When we think about using gift tables to plan, we want to think about it in a few different ways. We can use it to set our fundraising goals and estimate the donors needed at each level. When we're working with our clients, usually we would recommend pulling together two to three gift tables for various goals as you're in the planning stage so you can figure out where you have the donors that you need or the prospects that you need to reach the specific goals.

Whether you should be looking at a top-heavy gift table, where you're going to see more six and seven-figure gifts versus maybe a balanced gift table, where you're going to see more gifts come in at the mid-level or are you going to move forward with a fundraising effort that's going to focus on broad-based support. A gift table has an opportunity to help you think about what that planning can look like.

A gift table can also be used to track towards a fundraising initiative. When you think about the kind of materials that you are sharing with your board members or your staff, often it can be a lot of different reports which can be challenging.

A gift table can be a one-stop-shop for all the tracking information for that specific effort so you can add columns with more complexity that show the gifts received towards your fundraising initiative and the pipeline to determine your progress towards the goal and where you still need to do additional work.

Then you're able to map near-term prospects and future prospects to your gift table. If you want to think about increased complexity of the gift table, you can pull together your pipeline, as I mentioned, in the tracking feature or you can pull together your different prospect lists.

If you have a near-term prospect list, you could map it to the gift table, which we'll go through in detail, and you can also take a look at your longer-term prospects or prospects who aren't as engaged with you at this time for this fundraising effort and map those to the gift table as well. There's lots of different ways that you can use a gift table to help with any fundraising initiative.

I've been talking about the gift table evolution. A simple gift table you set a goal and you can assign how many donors you need towards each level of the gift table to reach that goal. Then you can estimate the qualified prospects that you need to reach those donor levels and calculate your subtotals and cumulative totals so that you can see how many dollars you need to come in for each level of the gift table.

We'll talk about this a little bit later but it's a really good tool that you can show your board members and other staff members how much work you need to do at the six and seven-figure levels of any fundraising initiative and where your time needs to be spent when you are thinking about the prospects that you need to engage.

As we work towards complexity on the gift table, you can add donors and gifts received at each of those levels and then add proposals or opportunities at each level as they are developed by your team. So as your team enters proposals or opportunities into the system, they can either automatically be mapped to the gift table or you can do that manually in excel so that you can see what your pipeline looks like for each goal.

Then you can add prospects or future prospects or near-term and longer-term prospects to that gift table. This will become clearer as we work through some of the definitions or show you what a sample gift table can look like.

If you think about a basic gift table, the first column here, working our way from left to right, is the Gift Level: the dollars needed at each level of the gift table. For example, in a $20 million campaign, you may have a $2 million lead gift or you may have a couple of $1 million gifts that you're looking to secure and you can play around with that top level. Maybe you have a $5 million prospective donor and you want to have that as your top level of the gift table.

Then you think about your bottom level of the gift table. We like to think about that as the major gift threshold. What gifts are you expecting to solicit in-person? For example, a lot of times, we'll see that as a $25,000 level. In that instance, you would have a $25,000, to $2-5 million gift table and then you would fill in all of the levels in between that.

Then working our way to the right here, you have the Donors Needed at each level. You can play around with this a little bit. For example, if you don't think you have a $2 million donor, you may add another donor needed at the million-dollar level and two at the $500,000 level. You can play around with this, use it as a sandbox for your staff as you think about what a gift distribution would look like.

Then we will go to the Qualified Prospects Needed section, which is the number of qualified prospects needed for each donor that you need. We use a 3:1 ratio at Campbell & Company, three qualified prospects for every one donor that you need. This is pretty conservative when you think about the prospects that will be giving to your fundraising effort.

Towards this fundraising effort, they may be qualified as a prospect at that level but may not come in on this fundraising effort at that level so we want to make sure that we have a ratio that reflects that.

We've added the word Qualified here. We want these prospects to be prospects that you have had conversations with or that are engaged somehow with your organization. We don't want all of the individuals or families that you have in your database mapped here because that doesn't adequately reflect the prospects that may give at each of those levels.

