Public Recognition of Donors

Dear Kim:

I am a development director and have been working closely with our Board in the creation of a portable donor recognition wall.  My idea with the wall is to recognize any single gift of $1000 or more and use the wall as a major donor strategy. Basically, a donor could “buy” a name plate on the wall for $1,000. This seemed easy and fairly straightforward.  However, the Board feels that if someone gives a total of $1,000 or more through many donations such as membership dues, events and tribute cards, that person’s name should also be on the wall.  Could you please clarify what is the best use of donor walls – should we be flexible in recognizing all donors on the wall or is the wall simply for specific solicitations of a set amount for those who “purchase” a name plate?

Sign me:

Who’s off the wall?

Dear Off:

I have a lot of sympathy for your feeling that you had a straightforward plan that is now getting all complicated, and I hate to add to that, but there is no right answer to your question.  The issue is what are you trying to do with this donor wall?

If you are trying to get a cross section of your current donors to give an extra gift of $1,000 in addition to whatever else they give, then I would do what you had envisioned—a one time gift of $1,000 gets the donor a name plate.  That strategy would work best if the money raised by the donor wall was for a specific capital improvement because the project would have a specific financial goal and ending time and people would have to get their gift in by that time to be listed.

If you are trying to get a cross section of your current donors to give more money than they do now, you may want to let anyone who gives a total of $1,000 in a year be on the wall.  Then you could tell people, “You have given $800 and we would love to put your name on our donor wall.  With just $200 more, you can be listed.”

If you are trying to get new people to give starting at the $1,000 level, then you will want to offer them the opportunity to give $1,000 all at once, or pay it off quarterly or monthly.

If you are going to take this donor wall around to various events, you may want to use it to recognize all your donors so people can see what a popular and important group you are.  In that case, I would not set a minimum amount.

So what kind of donors are you wanting to recognize and for what?  Once you decide that, it will be easy and straightforward to decide what to do.

Good luck!

–Kim Klein