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Donor Recognition Displays | Interactive Digital Donor Walls | Donor Recognition Trends

Donor Recognition Displays | Interactive Digital Donor Walls | Donor Recognition Trends  - donor recognition, interactive donor wall, donor recognition wall plaques, donor recognition plaques, donor recognition plaque wording, donor wall recognition, donor recognition boards, donor recognition program, donor recognition walls, donor wall displays, donor recognition signage, donor recognition wall ideas, donor recognition tree life, donor recognition awards, donor tree recognition, digital donor recognition, Interactive Digital Donor Walls, story telling donor walls,
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Examples of Donor Walls






Good donor recognition should never be an afterthought. It should be part of a well-planned out strategy. This may include:


Appropriate Recognition for each major donor

  • Public Luncheon
  • Private coffee with President
  • A hand written thank you card
  • Announcement in the local newspaper

Public donor display

  • Everyone wants to see their name on the wall
  • They will always let you know if you miss their name
  • Don’t create pre-determined caps on giving. A $50,000 category on a donor wall for lifetime membership in the giving society may be shortchanging the donor who is capable of giving much more. What will encourage them to give in future years?
  • A well planned display encourages donors to reach for the next level.



  • A good plan will include sharing with a prospective donor how you will recognize them at each step along the plan. This way, the milestones are clear and it is easy for them to visualize their recognition moving forward into the future.  This allows donors to see where their contributions fit into the overall picture of your organization.
  • Part of this is just good marketing on the part of the Donor Relations Dept. By taking your prospective donor on a tour of your facility and stopping by the donor recognition display, you are sending a clear message that you value your donors and expect them to make an impact. The donor will be visualizing where their name will go and how it will compare with the others. Happens every time.


Donor recognition leads to strong and lasting relationships with your organization. Start looking at recognition through the eyes of the donors, and see that you make it special, meaningful and not the same for everyone. Top recognition should be prestigious and limited to a small number.  Recognition of your donors goes far beyond showing appreciation for their gift.



During the past 15 years donor research has revealed a differentiation between:

Men and Women Philanthropists

  • Men are often motivated by competition: who can give more to achieve public status.
  • Women are often motivated by mission: what mission am I supporting to achieve private satisfaction.

Older and Younger Philanthropists

  • Older Generations - Matures and older/more traditional Baby Boomers are often motivated by a sense of obligation and are easier people from which to raise funds.
  • Younger Generations - Young Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials - are often motivated by a return on investment. They are regularly called charitable venture capitalists. They want to see tangible outcomes/results and experience emotional satisfaction. Some are even willing to take risks on new projects that may not succeed in traditional ways, but will break new ground in showing what programs work and do not work.

How can your organization:

  • Address all four needs?
  • Promote the mission and outcomes of a campaign and not just the gift amounts and donors?
  • Offer virtual products or incorporate multimedia options?
  • Be a real partner to your customers regarding building stronger donor relationships through the stewardship equation: Gratitude + Information on Impact + Access

 To discuss further, contact Maureen Schuerman, CFRE, at 414-510-1044



This new decade heralds significant changes for Donor Relations and its influence on fundraising success.  We see that these emerging trends share a common theme:  to build better relationships with donors as a means of fostering greater giving.  As is the case with all relationships in our current crowded, information-saturated world, the emphasis will be on the quality, not the quantity, of donor interactions.
We’re monitoring five primary indicators, with an eye on how they’ll evolve and find expression in the day-to-day activities of our clients and their donors:

1.  Donor Relations is maturing as a formal profession – Research has proven that what matters most to donors is timely, accurate information on the progress made by the organization as a result of the donor’s gift.  This crucial responsibility has given rise to a new set of professionals dedicated to donor interactions that are effective, efficient and creative, the donor relations professional.  See the Association of Donor Relations Professionals ADRPwebsite to learn more about the vital role they play.

 See also:
Donor Recognition Policy Planning.