Then you'll see that the gift table has the math involved, some formulas where you'll have the subtotal of each level, the gifts needed, the cumulative total adding up all of the levels before it, and the cumulative percentage so you can see at the $100,000 level for example what is the percentage of gifts that are going to come in at that level and above.

Shown here is a drilling down on the basic gift table, an example of a basic gift table as I had just walked through it. You can see, for example, if we start at the million-dollar level here, we're saying we need two donors needed therefore we need six qualified prospects.

Qualified prospects, again, are those prospects that we think can have the capacity to give at that million-dollar level. We have that information through wealth screening or conversations that we've had with those particular prospects and they also have affinity towards you. You've had conversations to know that they are indeed interested in supporting your organization in one way or another.

Then the subtotal of two million and then you can see the cumulative total. This is where some of the math comes in, the level above it in addition to the million-dollar level and you can see then it does additional math with the cumulative percentage. You can see the percentage of the goal that will come in from that level and above. You can see you'll need 20% of your campaign goal will be coming in from donors at the seven-figure level.

Again, this can be helpful in conversations with board and other volunteer leaders as you think about the time needed or time spent with those really high-capacity prospects who can make transformational gifts.

As we think about adding additional complexity or functionality to the gift table, it can really be used as a one-stop-shop tool for you in tracking and planning. We have talked about these four columns already here and then if we add an additional column, you can map the donors that have come in for your fundraising initiative to the gift table.

If you have one donor that has come in at the million-dollar level, you would add a column and put one in that row for a million-dollars and you would then say that you have a million dollars at that level in gifts received.

All of that information can be pulled through and again be used as a tracking tool. Some simple math will allow you to see the remaining dollars that you'll need from your donors at each of those levels.

We know that at a million-dollar level, you may have gifts that come in at $1.5 million, for example, which is great, but this is a good way of seeing the dollars needed at each of those levels. Then as your team adds proposals for your fundraising initiative, you can then map those to the gift table as well.

If we think about a campaign for example and you are entering proposals actively for prospects that you're currently cultivating, those would be mapped to this gift table as well so you can understand your pipeline and where you still need to fill in gaps in the gift table.

Then you may have, or hopefully have, prospects who are near term prospects for this fundraising initiative. Which can be a one-year annual initiative or multi-year campaign, where you have those near-term prospects that you have identified, but they're not close enough in the relationship management cycle to put in a proposal for them yet.

Maybe you're in early cultivation stages, haven't identified where you are going to make an ask or what they're interested in in terms of levels of support, so you would put them in the identified prospect column. They are in your pipeline, yet they don't currently have a proposal.

Additional calculations are made so that you can see the gap between the qualified prospects needed, taking into account the donors that have already come in, and where you have your pipeline. So, within active proposals and identified prospects.

This gives you a good snapshot of, “Okay, where do we need to work in the gift table?” and a lot of times we find with our clients that the mid-level is really where some of the challenges can be. You have a lot of gifts that you need, for example, at the $50,000 or $100,000 levels and you just haven't identified those prospects yet because you're still in the leadership gift phase or still in planning. You want to think about what that middle of the gift table looks like.

If we look at an example, with all of these additional columns, you can see here the additional analysis that is really helpful as you track and plan.

If we take another look at that million-dollar level, as we did on the simpler version, you can see the Donors Needed through the Subtotal lines, all remain the same, but now we show that we have one donor who has come in. We map that to the gift table, put in the gifts received and we'll still see that we need a million-dollar in remaining gifts at that level.

You'll see that we have two active proposals and one identified prospect. Therefore, we don't have any gaps at that level, which is great, but you will see that we do have some gaps at the $250,000 level.

Given that you've done this analysis, you may choose to make some adjustments like, "Okay, I can add some additional donors that are needed at the top level to make up for some of those gaps that you see at the $250,000 level," or you may choose to dig further into your prospect pool and look at your longer-term prospects who may not be as engaged with you right now.

