Pro Tip | Plan your fundraising campaign on paper for success

publication date: Apr 21, 2021
author/source: Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE

This time last year, like many charities, I had to raise money for unrestricted operating. In an uncertain time, I did two things. The first thing I did was to build a gift table where I was able to estimate the most we could likely raise and the least. Based on that table, I had an outline of a reasonable campaign goal and a list of donors. The second thing I then did was to cultivate those donors.

Before you start on your campaign this year - annual fund, major gifts, event, or capital - you want to be sure that you have enough donors to be able to succeed. All the elements of a campaign are valuable but the good old fashioned gift table is an often neglected part of an effort. Even in today's uncertain climate, a gift table is key.

A classic gift table assumption is that there will be a relatively small number of gifts you will need to make your goal. Related to thinking about a gift table is also to consider how many donors you will need to get each gift. Each charity will have its own ratio of asks to gifts and you may need to spend a few years to learn your ratio. As a placeholder, you can assume 3-8 donors for each gift. In the table below, if you assume 8 donors per gift, you will need a total of 84 donors.

Worth noting is that some of the prospects of the larger gifts will make a gift for a smaller amount. The reason a gift table is valuable is that you can see right away how many donors you need and whether you have enough to succeed. As part of your planning, you need to determine how many prospects you need at each level - for this table, I have assumed 5 prospects for each gift. You may need fewer, or you may need more.

Sample Gifts Table for a $3M Campaign

Gift Level Number of
gifts needed
Number of prospects needed Total amount at this gift level
 $500,000 2 10 $1,000,000
 $250,000 3 15 $750,000
 $100,000 6 30  $600,000
 $50,000 8 40 $400,000 
 $25,000 10 50 $250,000 
 TOTAL 28 $3,000,000 


Gift tables are a valuable part of any effort. Whether your goal is $30,000 or $3,000,000, a gift table is a good reality check on your campaign.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Editor of Hilborn Charity eNews and has run successful campaigns for over 20 years. During COVID she quadrupled unrestricted giving.

Cover photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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