Adapting Donor Recognition for the Digital Age

5 Reasons to Add a Digital Donor Wall to Your Donor Engagement Strategy

Digital donor recognition wall by PDG for Elon University.

There is no escaping the fact that we live in a digital age where most things presented to us come via pixels on a screen. Social media, mobile apps, and virtual meetings dominate our days. Not to mention advertising that is everywhere all the time! Yes, this barrage of digital messaging can be overwhelming. So, how can donor recognition not only remain visible but also thrive in the digital age?

The answer lies in understanding why one regular, static recognition display succeeds where another fails and then combining those strengths with best practices for digital display. We’ve all seen it; poorly designed, monotone words-on-a-plaque donor recognition that is unmemorable, easily overlooked, and almost instantly fades from memory. Just as bolting a 65” digital screen to the wall doesn’t have the same presence that would compel viewers to stop and experience the artfully created architectural surround of a hybrid donor wall.

Incorporating digital content into your recognition solves common problems that donor relations professionals face daily. Donor list work aside, the instantly updatable, storytelling content playing on an experiential, attention-grabbing hybrid display delivers a message that will change how you think about donor walls.

5 problems solved by incorporating a digital donor wall into your donor recognition strategy

1. Video Creates a More Engaging Donor Experience

Donor walls publicly acknowledge the generosity of your donor family but need to be seen and inspire others for them to be successful. In short – they need to have the WOW factor. Design and materials that distinguish it as unique, artful, and enduring invite interaction, whether the display includes digital or not. However, adding the colors, brightness, and movement of digital draws them close where visual storytelling and other content can hold their attention. If the old saying holds true that pictures are worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a million. Video tends to evoke stronger emotions because it can combine the elements of movement, imagery, text, and sometimes even sound. Plus, our brains process video more quickly, allowing a more detailed message to be easily consumed.

Given a choice between a static portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Smith sitting stoically in front of their fireplace with a few facts on a plaque about their generous gift, or a video of them (playing on vibrant 4K Ultra High Definition screens) sitting in front of that same fireplace describing what it meant to be able to help in this impactful way, which would best capture your interest as a viewer? Their story digitally brings to life the emotional connection between your organization and the community it supports. And inspired donors are more likely to understand and follow the Smith’s example and become donors themselves.

2. Showcase Your Unique Culture of Philanthropy

The ability to create customized content for your donor recognition display is a game changer. Digital displays can instantly highlight new additions to your donor family or update your capital campaign's status. They showcase the donor behind a gift or tell a grateful patient story. Digital donor recognition connects with the viewer and brings them into a world of visual storytelling. In many cases, in addition to the content we create, our client partners already have promotional content that we can help them leverage using their digital donor wall.

Beyond donor lists, here are a few examples of how incorporating digital can help diversify your donor recognition.

  • Highlight new additions to your donor family
  • Feature powerful and emotion-driven grateful patient stories
  • Impactful donor stories told directly by the donors themselves
  • Showcase historical milestones and clinical excellence
  • Share campaign updates and leadership profiles
  • Highlight the impact that scholarships have on recipients
  • Feature Endowed Chair Donors and Faculty
  • Recognize Alumni and Athletic Fund Support
  • Reinforce a sense of place and community

When digital screens feature inspirational videos and community images, they invite the viewer to become part of the donor experience. Digital displays give you the flexibility to share more in-depth content, better connect donors to your community and give more meaning to their gift. We understand that the idea of creating new content can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have an internal creative team to assist you. That’s why even after we work with our clients to create the initial content for their digital donor wall, we continue to help them create the ongoing material needed to bring out the best in their recognition.

When digital screens feature inspirational videos and community images, they invite the viewer to become part of the donor experience.

3. Remove the Complexity and Stress of Updates

Having timely, inspirational donor stories and beautiful imagery come to life on high-definition screens are wonderful benefits of going digital. Displays of gratitude no longer need to be stagnant and out of date for months or years at a time. Yet, managing this information can be stressful, challenging, and time-consuming if you can’t update and configure your current and new content easily. The digital and hybrid donor walls that PDG designs, manufactures, and installs are powered by our content management system, Appellō. We make it easy. With Appellō, you can import donor lists, create dynamic donor stories, update content, edit images, store assets, and customize presentations. You no longer need to worry about the time and costs associated with updating a misspelled donor name that was missed in the proofing process. Plus, digital donor recognition evolves with you over time. The digital donor wall you use to initially promote a capital campaign can then celebrate its successes when the campaign closes. Even further into the future, that same digital donor wall can evolve into a celebration of cumulative giving.

You can read more about our CMS Appellō and schedule a demo to see it in action.

4. Better ROI for Your Stewardship

It's true. Incorporating digital into your donor recognition may increase your initial investment. However, the long-term benefits of donor reinforcement and viewer inspiration and even saving the cost of physical updating add up. Digital brings more impactful recognition while decreasing costs over time. That’s a win-win!

Digital donor walls can significantly reduce the recurring fees associated with architectural donor walls. The names, donor stories, and public-facing messaging can be beautifully formatted and easily updated from your laptop or tablet using Appellō. And you’ll love the calls you don’t have to make to your facilities team or IT department with every update. Solid warranties and long-lived screens are important considerations, as your displays may run 24/7.

As the old saying goes, “time is money.” Chances are good that your Donor Relations and Stewardship Team has limited bandwidth. Your Major Gift Officers and Frontline Fundraisers are busy meeting with current and potential donors and promoting high-value naming opportunities in new and renovated buildings. Their time needs to be focused on what they do best. Let PDG worry about creating beautiful, impactful donor recognition. It's what we do best.

5. Planning for the Future

There is a time and a place for traditional architectural donor walls. Donors at the highest levels still prefer to see their names permanently on display as part of an architectural donor wall. Yet, as we advance further into the age of digital everything, we must recognize the changes occurring in donor recognition. Although beautiful architectural donor walls aren’t likely to be phased out, we see the advantages of incorporating digital into them. Hybrid donor walls bring together the best of both worlds. Your highest-level donors receive a permanent place on the architectural portion of the wall, while donors of other levels can be displayed digitally.

Incorporating digital has another significant advantage worth noting. You are better positioning your organization to reach a group of younger donors. Most potential donors who are 40 or younger were practically raised on digital screens. It is how they consume the majority of their information. In order to bring them into your donor family, you’ll need to communicate with and recognize them in ways that make them feel appreciated.

Presentation Design Group has worked on countless donor recognition projects, including traditional donor walls, digital displays, hybrid donor walls, history walls and timeline displays, plaque systems, and exterior recognition for hospitals, universities, and non-profit organizations across the country.

Please contact us if you are considering digital for your donor recognition program, and we’ll discuss it together.

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