Here's a snapshot that looks different from the ones that I was just walking through, on our Software as a Service product at Beam Insights. Beam connects directly to your database. Your system pulls out the information that I had just talked about, all of those data points, and mapped to a gift table automatically.

All of those calculations are done for you. Again, you can do it manually in Excel but we were doing this so often with our clients that we created this product that does the work like magic.

You'll see here that we have that last column that I indicated, which is called Future Prospects. Beam Insights takes all of your information, all of your data and segments your prospects automatically into identified prospects and future prospects.

We can take a look at our future prospects and see where we may have additional prospects that we can move over into the identified prospects column and potentially into our pipeline. It's just another way to look at, "Okay, we need to look at our pipeline a little bit more deeply, where can we dig into those prospects?"

As you think about placing prospects on the gift table and what that mapping looks like, you won't necessarily pull in everyone from your database into a gift table for any fundraising initiative. If you're using it for annual funds, you may limit it to donors that have given to the annual fund in the past and pull those through as well as potential prospects based on capacity, but they may not all land on the gift table, which is completely fine.

If you want to place them in donor columns when they have given for the amount that they've given, place them in proposal or opportunity column for the proposal amounts.

You could do this two ways: for the expected amount, which would be a more conservative calculation on the gift table, or for the ask amount. You could do that in those two ways based on the culture of your team and then you can also place the prospect and future prospects as we had mentioned based on their capacity score.

The score, if you're doing internal scoring, can take into account a couple of different data points: past giving to your organization (if you know of other gifts they've made to similar organizations or within your community), wealth screening information (which can be done from many of the vendors who give that wealth screening information), relationship management stage can be taken into account. Have they been qualified? Are they a qualified prospect or are they in active solicitation? The proposal amount, if you've entered a proposal, that can be factored into a capacity score and then prospect status.

We want to take those into consideration when creating a score and again, Beam Insights does that for us. It takes all of that information, all of those data points and does the analysis on the back end, and then places those prospects onto a gift table for you.

You can also do that manually if you're doing some of those internal capacity ratings within your team or you can place them on the gift table based on a wealth screening number, just understanding that that screening number is probably not reflective of what they'll give to your organization but more of what they can give to all organizations over a five-year period.

I'm going to pass it on to Adam now who's going to talk through some scenarios on how we can really use gift tables in our planning and tracking work.

Adam: Thanks, Caitlin. Just as a reminder for anybody who's been either furiously taking notes or screenshots on the back end of this webinar, we'll be sharing the slides from the presentation as well as a recording of our comments. You'll have everything at your disposal as well as a link to the Beam Insights website that Caitlin's been mentioning.

We want to talk a little bit more about how to practically put gift tables to use. As you're sitting here thinking about gift tables, I would ask you to consider how you've been leveraging gift tables in your everyday work.

Certainly, anybody who's on this call, who's involved in fundraising, is pursuing or involved in pursuing a goal in some way, shape, or form, and we really strongly encourage you to use gift tables to plan and track your success towards achieving those goals. If there's one takeaway, I think that's what I would ask you to walk away from this webinar with, is a quick audit of how you're using this really effective tool to help your planning and activate fundraising.

We find that gift tables can be used for planning and tracking in different ways with different audiences. For fundraising teams, we often talk about where gaps exist, where do you need additional prospects? What steps do you need to go through? Who on the team needs to be involved in identifying additional prospects?

This is useful for obvious reasons, you're not going to be able to close on gifts if you don't have the constituents, individuals, organizations or otherwise to cultivate and solicit. Identifying those gaps early on is a critical piece of understanding if you might be successful and if you're being successful based on your plan.

If you can't address gaps by surfacing additional prospects, you can change how many prospects you may need by adjusting the donors you'll need at each level as Caitlin mentioned. Can you ask people for more? Can you adjust plans to fit the addressable philanthropic market of your constituent base?

