Collaborations Result in Better Donor Relations Work

Consciously Coordinated Collaborations Deliver Better Results

Thomas L. Friedman’s bestseller The World is Flat, published in 2005, identifies a more flattened or horizontal way of doing business made possible by improvements in communications technologies, political changes and new collaborative business practices. He focuses on developments that are making it easier and more necessary for people and businesses all over the world to partner every day.
This consciously collaborative approach is relatively new in the donor recognition field and provides advantages for all players. It affords the client better long-range plans for ongoing maintenance and expansion of the donor recognition program. It also allows each stakeholder in the project the ability to provide their best consultation and service directly to the client. Done well, it makes best use of client financial and staff resources. Heurista sees this model as a positive, necessary and growing trend in the field of donor relations.

As a recent example, Heurista worked in close partnership with multiple design and fabrication partners at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. First, the USC Central Development team engaged Heurista to expand the donor recognition standards to include guidelines for electronic donor recognition and the product solutions for the recognition of non-facility-based naming opportunities. Further, this facility has unique design features that posed design challenges, including the need to group recognition into primary public destinations with available wall space. Central Development encouraged the partnership between the Moore School and Heurista in order to create standard solutions that would serve as guidelines for other schools and units.
Once programmatic decisions were underway, Heurista worked in close coordination with the Moore School’s leadership, advancement and marketing teams, and the architectural firm, Raphael Viñoly Architects to develop a comprehensive messaging strategy. A dynamic sign system is coordinated with a dedicated display for recognition of donors, alumni, volunteers, history and current initiatives, in addition to the nine hardscape donor recognition displays throughout the building. Heurista remained engaged with the advancement team for all content development, including donor interviews, copywriting and the review and approval process.


Honorcraft worked collaboratively with Heurista to detail, fabricate and install the displays and has reported on the project on their own blog. SiteImages supported the digital architecture and provided digital design for the touch screen content. Tightrope Media Systems used content architecture and graphic design from Heurista to complete the custom interactive presentation that intersects with the digital sign system throughout the building. Gallehugh Group provided video content for top tier donors and RVA Architects coordinated design and installation of dimensional letters for primary destinations. Throughout, Moore School staff and members of the university's technology services team were actively engaged.
Timing for this project was crucial. Tight coordination was necessary between all outside firms and those coordinating the move of the Moore School into the new space, which occurred just as classes were starting this past fall. Due to hard work and commitment on all fronts, in less than ten weeks, nine separate displays were built and installed and the electronic recognition component, presenting over one hundred individual profiles, was finalized.
While not all of Friedman’s theories apply to our work, it is my prediction that the trend towards collaboration will flourish in donor relations and stewardship work. It is a model that allows non-profits to draw the best possible expertise from multiple sources while maintaining a creative role in the design and implementation process. Depending on the skills and time that in-house team members have to dedicate to the project, a staff member may serve as project lead. Or as was the case with the donor recognition at the Moore School, one outside resource may take the lead, as Heurista did. In either situation, roles and responsibilities, a reporting structure, file sharing methods and schedule and budget must be carefully managed, now that there is no single-source, vertical accountability.
The new Darla Moore School of Business is an example of collaborative success and the facility is a showplace.