Top 5 Tips for Onsite Donor Recognition

By WA, South Sound Admin posted 03-27-2018 09:18 PM

Article by LILT

Get a jumpstart on planning for your onsite donor recognition with our countdown of these top five tips.

5. Establishing Your Parameters

The success of any project is created through planning and preparation. The minimum items that you need to define your parameters for your onsite donor recognition are:

  • Site selection – will recognition be spread throughout or grouped in one location?
  • Number of expected names – the number of names can severely affect a design. Be realistic!
  • The levels that will be differentiated (and IF they will be differentiated).

There is a current trend toward not labeling the recognition levels to be more inclusive of the community as a whole. Levels can instead be indicated through font size, but be aware that some high-level donors may have trouble with this shift and you may need to have additional recognition options for them. For example, would a press release, eblast and/or opening ceremony recognition give them the recognition they desire? Or will they get their own separate donor recognition onsite?

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4. Sharing and Participating in Your Vision

Connecting donors to a project can bring them closer to your organization and make them feel vested in the success of your organization for the long run. And being able to visually share how the donor recognition will look can be a powerful tool toward that connection (we've even seen donors increase their donation based on how their recognition will look). If you are working with a design firm, be sure to include a request for renderings of the recognition that can be used in print and digital.  

Another great additional touch point with major donors is to ask them to participate in their recognition. We only recommend this for donors at the higher levels so that staff members aren't burdened by hunting down donors. If you do decide to have donors engage with their recognition (for example, by providing a favorite quote or family photo), plan for the contingency that some donors will need assistance.

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3. Planning for a Changing Future

The certain thing about the future is that no one can predict it completely accurately. Recognizing that nothing will go absolutely to plan and knowing what your contingency options are is vital to pulling off a donor recognition system. When working with your design partner, you should know how a few key items and problems will be handled should they arise. The items that you should know your contingencies on are:
  • Donor name changes due to marital status (or a misspelling)
  • Major donor gift at the end of the campaign
  • Significantly more names than originally planned for

Knowing how these items would be handled will allow you to make better decisions as the fundraising evolves and allows for correct budgeting.

2. Chain of Approval

Most items in life give you a second chance to get it right; donor recognition is not one of them. We recommend establishing a “chain of approval,” where each person or “link in the chain” looks for a different element. Start by having the donor submit how they would like their recognition (name) to appear, then end with having someone who has not worked on the project but is familiar with the names do a final check. If you are including several items, such as denoting deceased or alumni, have another person look for each item separately. This will take more time but we GUARANTEE that you will catch more errors. Establishing who will look for each item ahead of time will also ensure quicker response time to proofs.

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1. Choose a Design Partner

Why choose a designer versus just ordering an off-the-shelf system or having a signage company create the recognition system? Donor recognition should continue to speak to your mission long after your fundraising is done. Off-the-shelf systems often look stale within a year and after the campaign is completed they lose their relevance.

By using a design partner like LILT, your donor recognition will continue to speak your mission, as well as to those who gave AND to prospective donors. Donor recognition is not just about the past but also a testament to what you do, who you are and how much you value your donors. By selecting a design partner you gain the assistance of someone who can help you express your core values and prepare for the future as well as honoring the past.

About the Author

LILT completed the recent rebrand of AFP South Sound and is a current sponsor of the AFP South Sound e-newsletter. We help tell your story to those who matter most – your target audience. LILT is an OMWBE-certified graphic design firm with a little something extra. Founded in 2010, by principals Juel Lugo and Bethany Maines, we believe in helping clients deliver an authentic message to their key client base. LILT offers one-stop shopping for a wide range of communications materials and designs. We specialize in print, web and environmental design. Some of our key competencies are event branding, capital campaigns, signage and wayfinding, and donor recognition. You can learn more at

1 comment



03-30-2018 11:51 AM

Well said; LILT hit the bulls-eye when it comes to donor recognition - thank you, Juel and Bethany!