Posts in Recognition
Series: How to Build Change into Your Donor Recognition Strategy

A comprehensive and strategic donor recognition program is a critical indicator of an organization’s ability to build strong relationships with its donors and increase philanthropic support of its mission. Creating a strategy for success starts with understanding that recognition is about saying thanks in ways that celebrate the donors while highlighting the unique character of the organization.

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Series: Donor Program Management Tools

Effective donor recognition can’t happen in a bubble.

It’s got to be a group effort. Internal and external teams must align on objectives, roles, budgets, and schedules to create standards around all types of donor recognition. The final product of that collaboration is a living document, keeping everyone on the same page with the occasional update or edit.

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Series: How to Make Permanent Public Donor Recognition Work for You

Just like any big commitment in life — a marriage, a child, a tattoo — permanent public donor recognition requires careful consideration, and not just of one person’s opinion.

Twenty years creating plaques and displays — those elements most likely to take a permanent public place in an organization — allows me to make a bold assertion: campus-based donor recognition should be an investment in talking about donors to the general audience, not simply a method for generating a positive response from the individual donor.

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Series: Donor Recognition Program Design

Donor recognition activities can be private or public, temporary or permanent, and reside at the organization or with the donor. As always, it’s important that each activity aligns with your overall strategy, and that you adjust your tactics as needed. But in general, a strong donor recognition strategy is built on a few key tactics:

  • Mass communication (with personalization whenever possible)

  • Customized communications (such as individually crafted letters and phone calls)

  • Tours or meetings with leaders, researchers or service providers

  • Events (large or small)    

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Series: The Donor is Everything in Donor Recognition – True or False?

Organizations often misinterpret the concept of “donor-centric” and establish subjective goals like “surprising and delighting” donors. Then that becomes a measure of success. But while it’s always good to excel in the expression of gratitude, setting this as a goal is not a substitute for a fully formed donor recognition strategy. An organization must strive to achieve the greatest impact with the time and money invested — not just with the donor, but with its entire community.

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Hammond School Innovation Center Supported by Philanthropy

Hammond School provides a unique pre-K through 12th-grade educational experience in Columbia, SC. The program focuses on character development, leadership, and experiential learning. The Innovation Center, completed in 2018, demonstrates the atmosphere where students at Hammond have the opportunity to learn and share experiences that go beyond what is available at many colleges. Education in facilities of this caliber is made possible through the support of philanthropists who support the school’s mission, vision and values.

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UAB Blazers - Community Support for the Team

A nearly unbelievable thing happened: for a while, there was no football at the University of Alabama Birmingham. This was a decision that rocked the university and the city, pulling them together in support of a sport that was integral to the community and its sense of place. Over a remarkably short time, the community stepped forward supplying the necessary enthusiasm and financial support to rebuild the football program at UAB.

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Child-focused Donor Recognition: Opportunities for Creative Design

Designing donor recognition for projects focused on children provides special challenges and special rewards. “Bright and colorful, playful, engaging, interactive…” are the first instructions we hear. If a brand manager or the architect is in the room, “integrated, coordinated, and tasteful” get added to the list. Facilities chimes in with “safe, durable, and easy to maintain.” The foundation reminds us, “we may need to add names later” and “it has to be cost-conscious.” Such was the case in Chattanooga, Tennessee but there is so much more to be said about the Kennedy Outpatient Center at the Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.

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Challenges and Advantages for Digital Donor Recognition


There are benefits and compromises inherent in the decision to use a screen to present donor recognition. A traditional donor wall allows a passive viewer to understand a considerable amount of information about the relationship between an organization and its donors without reading a single name. One can glean an idea of the number of donors from the size of the list. If a hierarchy of plaque sizes or categories is part of the display, those details let the viewer know that people give different amounts. The location of the display, the environment surrounding it, and the materials used to build it all help indicate the value the organization places on its donor. The best donor walls motivate the viewer to consider giving and explain how to make a gift.

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