Do donors give so they can see their name on a plaque?
We hear this question quite often, so let’s get it out of the way quickly.
No — donors don’t make gifts just to see their name on a wall.
But naming opportunities *DO* make donors feel valued. And sometimes donors will give more to name a specific room or space because it has special meaning to them.
The opportunity to name a space or program can have a powerful impact. And developing your donor recognition plan that includes naming should be a high priority — particularly if you’re planning a capital campaign to renovate or build a new building.
How to Create a Naming Opportunities Plan
While you can sit in your office and create a plan, if you use the process to engage key volunteers, you’ll get a better plan and start your volunteers thinking about what they’d like to name.
Invite some board members and campaign volunteers to sit around a large table with the plans for your project spread out before them. Have them brainstorm every possible place in the plan that could use a name, writing each idea on a sticky note that you put on the wall. Don’t worry about the order yet. Just put them up in a great messy group.
Think expansively and creatively.
Encourage your group to think expansively and creatively.
I’ve seen flagpoles, elevators, gardens, stairways, furnishings, computers… almost anything you can think of on lists of naming opportunities. I’ve even seen a theater renovation with little naming plaques in every rest room stall! (If you’re a woman and have stood in line during intermission, you’ll understand why!)
You could name your entire campus, each building on the campus, and the wings of those buildings. You can name office pods and entry ways and special windows. And don’t forget the staff lounge! That’s almost always a meaningful naming opportunity for the right donor.
Watch your wall fill up with sticky notes — each one listing a single naming idea. And if your campaign includes an endowment fund, don’t stop with naming the facilities. You can name programs and staff positions too.
Rank Your Naming Opportunities by ‘WOW Factor’
Once you’ve compiled your wall full of naming opportunities, the next step is to rank them by “WOW factor.” That’s it’s visibility and appeal. While some times a WOW space is large, it need not be.
For example, you might have a small space right at the entrance of your building — a lobby where everyone stops at the reception desk. That’s a wow!
But you might have a much larger room, that’s tucked away in the back of your building where only staff members go. That one’s not such a wow. (How excited would you be about a back room being named after you?)
Once you’ve listed all of your possible naming opportunities, have your group re-arrange your wall of sticky notes by WOW factor. It’s okay — in fact, it’s excellent — if you find yourself with several opportunities that rate roughly the same amount of WOW.
Giving Levels and the Naming Opportunities
Next, take the gift range chart you’ve developed for your campaign goal. Look at each giving level and the number of gifts you need at that level to reach your goal.
It might look something like this:
(Note that your specific gift amounts and numbers of gifts will vary based on the needs of your particular capital campaign.)
Now, match the highest “WOW factor” naming opportunity to the largest gift on your chart, the second-biggest wows with the second largest gift, and so on.
Get Your Board to Officially Approve Your Naming Plan
Once you have a naming plan for your capital campaign, first make sure your campaign steering committee is happy with it. Then present it to your board and ask for a formal vote of approval.
That step will save you from donors who want to negotiate the price of a space. They don’t come along often, but when they do, you want to let them know that the plan has been approved by your board and isn’t flexible.
The 4 Principles of Capital Campaign Naming Opportunities
- Naming a building or room or space is gratifying for many donors.
- The value of a naming opportunity is based on appeal (WOW factor) rather than size.
- Your naming opportunities should dovetail with your gift range chart.
- Your board should officially approve your naming opportunities plan.
What naming opportunities can you think of in regards to your capital campaign? Share them in the comments.
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