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Pro Tip: Using Smart Fields

Posted February 16, 2023 by Chris Bicknell

Using LGL Smart Fields

Smart Fields offer a robust and useful toolset to new and advanced LGL users alike. Getting started using them is not complicated, and their key benefit is that you can “program” them once and then trust them to accurately and quickly pull data into reports and mailings. This gives you flexibility and power, combined with time savings.

What is a Smart Field?

A Smart Field is a customizable, calculated field that allows you to pull specific data (in most cases, gifts) into different combinations for use in reports and mailings/emails.

Smart Fields are available in these five types:

  • Total Giving (custom)
  • First Gift
  • Last Gift
  • Largest Gift
  • Volunteer Hours

These “types” are more flexible than their names imply, though. Here’s just one example of why: If you create a “First Gift” Smart Field, you can set it to pull the first gift that matches the specific criteria you select. So the “first gift” the Smart Field pulls may be different from the constituent’s actual first gift in your database, yielding a different meaning of “first gift”.

What you can do with Smart Fields

Below are some examples of how Smart Fields can save you time, add consistency to your reporting, and help make the data you can pull into mailings and emails more targeted. The only thing you need to make sure of is that your data is consistent and correct and your gifts are accurately coded.

Total Giving (custom)

This Smart Field type may be the most flexible and powerful of all.

A good example of a Total Giving Smart Field is one that sums up just the total of recurring gifts for any given year. Note: This Smart Field can be effective only if all applicable gifts are coded using the gift category of “Recurring”.

Total giving across three years within a specific campaign, fund, or appeal

Here’s how you would set this up:

  • Year 1: Set up a Total Giving (custom) Smart Field and restrict it by campaign, fund, appeal, etc., and date range. If your year 1 is a fiscal year, set the dates
  • Year 2: Repeat the above steps, and set the dates to your second year
  • Year 3: Repeat the above steps, and set the dates to your third year

With these settings in place, you have a couple of options:

  • In any constituent report, include the Smart Field(s) – just one for the current year or all three to see changes up/down from year to year
  • In any mailing/email, include the Smart Field(s) to thank the donor for total giving in the specific area of your choice in year 1, year 2, or all three years. Note: You can modify a Smart Field when using it as a merge field in a letter or email to produce a list of gifts, for example, [[smart_field.2022_recurring.gift_list]]

Pulling a recurring gift’s first or last date into a donor mailing

Expanding on the recurring giving scenario, you can imagine that a report might have the “first” recurring gift a donor gave in column C and the “last” recurring gift they gave in column D (where the gift category of “Recurring” is required).

Here you can use the First Gift Smart Field to add language to a mailing/email such as, “Thank you for the recurring gift you have given to our organization as of X,” where the Smart Field pulls in the first recurring gift date of X.

Conversely, if someone has lapsed as a recurring donor, you could use a “Last Gift” Smart Field to pull data in such as, “We ask that you consider re-starting your recurring gift with our organization. Our records indicate your last recurring gift occurred on Y,” where Y is the date of the last recurring gift.

Seeing a donor’s largest gift within the context of annual giving

A Largest Gift Smart Field can be useful when you want to keep track of annual giving versus gifts to such initiatives as a capital campaign happening concurrently. In that scenario, you might need a reporting column and mail/email merge field reflecting the constituent’s largest gift only to the “annual appeal(s)”. This makes it possible not to pull in their largest gift overall, which may be to the capital campaign.

Additional information, including instructions for creating and using Smart Fields, is available in our Knowledge Base.


Because they are so smart and helpful, we wanted to share a few of the benefits of using Smart Fields. As you may have noticed, the powerful ways they allow you to pull very specific data into constituent reports and communications can give you more and better options for good stewardship.

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