I think 10-15 years ago, gift tables were really a static tool, you would set them at the beginning of an initiative and track to them but not really changed them as you move throughout any initiative or any kind of goal that you might be pursuing. More and more we're seeing gift tables be dynamic and updated on a frequent basis, either daily, weekly, or otherwise.

Last on teams, when you're starting out focusing on the top is pretty critical. If you can be successful with your first or largest opportunities, filling out the rest of the table will become that much easier.

You saw in one of the examples, the top couple levels of gifts were supplying 20% or more of the expected returns. We find that the Pareto Principle or even more severe range, “80% of your gifts coming from 20% of your donors” hold in any kind of goal planning scenario, so addressing those lead gifts is pretty critical.

For Board and volunteer committees, obviously, depending on your leadership, to what extent and what level of depth do you want to bring them behind the scenes or into the weeds can vary based on your organization and the people you're working with, but using gift tables with those folks can help to set appropriate expectations.

How much cultivation? How much solicitation activity? With what frequency do we need to be successfully closing gifts and yielding what we expected in order to achieve the goal? Setting that expectation early on is really critical and as you move through and keep that table dynamic as well.

As a part of that, you can use the gift table to help have conversations with boards or volunteer leadership about how they can positively influence the outcome of whatever goal you're trying to achieve, especially with those prospects at the top of the table. How do you make this a team sport with not just the fundraising staff but with other leadership and volunteer leadership as well?

One thing we know about gift tables based on the thousands of campaigns and goals that Campbell & Company has helped to pursue over our 45 years, is that they never look exactly the same as when we start out. We start out, we said directionally, here's how we think a gift table is going to unfold over the course of a goal but it's never exactly the same on the back end.

It's important to continue to set expectations for the time it's going to take for you to advance the strategies associated with the gift table and continue to communicate that with leadership.

For prospective donors, and this might be the surprising category for people in terms of how do you use gift tables with different audiences across your organization. A gift table can be a really effective qualification and cultivation tool.

That said, we encourage you to use it strategically. When I've had the opportunity to do some interim leadership work with organizations, I've shaded a gift table to give a prospective donor an indication of where I might like them to land and get their perspective on that.

It can be helpful in working with donors, additionally, to identify other specific or other prospects. If you're bringing them inside the tent, so to speak in regards to your plans, here's how we think we can achieve this impact that we're talking about and the associated goal.

They can begin to think about who are the individuals or organizations that they might influence at various levels, and also helps them to think about where they might see themselves in that gift table in relationship to obviously their capability, but also how they see themselves in relationship to your organization. Don't hesitate to use that as a tool as you're having conversations with donors of all sizes and potential as well.

Let's talk through a few different goal-setting scenarios through which you might use a gift table. To plan for a major campaign, this is the most traditional way that you might use a gift table and, in the beginning, it's helpful as you're just beginning to talk about what's the perspective goal for this campaign.

When you're thinking about what's feasible, what's realistic, I find that when we have conversations with our clients' organizations across the country, of all shapes and sizes, most chief development officers have a gut-level instinct of what might be achievable for their organization over a multi-year period. That's somewhat based on what they know is the quantified capability of their constituent base.

Often those two things, that gut instinct and that data-backed perspective are not eye to eye, and taking the time to sit down and say, "Okay, what is our data across a gift table, in the way that Caitlin showed you, tell us what we might be able to achieve over a specific period of time?" Exclusive of the type of goal that you might be setting, just specifically based on what you think your constituent base has the capability to do all things being equal.

Based on that, looking at the gaps in the table as we talked about to say, "Okay, well, my President, my CEO, my Executive Director, our Board is saying, ‘We need to raise X.’ I'm looking at this table in order to get to X, we're going to need another 25 prospects at $25,000 and above or whatever it may be."

Being able to communicate that early on before you get yourself into really active planning and implementation. If you have the ability, maybe you revisit that goal as we all know, sometimes goals are just set for us and so we do our best to achieve them, but communicating what opportunities and challenges exist as a result of that. Then working to fill those gaps either through Peer Screening to identify additional prospects or working with your colleagues in Prospect Management to do the same.

