There is a Great Story Behind Every Gift

7 of the Best Ways to Recognize Donors

Digital donor recognition display by PDG with dimensional letter above it reading, There is a great story behind every gift.

Often, we are asked, “What is the BEST way to recognize donors?” Before we can effectively answer this question, we must acknowledge that donor recognition is not a one size fits all process. Thank you notes, social media shoutouts, acknowledgments in emails and newsletters, and branded gifts are all part of a larger donor recognition strategy. The method or type of recognition that works best for Organization A may not be effective for Organizations B and C.

At PDG, one of our commitments to you is to discover what type of recognition will work best for your unique situation. Whether or not you have envisioned a specific location for your donor recognition display and a budget to get it done, we'll want to work together to cover these aspects and provide an informed plan to support your project. We're all after results, and getting them requires preparation and information. An initial agreement on a scope of work will lead to budget ranges that will accomplish it and an agreement to work together to fine-tune it into a final design and specific price. It's a collaborative effort that marries form and function with a realistic budget.

Let’s look at 7 of the Best Ways to Recognize Donors

Traditional/Architectural Donor Wall

It is hard to beat traditional/architectural donor walls' creative flexibility because they offer limitless possibilities for different elements, shapes, colors, textures, and imagery. Working collaboratively through conceptual design, we'll find the look and feel that best fits your organization and represents the donors you want to recognize. After developing your concept, you can incorporate the same theme into named space plaques throughout your building. When visitors continue to see this cohesive theme, they’ll feel just how significant the presence of giving is in your institution. This presence often fosters the spirit of giving and inspires others to join your donor family.

Our collaborations with Providence Cancer Center and Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend show examples of this continuity incorporated into both their donor walls and named space plaques.

Digital Donor Wall

A bit more attention-grabbing and modern than traditional walls, digital donor walls have become more and more a part of the philanthropic landscape over the last ten years. Technological advances and the creation of PDG’s content management system, Appellō, have made updating and maintaining digital walls much more manageable. Appellō is a cohesive, effective communication content management system by which your ever-evolving content is organized, configured, curated, and deployed to many different displays.

Digital donor walls deliver donor stories, patient success stories, and donor lists directly to the viewer. When digital screens feature inspirational videos and community images, these messages come to life and invite the viewer to become part of the donor experience. We understand the importance of including a sense of place in donor recognition. Connecting a donor to their community gives more meaning to their gift. Digital displays allow the flexibility to share more in-depth content without taking up as much real estate as an architectural wall and greatly expand upon the ways traditional donor walls showcase displays of gratitude.

Hybrid Donor Wall

If you like the easily updatable quality that digital brings but still want to maintain the classic look of a traditional wall, a hybrid wall may be the way to go. Incorporating digital displays into an architectural surround grounds each display, making them much more significant and impossible to ignore. The range of architectural surrounds used in hybrid walls is vast, from smaller freestanding single-screen displays to displays that span entire hallways.

The colorful donor wall at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University displays static donor names and historical content on acrylic glass backed by a series of bright, colorful panels. A single digital monitor displays photos of the students, announcements, and event information.

On the other end of the spectrum, Washington Hospital uses multiple architectural naming and story panels broken up graphically by color, highlighting centers of care that represent the hospital's core values. Multiple touchscreen interactive displays allow the viewers to dive deeper into impactful donor stories and much more.

In many cases, hybrid donor walls are used so that higher-level donors can be recognized more permanently on the architectural portion of the display. Lower-level donors that often make up the majority of the donor list are highlighted digitally.

Interactive Displays

Although video loops and static digital displays do an excellent job of delivering lists of donor names and their stories, something is compelling about allowing the viewer to choose their path through the giving experience. With a touch of the screen, interactive displays can deliver more information about your campaign, unlock historical timelines and empower the viewer to decide which other videos they’d like to watch.

However, as we navigate through the “new normal” of life with COVID-19, we see an industry trend moving away from fully interactive displays. PDG is pioneering the new movement of "smart interactivity" or low touch/no touch displays. At the forefront of this movement is our Content Management System Appellō, an easy-to-use, intuitive system to control your digital displays and configure new, inspirational content created specifically for you - philanthropic organizations connecting donors with the impact of their gift. Appellō easily incorporates timed segments into a more extensive presentation to deliver stories and donor lists without the viewer having to touch the screen. Click on the link to learn more about Appellō and schedule a demo.

Virtual Recognition

Just as we have learned to adapt to life during a global pandemic, how we recognize donors has also changed to meet the times. Over the past few years, fewer people have been able to visit what were once high-foot-traffic areas. Many nonprofits, universities, and healthcare organizations have added or increased their use of virtual recognition to help maintain relationships with their donor families. Social media posts, email campaigns, newsletters, and unique donor recognition websites have become more prominent. Although not as prestigious or well suited for major contributions on its own, virtual recognition in conjunction with other forms of donor stewardship works well to reach a wider audience and convey the impact of their gifts.

History Wall

History walls are a great way to share your organization's story from its inception to the present day, highlighting key milestones made along the way. Incorporating a history wall into your donor recognition allows the viewer to directly associate the impact of a donor's gift with the organization's achievements. PDG often creates these walls to showcase vintage equipment and historical elements. Sharp Health Chula Vista Medical Center achieves this by using museum-quality illuminated artifact cases combined with graphic and glass communication panels. This display spans 120 feet between the donor wall and the history display.

Exterior Recognition

Exterior recognition presents a challenge to create pieces that are both beautiful and able to withstand the elements over time. When you find the right combination, the results can be stunning. Exterior recognition offers a unique opportunity for your display of gratitude to be front and center in the public eye reminding viewers of your commitment to the community. When it comes to materials for exterior recognition, engraved, etched, or sandblasted stainless steel is a great way to go. However, even wood, fused art glass, tile, and stone can work beautifully outdoors when the correct treatments are applied.

You may have noticed an important form of donor recognition missing from our list – Named Spaces. But don’t worry. We didn’t forget. You can find an in-depth look into Named Space Plaque Systems here - Donor Recognition Naming Opportunities.

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