When it comes to capital campaigns, one idea is always quite clear:
Donor recognition matters. A lot. A whole lot.
Recognizing Donors for Their Capital Campaign Gifts is Crucial
Recognizing people for their generosity is important. What’s more, the way you do it should be in keeping with the culture of your organization.
Some people are more comfortable with naming spaces than others. Some people are convinced that without naming opportunities, some donors who could give big gifts won’t. Others aren’t so sure.
Though there seems to be no consensus on the subject, I’d like to offer several of my own thoughts based on my many years of experience in this field that may help you find the right approach for your organization.
People are generous in many ways.
Financial contributions are among the many ways people show their generosity. Many people have grown up with negative messages about money, such as:
- Money is dirty.
- You should never discuss money.
- Don’t flaunt your wealth.
However, giving money is one important way for people to express their generosity. And extreme generosity should be recognized!
Donor Recognition: Thoughts from a Capital Campaign Expert
Not only do organizations have various beliefs about how donors should be recognized, donors don’t agree either. Some donors want to be publicly recognized and others don’t. In fact, philanthropic families sometimes disagree. One member of the family might want his name on a building but his spouse is dead set against it.
A complicated proposition becomes even more complicated when a donor thinks he or she can use his gift to “buy” a space. Or that he can negotiate to get a designated space for a lower amount of money than originally indicated.
While I don’t have clear answers, here’s what I believe about this topic.
1. Recognizing donors through naming opportunities is common.
Recognizing donors for their gifts by naming spaces has been an accepted practice for many decades. If you are going to forgo the practice at your organization, you must think through carefully about how you will recognize your donors in a way that does full justice to their generosity.
Unless you have a compelling reason to break with tradition, you should provide opportunities recognize your donors publicly according to their gift levels.
2. An established donor recognition plan is essential.
Your donor recognition plan should be reviewed and officially approved by your board. And once it’s approved, it should not be subject to negotiation with donors.
Think creatively about the placement and design of your donor recognition. You can mitigate much of the distaste people have for naming by designing plaques and wall displays that are in keeping with the culture of your organization.
And here’s my favorite thought on this subject…
3. Donors *do* care about seeing their name on a plaque.
In my experience, people often dissimulate when it comes to naming opportunities. If you ask them if they want their name on a plaque, many will say they don’t care about that. It seems somehow uncouth to admit to wanting that kind of visibility.
But in many cases, when a donor’s name is on a plaque, they’ll be proud. In fact, they’re likely to bring their children and grandchildren to see their plaque. So don’t believe everything donors tell you on this topic. Many will enjoy being recognized publicly with their name on a plaque.
Donor Recognition is About Making Donors Feel Good
Whatever your organization decides to do, be sure you find a way to recognize your most generous donors in ways that truly make them feel good about having made a big gift to your organization. The way you treat your donors after they have made a gift is even more important than the way you treated them beforehand.
What are your thoughts on donor recognition for capital campaigns? Do share in the comments below.