Series: Donor Program Management Tools

Editor’s note: The article below is the sixth in a series highlighting the importance of strategy in building a strong donor recognition program. Click here to view the series in its entirety.

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.

So, what should this vital document include?

The most comprehensive address a host of activities, including announcements, events, mementos, and lists as well as plaques and displays. Emphasis can be placed on different components depending on the type and size of the organization and its fundraising programs. For instance, a hospital might have a greater focus on annual and employee giving campaigns while an academic institution might have more naming opportunities for scholarships, faculty positions and programs.

At a minimum, the document should include:

  • A Statement of Purpose: This includes your organization’s mission, values, and vision; design directives and standards, naming opportunity gift minimums and value calculation models, the timing for donor recognition practices and implementation procedures.

  • Donor Recognition Guidelines: This includes giving programs by gift category, from major gifts resulting in naming opportunities to student or parent giving; recognition opportunity locations plans; and an inventory of named and available opportunities.

  • Gift Announcement Protocol: This includes guidelines for announcing gifts via traditional media, social media and on the organization’s website, as well as print collateral templates.

  • Donor Recognition Products Overview: This includes a full breakdown of naming opportunities and standards, centralized philanthropy listings, electronic media content guidelines and storytelling venues, such as donor testimonials or success stories.

  • Design Guidelines: This includes sizes, materials, finishes, colors, construction methods, and typical installation guidelines.

  • Implementation Procedures: This includes everything from maintenance roles and responsibilities to the review and approval process to budgets and schedule forecasts.

Most important, the document must include enough options to remain versatile if new circumstances arise. For instance, institutions often underestimate the volume of growth in their giving programs and do not sufficiently plan for future expansion. The irony in planning for permanent public displays is that change is still a constant. Give yourself the room you need to adapt.  

Written By Anne Manner-McLarty

Anne Manner-McLarty is the managing editor of the Journal of Donor Relations and Stewardship. She founded Heurista in 2011, a leading resource for consulting specific to donor relations and stewardship, with particular expertise in the donor recognition program design and implementation.

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