By Adam Wilhelm, Vice President of Campbell & Company and Product Owner of Beam Insights


In some of the most uncertain times that any of us can remember, developing contingency plans for your development program has never been more important. Our team calls these “fundraising scenarios”—mapping out what it would take to reach your goals under various conditions. Organizations can use fundraising scenarios for virtually any fundraising goal, including annual plans, mini-initiatives within the year, and multi-year initiatives.

Let’s take a look at a few annual plan scenarios you may decide to test out for your next fiscal year:

  • Scenario #1: Giving to your organization is top heavy, with the majority of dollars coming from major donors.
  • Scenario #2: Giving is broad based, with most gifts under $10,000.
  • Scenario #3: You receive a large matching gift that allows you to run a mini-campaign targeted to a specific group of prospects during the year.

You would test each scenario against the information you have about your donor base: wealth screening, gift history, proposals, and more. Development teams can run fundraising scenarios manually or with a tool like Beam Insights, our fundraising planning software. When so much is up in the air, fundraising scenarios help you understand your options, what levers you can pull, and how you can pivot to make up for funding gaps.

Despite all the advantages of using fundraising scenarios, we consistently find that many of our small and mid-sized clients don’t have the tools to effectively plan for the future. Most of the necessary data is at their fingertips, but they run into roadblocks when they try to analyze and use that data. Here are a few common barriers we see:

  • The data is disconnected and disorganized. Demographic and giving data typically lives in the core database or system of record. However, external ratings and prospect management information often lives in other pieces of software—or within the dreaded spreadsheet sitting on a team member’s desktop.
  • When the information is organized effectively, the team can still run into issues at the analysis phase. They may not have the time to analyze the data amid competing priorities, or they may lack the expertise to query and manipulate the data in a way that is helpful for their planning efforts.
  • Even if the team can isolate and manipulate the right data, the process often stops there. A gap in knowledge or tools prevents the team from quantifying capability and prioritizing prospects.

For organizations that overcome these barriers—effectively organizing data, analyzing it, and prioritizing prospects—it’s helpful to use a gift table to plot what might be possible. Development teams can use gift tables for all types of fundraising scenarios. Gift tables reveal where gaps exist, show you where to focus your efforts, and allow you to iterate on your plans as prospects and donors respond to your outreach. We recommend using a dynamic gift table that adjusts as new donor information is added to your database, like the gift table that Beam Insights offers.

Regardless of the tools you use, leveraging your existing data to map out a variety of fundraising scenarios over the next 12-24 months will ensure you’re prepared for the uncertainty that is certain to come.

For more advice on navigating uncertainty, visit Campbell & Company’s COVID-19 resource page.

Adam Wilhelm is Vice President of Campbell & Company and Product Owner of Beam Insights, fundraising planning software. Developed in partnership with fundraisers across the country, Beam Insights gives development professionals access to real-time analysis to inform fundraising activities. In his Vice President role, Adam provides strategic counsel and leads fundraising assessments. He has also held many interim leadership roles, including Chief Development Officer, Vice President, and Campaign Director in advancement departments at hospitals, colleges and universities, professional associations, and independent schools.