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Andrea Kihlstedt

Recent Posts by Andrea Kihlstedt:

Ask Andrea: A Great Way to Get Your Major Donors to Meet with You

Do you have a question to ask me? Email me, Andrea Kihlstedt, at for your chance to be featured in the column!

Ask Andrea: Celebrity Challenges

Do you have a question to ask me? Email me, Andrea Kihlstedt, at for your chance to be featured in the column!

About the Capital Campaign Table of Gifts

Adapted from How to Raise $1 Million (or More!) in 10 Bite-Sized Steps

A "gift table" is a commonly used fundraising tool showing how many donors are needed at what levels of giving to achieve a desired goal.

What decades of experience have shown is the following:

  • Most fundraising campaigns require one gift that totals 15 to 20 percent of the goal. This one gift sets the bar and others will give in proportion to it.
  • In most campaigns, the top 10 gifts will make up at least half of the goal.

If you can raise the 10 gifts that get you over the halfway mark, the rest is likely to fall into place because these gifts create a sense of inevitability, and build confidence in other donors that your project will be successful.

Here's what a typical table of gifts might look like:

#Gifts Amount Total Given Cumulative Total
1 $250,000 $250,000 $250,000
2 $100,000 $200,000 $450,000
4 $50,000 $200,000 $650,000
8 $25,000 $200,000 $850,000
10 $10,000 $100,000 $950,000
200 <$10,000 $50,000 $1,000,000

The pattern underpinning the table of gifts is somewhat mathematical, but the exact formula you use will grow out of your understanding of your organization, your community, and your donor base. A more common and less stressful pattern would show a donor base that's large enough to line up four or five prospects for every anticipated gift.

But the table of gifts isn't just a road map. It's also a mirror, a conversation piece, and a yardstick. As you tinker with the numbers, notice how quickly you identify where your own gift fits on the chart.

You'll also find that everyone you show it to experiences the same reaction. The table is like a mirror, reflecting back our ability to give. It's also a wonderful conversation starter when you're actually soliciting gifts. The table defines possible gift levels in an objective, non-threatening way.

I remember Barbara, a wonderful volunteer and donor who was willing to solicit her friend Charles for the hospice in her community, even though she was very uncomfortable talking about money.

The idea of asking her friend for a gift of a specific amount made Barbara almost nauseated. The development director thought Charles had the capacity to give $50,000 but he knew Barbara would be incapable of asking for that. So instead he sent her off with a gift table that had the $50,000 level highlighted.

When Barbara sat down with Charles, she didn't have to say anything about the size of the gift. All she had to do was to place the chart in front of him. Charles could see that $50,000 wasn't the largest gift but was still in the top group. He looked at Barbara and said "So this is where you think I fit." Barbara nodded nervously. "You're right," Charles said." And that was that.

One last thing about the table of gifts. In addition to the other uses I mentioned, it's also a yardstick for progress. As gifts come in, you can literally check them off, showing donors in a very specific and visual way how your fundraising is progressing. That reinforces their confidence in you and very well could lead to additional gifts from friends and colleagues of theirs.

Andrea Kihlstedt
© 2010, Emerson & Church, Publishers. Adapted with permission.

Andrea Kihlstedt has served the nonprofit sector for more than 30 years as a fundraiser, trainer, consultant, teacher, writer, and speaker. She has trained nonprofit boards and staff throughout the United States on effective major gifts fundraising, capital campaigns, and how to ask for gifts. Kihlstedt is cofounder (with Gail Perry) of Capital Campaign Magic, providing online learning about capital campaign fundraising. 

Ask Andrea

Do you have a question to ask me? Email me, Andrea Kihlstedt, at for your chance to be featured in the column!

Ask Andrea: What's the best way to improve my fundraising chops?

Ask Andrea: How do we know if we're ready for a capital campaign?

Fundraising Training Exercise: Planning a Fundraising House Party

Excerpted from Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money

At some point in our lives, most of us have organized a party. This strategy takes something we already know how to do and adds a fundraising component. House parties are fun, relatively easy to organize, and a good way to recruit board members and other volunteers to help with fundraising. As with anything else, good planning saves time and aggravation, increasing your odds of success.

Ask Andrea: How to Raise Money for a Very Small Organization

Hello, and welcome to the third blog post in which I answer your questions about fundraising! I’ll select interesting or frequent or thought-provoking questions each month and write my answers to them in this forum on the third Thursday of every month

Ask Andrea: Board Members and Donors

Fundraising Training Exercise: The Gift Is Just the Beginning

Excerpted from Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money

Engaging donors after they give allows you to tap into their skills and relationships and increases their commitment to your organization. By developing an "involvement menu," you can provide more opportunities for board members and other volunteers—especially those who don't want to ask for money—to participate in fundraising.