Why You Should Have a Donor Recognition Policy (and How It Keeps You in Control)

You finally land that big gift and the donor insists on outrageous recognition…how do you tell them NO? Not long ago we designed a project for a client who had a donor that insisted an image of their dog appear on the plaque. Our client (who didn’t have a donor recognition policy) didn’t know how to respond and allowed it, much to their regret.

Even the most demanding donor will “follow the rules” if the rules are written down. A policy means you tell the donor how they’ll be recognized instead of them telling you. Read more donor recognition plan tips here.

A donor recognition policy can be as simple as describing exactly what the recognition will be at each giving level. This can be coordinated with design guidelines, but it isn’t required. An example would be something like this;

Donation Amount

$500,000 to $999,999

·         12” x 12” plaque, include names of primary donors and additional family members.

·         Name on donor wall under Patron Category, primary donor names only.

·         Entry in Annual Report.

·         Entry in on-line donor list.

The policy should also regulate gift identification language, “The Library is made possible by a generous gift from…” and whether you use “and” or “&” and a multitude of other issues. And most importantly, the policy should state that ALL language is subject to approval by “The Board”.

A recognition policy becomes part of your arsenal when you’re asking for the gift. You can show the donor how they’ll be recognized if they can give just a little bit more, without having to worry about unreasonable demands for memorials or donor recognition plaques that you hadn’t budgeted for.

It also creates a sense of parity between donors; nobody will feel as though they weren’t given special treatment if you clearly communicate to potential donors exactly how they can expect to be honored for their contribution. This is how having a clear donor recognition policy can simplify the donor recognition process for charitable organization. Need some inspiration? Check out our donor recognition wall examples.

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