How to Appropriately Recognize Your Donor

Donor recognition is best described as a way to say 'Thank you' to those who have given a gift to your campaign. Recognition benefits both the organization and the donor. Donors will look for their name in print or on a wall with pride, and the recognition will help to motivate others to give to the campaign. It is important to find the appropriate budget to spend for recognition; Too little would offend donors and too much would take away from the main goal of the campaign. This could leave the donor feeling like their donation did little help the original purpose.

Recognizing ever donor the same has some negative affects. It takes away from the significance of those who gave generous gift amounts. When low-end donors see the benefits increase with the level of donation, it helps to motivate them to give more prestigious gifts in order to receive the benefits.  Imagine putting yourself in the donors shoes; there are no incentives for your donor to give more if they receive the same benefits at a lower giving level as the top giving level. Respectfully, if you give a significant donor a very small plaque they could feel unworthy and resentful.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to create your giving levels and guidelines prior the start of your campaign. This will help to keep recognition even and fair with all your donors across the board from start to finish. 

When the donor recognition is high quality and appropriately budgeted it will help to inspire others to give to the campaign as well. Dick Nicolson, Owner and Creative Director of has a formula he suggest to clients when considering a budget for their campaign:

For a small campaign you can spend as much as 5% of the campaign total.  For a large campaign, you can go as low as .001% of the campaign total. 

Example:  $100,000 campaign at 5%=  $5,000. 

                  $100 million campaign at .001% = $100,000

As we have learned, donor recognition is more than just a 'thank you' it can be used as a marketing opportunity. When used strategically it will benefit both the donor and the organization as a whole.

Make Sure Your New Digital Donor Wall Best Serves Your Donors

Based on your past experiences you may feel that a traditional donor wall is expensive, cumbersome, challenging and time consuming to update and costly to clean and maintain. In fact, a large donor wall program can be a full time job for one of your staff for a couple months every year. If the donor wall hasn’t been well planned, you could run out of room after a couple of rounds of updates, or updating could become prohibitively expensive. At we design recognition programs to avoid these pitfalls, but is there a better way?

The ideal donor wall would be a digital solution that could be updated daily by your staff in just few minutes without leaving their desk. Donors could be found with a quick search, far more information can be displayed about the donor, and you could provide information about your organization and on-going campaigns.

Digital donor recognition seems like an ideal solution for every overworked, harried development professional. But is it going to satisfy your donors needs?

Interactive donor walls create an engaging multi sensory experience that includes visual and sound. Visitors see more than just a name, they see and hear a story and see a face.

Interactive digital video walls create an engagement with the audience by using multiple sensory intakes: visual, touch, and sound.

  • Visual & Sound engagement: No longer will you see just a name on a wall. You will hear their story and see their face.
  • Testimonial videos are great way to build trust and credibility. In a video - body language and voice inflection can help create an emotional connection with the audience.
  • The audience becomes a user once they interact with the presentation. Users can discover and explore content - deciding what is relevant to their personal needs and interests. A visitor can enter their phone number to have more information sent to their phone. Or we can design the system to accept a donation on-the-spot.
  • A digital donor wall can provide specialized messaging for VIPs at events.

From a donors perspective it is important to understand that a digital donor wall does not show a donors name on a permanent basis that can be seen by every one that walks by, especially their friends and neighbors. There is a big difference between a donor seeing his or her name etched on a plaque compared to their name in a computer data base that only appears sporadically or when someone does a search for their name. Realistically, who is going to do a search unless it’s someone who already knows the donor is in the system.

So, how do we bring together these two divergent points of view and create the best possible scenario for everyone?

At we found the best solution is to incorporate digital donor wall monitor(s) into a traditional physical donor wall. Let’s say you have five giving categories and the bottom two categories have about a thousand names each. These two categories are going to cause the most time and expense to update and maintain so why not display those two groups on a monitor. If they each had their own monitor it would be possible to program the system to scroll the names, assuring that each name would appear at specific time intervals, and would stay on the screen for a specified amount of time.  This solution would not need to be interactive and could be achieved for a fairly reasonable cost.

In addition, a third searchable touchscreen interactive monitor could be installed that would provide more detailed information about the larger level donors, (stories, photos and videos). These donors would be represented permanently on the physical donor wall and in a digital system.

Another option is to have a large enough screen presence to display all donor names all the time. This is usually accomplished by stacking multiple screens side-by-side to create a large wall of monitors. The monitors are all integrated to interact with each and perform as a single unit. One of the monitors can be a searchable touchscreen monitor to allow visitors to call up specific information about the donors they see on the screens. With this scenario all donors are visible all the time.

How do you get started on a recognition project that includes a digital solution? At we have been providing planning, design and fabrication of traditional donor recognition for over 25 years. We work with a national leading IT/ Tech company that has a high level of expertise in programming, user experience design (aka USD), hardware development, training, and 24/7 service. Together our focus is providing a turnkey solution that utilizes the best of digital and real-world physical recognition. We plan systems that are engaging, easy to use, meaningful, and appreciated by donors, visitors, and development professionals.

Heres a link to the full article we wrote on ADRP, The Hub

Richard Nicolson


Capital Campaign, Step by Step

A capital campaign when a nonprofit organization wants to raise a substantial amount of money for a specific purpose within a certain time period. The campaign could be for many reasons; building a new facility, expanding programs, or bringing in new technology, all with the purpose to help the community. 

If this sounds demanding, you're right. There are a lot of variables involved when planning a capital campaign that can become overwhelming. At we work with clients on a daily basis who are in the process of, or have just finished their capital campaign. We've found an article from

Capital Campaign Masters (, who has done an excellent job describing a step-by-step solution for your campaign. 

Every successful capital campaign has several phases with specific strategies for each one. If you go step-by-step through the correct sequence of each phase, you’ll set up your campaign so it’s most likely to reach (and even surpass) the goal.
— Andrea Kihlstedt, Capital Campaign Masters

Capital Campaign Donor Wall

This is a typical capital campaign donor wall. They tend to be more creative and cost less because they don't have to be updated. We offer free design services to help you get started with your project. 

How to Land a $500 Million Donation

While surfing the web, I came across an interesting article that I would like to share from Software Advice, Inc.

"While many nonprofits value small donations from givers, the data shows that up to 75 percent of an organization’s revenue comes from major donors, or individuals who give $1 million or more. But acquiring these types of donations can be challenging. It takes considerable time and effort, and many nonprofits still find it difficult to execute correctly.

To get expert insight on this topic, we interviewed Andrew Cope, vice president of development for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF). In addition to his 21 years of fundraising experience, his organization received a $500 million donation from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg last year. Based on Cope’s advice, here are five top strategies fundraisers can use to land major donations and keep their nonprofit afloat. Click here to read 5 Tips to landing a big time donor.