Additionally, mapping pipeline to that as you are in the early stages, or even in the planning stages, as you no doubt are in the state of relationship management with a set of prospects to understand how those already in active cultivation, or otherwise, may support the planning for a campaign.

We hear a lot from the organizations we work with “How do we effectively use gift tables to close our annual fund goal we're to plan for next year?”

Whether you want to say annual fund or annual giving, I think we could use those terms interchangeably here, where we're talking about a 12-month period the operational dollars you need to bring in the door in order to affect whatever your mission may be. Similarly, as in a campaign, you want to build a gift table with that annual fund goal.

I think sometimes people shy away from using the gift table for annual fund or annual giving purposes because they think, well, the levels related to major giving or a major campaign are less significant or are smaller, but really in any annual effort that 80:20 ratio is going to be similar.

You're going to close a smaller number of some more significant gifts that are going to drive the overall success of whatever goal you're trying to achieve, so the gift table format still holds for this purpose. As a part of that, you want to consider what that top gift could be and that top gift could be as small as $1000 and then create additional levels based on that table, we find that's the way to start, start at the top, and move down from there.

Enter any gifts that you've achieved thus far if you're already into that year as we're noting in this scenario, determine where you still have gaps, obviously, where you want to focus your time. Again, that's why we find the gift table can be helpful in activating fundraising. We might come in one day and say, "Okay, where is it most important for me to spend my time related to meeting the specific goal?"

If you're updating your gift table on a regular basis, you'll be able to see very clearly where the gaps are in your donor column and in your prospect column where you need to be spending additional time in order to advance that goal.

In order to do that, you might examine where you had success in previous years, how was this year shaping out differently from past years? Where you did or did not have success? And then do the great work that we all do every day as fundraisers. Identify those constituents who can help you do that and get to the work of relationship building and fundraising.

This is something that we've heard from organizations more consistently, especially over the last three to five years is “Once we're in the midst of a campaign, how do we assess capacity? We raise a certain amount of money, what kind of capability do we have left? We assessed at the beginning what we thought was the capability of our constituent base, where are we now? What kind of room do we have to run as we think about the remaining timeline?”

Some of the steps here might be somewhat obvious, but building a table with the overall campaign goal and hopefully, you already got that in place, filling in those gifts today, where have you been successful, making sure to remove those individuals who have already given at whatever is a major gift level to your organization from the prospect column into that donor column. We're proponents of second asks but certainly only where appropriate.

Identify proposals that you have outstanding. This is another good prospect management, data-hygiene practice. Within your organization, if you're not actively tracking proposals or opportunity solicitations that have been made in a systematic fashion, we encourage you to do that. The ability to map that against the table makes it that much more of an effective tool for assessing progress and understanding where you have to go.

From there you're able to determine where you still have needs, be it prospects donors, or getting proposals into that pipeline. Then adjust the table regularly based on your progress.

We've all been recipients of gifts that are larger than we expected, gifts that are smaller than we expected, prospects who for some reason no longer have the capability to support the organization the way that we thought they may have.

You need to adjust to make it a more top-heavy campaign; so are you going to go to fewer people to try and close that goal? Do you need to broaden the base or as I was saying with a recent client, roaming through the middle and focusing on that category of donors for that organization that fill out that part of the table?

This regular assessment is a really healthy process and we find relieves anxiety and then questions for any stakeholder who's watching the success of any fundraising initiative.

I want to share some of the questions that we typically get when we're using the gift table as a tool and working through it with clients. So, you can consider this a FAQ so to speak.

The first question, how many donors do we need at the top levels to meet our goals? We find that very often chief development officers, presidents, executive directors, CEOs, et cetera, are really focused on understanding what is going to be the "heavy lift" related to achieving our goal?

That's why as we move throughout this presentation, we’ve encourage you to start at the top of your table and work down from there because understanding at what level you're going to be able to set, how heavy is the gift table going to be, how many prospects do you have at that level, what work do you need to do internally in order to affect a successful outcome at the top level of the table, are pretty critical to understanding if you're going to be successful or if you need to make adjustments.

