The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

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.

About-the-Capital-Campaign-Table-of-Gifts_Andrea-Kihlstedt.pngAndrea 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. 

Topics: Fundraising
  Your Nonprofit Profile on GuideStar has a new Demographics section.