Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guest Post - Types of Facility-Based Donor Recognition

Guest Post - Types of Facility-Based Donor Recognition

I often hear all types facility-based donor recognition lumped together as "donor walls", even though we know from experience that the nuances of how and why the donor is recognized - in this location, in this format, for this duration - could fill volumes with recognition theory. As donor relations professionals, it is important to understand the communications goals for each recognition opportunity and to craft the form and function to meet architectural and budget requirements as well as donor expectations and the need for change and growth over time.

I advocate a comprehensive program of facility-based recognition that balances individual naming opportunities, project or campaign-specific listings and a centralized destination for cumulative giving recognition. Each point of recognition has its own purpose and communicates a different aspect of the organization's relationship with the donor.

• A naming opportunity is recognition for significant participation in a specific area, project or campaign. The physical recognition components are seen only by those who frequent that area. However, this format typically includes the most information about the donor's involvement with the institution, including story to explain the association between the area chosen and the donor's interests. The goal here is celebration of a single donor, most often for a single major gift.

• Project or campaign listings group donors who pooled their efforts during a specific time frame or for a specific cause. This category of recognition includes both capital campaign recognition, which is considered permanent, and listings that change annually, or even more frequently. Often, these lists include donors below the entry level of a naming opportunity, allowing for the presentation of a larger group of names. Descriptive copy establishes the timeframe and purpose of the project or campaign, but details about individual donors are usually limited. Categorization by donor type is also a hallmark of these types of lists; it is not unusual to see list that are specific to alumni, faculty, staff, grateful patients or corporate donors. Listings of this type are intended to celebrate a group of donors and are often coupled with information on how new donors can join.

• Cumulative listings provide the best opportunity for recognizing donors' total involvement and presenting the full scope of donor participation. Typically, cumulative listings are centralized in a prominent location. This creates a destination for philanthropic recognition, where inclusion is an achievement of particular significance and honor. Entry levels are based on total volume of the donor pool, with some forecast of the longevity of the display. The listing should be elite, but not so elite that the list does not communicate a volume of support. Most organizations structure their programs to list a hundred or more donors in the entry level category, with only a few listed at the highest levels. We typically recommend a hierarchy of categories, indicated by a change in order and size, with largest gift amounts organized at the top or left. Cumulative giving is often coupled with planned giving, historical information and other content to enhance the viewers understanding of the role of philanthropy within the organization.

Our firm places the highest priority on cumulative giving recognition for one very important reason: it is the best way to encourage repeat giving by major donors. Surely there will be many donors who are presented as a result of a single, substantial gift, but they are listed in a context that communicates the opportunity for every donor to give more.

Anne Manner-McLarty

Anne is Vice President and Senior Creative Consultant for Robin E. Williams Incorporated. A frequent speaker on Best Practices for Donor Recognition, she encourages organizations to "Think before you Thank!"
Please register for Anne's upcoming ADRP Webinar, The Virtual Donor Wall.

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