2.  More institutions are formalizing donor relations policies and procedures - As the concentration on best practices in donor relations increases, fundraising organizations are defining specific policies and procedures that direct consistent, manageable donor touch points.  Decisions are codified, building sustainable programs that are not dependent on institutional memory or the talents of a single staff member.  Our website provides more information on

3.  Vendors are now offering “donor recognition” services, not just finished product – As clients increase their program expectations, vendors are providing “services” beyond those related specifically to the design and implementation of a specific display or set of plaques.  The most frequently offered service is an audit – a documented survey of all existing recognition elements.  While we have long advocated this “look back” as a first step in deciding what plans to formalize into policy, be aware that a product manufacturer, by definition, lacks an unbiased, strategic point of view. Generally, they also do not offer the marketing and communication expertise required to develop a fully comprehensive donor relations program meant to serve now and then evolve with the organization into the future.  The best bet is to seek out a consultant with no products to sell, one well versed in balancing the needs of annual, cumulative, planned and special project giving programs with the notions of moves management that foster continued giving.

4.  Online giving is increasing the fundraiser’s ability to reach broad audiences and analyze donor behavior – Automated giving vehicles, such as, make it practical to manage a larger pool of smaller donors. Through technology it is easier to track the giving of those looking an affinity with the organization’s mission, signifying them as likely targets for major or planned gifts.  Note that it is critical that appropriate, affordable mechanisms for donor recognition emerge now in tandem with the growth in this sector. Doing so will assure the institution that the quality of the relationships with these donors (donor relations) remains high.  Again, communication and relationship-building with a new donor are keys to repeated giving!

5.  Online interaction between donors is anticipated – As social media continues to gain in popularity, it is only reasonable to expect that it will be a significant factor in the non-profit arena.  To date, we see fundraiser’s focused primarily on building an online presence through Facebook, Twitter and other social media venues.  However, as successes are achieved and documented, next will be the development of methods to monitor (if not control) the interaction between outside parties, including donors.  Those comfortable with social media are already embracing the technology.  See the C.A.S.E. award-winning University of South Carolina’s Faces of Y’ALL program for building a network of young alumni donors through social media, all the while capturing the data associated with those alums.

If you have comments, contradictions or other predictions, we welcome your additions to this list!  We’ll elaborate on these trends, among others, as the year progresses and look forward to your participation.

Written by Robin E. Williams and Anne Manner-McLarty

Robin E. Williams, Incorporated


Non-Traditional Donor Recognition

The buzz every where you go is about social media and how we can use social media to promote our causes. What about using LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter to promote the message of donors? Every donor has a story to tell, and social media is uniquely poised to get that message out.

The Rhode Island School of Design lists new annual fund donors as they come in during on-air radio and t.v. drives. 

You can find searchable donor listings, such as the one at the Air Force Memorial, which allows greater interactivity.

State of the art interactivity might include a kiosk or video screen in front of a donor wall. Visitors to your donor wall can touch a button next to a name, or pull up a directory on the monitor, and short videos can tell the donor's story, in their own words. Very strong and powerful. A donor wall should be the strongest marketing tool that you have to bring in new donations. Contact Curt at RCB for more ideas: Donor Recognition Help


What should a donor relations professional be considering when selecting a vendor to support a donor recognition system?

Consultive Discovery: Designing a donor wall or interactive digital donor display is not at all similar to designing a sign. The key elements in a donor program will include consideration regarding materials, frequency of updates, donor name placement and sizing, donor giving levels - all in a tasteful design that compliments the surroundings. The most important aspect is to understand your vision for your design, your goals and any future campaigns that may impact the project. The key to all of this is to understand your donors and what they expect. A great design will capture the look and feel of your organization, will be seen as Authentically You, and will be carried through on all elements in your program, including room naming, building naming, garden stakes/benches and artwork or other elements named on your campus. When a donor looks at an element of recognition, they should instantly be able to identify the item with the donor recognition program. Consistency and well designed guidelines will make them instantly recognizable.


Professional Design Development: The design will go through several stages. An initial concept sketch may get a discussion started, and serve to initiate and fine tune goals and objectives. These are then adjusted and may be completely re-done various times before finally approved.


Project Implementation Plan: Some installations are as simple as hanging a design on a french cleat. Others will involve a build out requiring electricians, drywall, carpenters and other contractors. These have to be coordinated within the project. The selection of donors to be listed and what type of donors will be recognized by not be an easy process. If the design is an interactive digital donor display, the menu tree will have to be carefully laid out.

Donor Information
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