As Caitlin mentioned, we often use a very conservative or risk-averse 3:1 qualified prospects to donors needed ratio. In practice, we find that the ratio actually decreases at the highest ends of the table. When you're looking at the top two or three levels you might actually be looking at a two and a half, a two, or sometimes even a one and a half to one qualified prospect to donors needed. I've never met half of a prospect, but I think you understand what I'm saying. Ha!

Working through that, understanding how close you are in relationship to some of those lead gift prospects, and again, this could apply to a multi-year campaign or an annual giving scenario, is an important question to answer and something that you will get as you develop and share the gift table across your organization.

Next question is [What if we developed a challenge effort and expanded the gifts needed at the $100k level?], and we've posed this specifically around a challenge effort in the midst of any kind of goal that you're pursuing, but it could really be any kind of angle or change that gets thrown into whatever goal or initiative you're trying to pursue.

It might be this kind of challenge effort which is great, it might be, "Hey, we found out that we need to add another 20% in dollars to the budget for this facility that we're building or we have another 20 participants in our program that we need to fund and so we need to up our goal." Anything that changes how you might be pursuing your goal.

Keeping the table dynamic and setting that expectation early on with anybody who you're using the table with to help advance your goal is an important expectation to set. In this instance, if you developed a challenge effort and expanded the gifts needed at the 100k level, you would want to show how an increased number of donors at that level would impact the other levels.

Don't just make one change at one level and not consider how that impacts the table on the way down, and the table on the way up as well. I think in the coming weeks we'll have some downloadable content available that allows you to do that, but if you're building something internally it's definitely something to take into account.

[Question: Should we start talking to the community about this campaign to get a broader base of support?]

Now, this is a question we get all the time, especially as we're talking with the steering committees or development committees of the board, “When should we be going broader with our efforts? When do we blast the email, send the letters, put things out on the website, when do we need to do that?”

As we've said a number of times as we've moved through this presentation, in any goal that you're pursuing, the majority of the gifts that you're going to receive or the largest percentage of the gifts that are going to help you achieve your goal are going to be at the higher end of the table.

In this instance, we're drawing down all the way to the lowest level and showing that well, a good portion of the goal is going to be made up by many smaller gifts. The focus of our activity should be on the first 75% to 80% of the goal where those one-on-one interactions are going to drive whether or not you're successful in achieving that goal.

Using the gift table to communicate with those folks outside of the fundraising team, on your boards, on volunteer committees that just want to blast the message that, "We need your support." Encouraging them to focus on the interactions that are going to enable you to move to achieving your goal faster is very helpful and a good way to leverage again, answering a question with a gift table.

I think this is the last gift table question, “Do you have the prospects you need to reach your goal?” We started here and so we're closing out here. This is probably one of the most important things that you need to be using a gift table for.

We also use it to help inform portfolio rebalancing when we're looking at how do we distribute constituents across portfolios of individuals who may be doing frontline fundraising. Have you identified those prospects you think are near-term capable of making a major gift to your organization?

As I mentioned previously, are you actively tracking proposals or solicitations that have been completed and then using those two points of data to understand how that has an impact on whether or not the gift table that you created is going to be successfully achieved through then engaging in active fundraising?

It seems so simple to me, but it's one of those things where it takes discipline, diligence, and persistence to be continually reviewing this data, working with your colleagues and your teams to make sure that data is updated, and then intentionally reviewing that data to help inform strategy and next steps across the organization.

That brings us to the end of our presentation today. I want to thank you all for joining us!

Caitlin: Thank you all!

For more on this subject, check out our gift table article series:

Webinar Recording

Caitlin Bristow

Caitlin Bristow is a Senior Consultant at Campbell & Company and Product Manager of Beam Insights. She partners with nonprofits across sectors to help them build philanthropic support and deepen donor relationships.