How to Use a Gift Table to Elevate Your Fundraising Strategy

Fundraisers are continually looking for ways to streamline fundraising efforts, increase efficiency and effectiveness, and raise more money. Your nonprofit has a clear vision, a committed donor base, and you have invested in a stellar CRM (customer relationship management) system, but what other tools could elevate your fundraising strategy?

A gift table, also known as a gift range chart, fundraising chart, donor pyramid, fundraising pyramid, or pyramid of gifts is a fundraising tool often thought of for capital campaign purposes; however, it can also be a versatile tool for annual fundraising, major gift strategy, and endowment raising campaigns. It can help determine the likelihood of success of any fundraising goal, streamline the donors you want to spend more time with, and track progress toward your campaign goal.

Let’s define what a gift table is, why it is used, when to use it, and how to create your own to elevate your non-profit’s fundraising strategy.

What is a Gift Table?

A gift table, also called a gift range chart, giving chart, or a fundraising chart is a tool that helps establish the level or gift amount, the number of gifts at each level, and the number of prospects you will need to reach your fundraising goal. A typical gift table establishes that 80% or more of the fundraising goal will come from 20% or less of donors who make a gift. In other words, you will need a few major donors to make large gifts for your campaign to be successful.

This is also known as the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule. Some recent studies have found that it may even be closer to 90% of your goal coming from 10% or less of your donors. It is built like a pyramid, with a smaller number of large gifts at the top and many smaller gifts at the bottom.

  • The gift table looks like a typical Excel or Word table with columns and rows with the following headings:
  • Number of gifts
  • Gift amount
  • Number of prospects required (typically 3-5 prospects per gift)
  • Amount raised subtotal
  • Cumulative total
  • Cumulative percent of your goal (optional)

The columns can be customized for your specific fundraising campaign, these are the basics.

Why Are Gift Tables Used?

A gift table can identify how many prospects are needed to reach your fundraising goal and may help determine if the goal is realistic and achievable for your organization at this time. Generally, 3-5 prospects are needed for each gift.

This can be useful when working with others who may not have the same level of understanding about fundraising, such as your volunteer board members. It can also help to establish a strategy and identify donors that may need special attention.

When Should I use a Gift Range Chart?

Gift tables or gift pyramids have commonly been used in the feasibility phase of capital campaigns, but they can be used in any fundraising effort where there is an established goal.

Consider using a gift table for:

  • Annual fund goal
  • Scholarship campaign
  • Endowment building campaign
  • Capacity campaign
  • Capital campaign

Using this simple approach, you’ll learn what it will take to reach your fundraising goals.

How Do I Create a Gift Table?

You now understand what a versatile fundraising tool a gift table is; how can you create your own?

How to make a fundraising gift table

Establish Your Fundraising Goal: How Much Money Do You Need to Raise?

Start by establishing your fundraising goal for the campaign or initiative. This could be $100,000 for scholarships or multi-millions for a capital campaign for a new building. This amount is what you will put into the gift range calculator. This goal can be adjusted if needed as you work through building your gift pyramid.

Create the table using the headings listed above

If creating the gift chart from scratch, you will start with a gift that is at least 10-20% of your goal. For a $2.5 million campaign, you might start with a $500,000 gift from one person and then work down from there. You might establish gifts at $500,000; $250,000; $100,000; $50,000 and so on. Gift charts are not meant to be a simple calculation such as needing 100 gifts at $25,000 to raise $2,500,000. Rather, gift tables are built like a pyramid. You will need a few large gifts and many small gifts to reach your goal.

The tool can be flexible for any campaign from a $10,000 goal to a multi-million dollar goal and any fundraising team from parent-teacher organizations to major universities. Need help setting your ranges? Use this free gift range calculator.

Adjust the Gift Table as Needed

The original gift chart is used to establish the feasibility of your goal and the number of prospects needed, but you can add to the chart to fit your needs.

Consider adding the following columns:

  • Names of donor prospects at each level, use your database or wealth screening tool to assist
  • Assigned gift officer or campaign volunteer
  • Notes on where they are at in the donor fundraising cycle: identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship (Major Gifts Guide: The Ultimate Resource for Nonprofits | DonorSearch)
  • Notes on donor recognition- such as whether or not the donor name will be listed on a plaque of giving levels

The columns you add may be determined by the type of CRM you are using and what data you want to track in that system versus the gift chart.

Start Using the Gift Table Today

Now that you know what a gift table is, how to create one, and the strategy for using a gift table to elevate your fundraising efforts, the possibilities are endless. Look at the different goals you have in your development plan and see where a gift chart might help your development staff and your board reach their goals. This simple, yet effective tool can increase your fundraising effectiveness today.

For additional information on the major gift fundraising cycle and how to use the gift chart with donors read Using Gift Table With Donors.

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