Recognition Wall Ideas

by Nancy Wagner

Using a recognition wall to say thank you lets past and future donors know how much you appreciate their contributions. Just about anything goes when it comes to creating a wall, from simply hanging plaques to installing custom-designed panels featuring interesting graphics and text. Build a wall that not only thanks contributors, but also encourages donors to want to do even more for your organization.

Starting the Process

Determining how many contributors you want to thank and setting policies for deciding whose names to include is key. If you want to focus on annual donors, consider following in the footsteps of Colorado Mountain College -- the school put each donor’s name on a small plaque and attached it to the wall with a magnet, allowing them to move the pieces around as donors changed. Some organizations build donor walls as part of specific fundraising campaigns. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, 2 to 4 percent of your total fundraising effort is a common amount to use for a donor wall.

Space Considerations

Figuring out how much space to dedicate to the project starts with looking at what’s currently available. For example, Missouri Western State University turned extra space into a display case featuring historical images and donor names. Another consideration involves encouraging people to comfortably spend time admiring the information. For example, if the wall is located along a heavily traveled corridor, people may not feel comfortable lingering. Distractions such as noise or harsh weather, if the display is outside, can also take away the effectiveness of your display.

Elements to Include

Design elements include deciding how much information you want to put on the wall. Some organizations include historical timelines, such as the Mt. Carmel College of Nursing did to depict its 100-year history and the donors who made it possible. Using your organization’s logo is also a key element. For instance, Little Company of Mary, a healthcare facility, used a circular wall display to go with the rings that are significant to the sisters who originally started the facility.

Types of Displays

The type of display you choose is limited only to your imagination, since almost anything can be custom built. Panels that run the length of a wall and go around the corner encourage people to walk and learn. Outdoor walls with water fountains and benches make the wall more inviting. Walls that allow you to add donors over time offer flexibility. For instance, a tree featuring gold, silver or bronze leaves with donor names gives you an easy way to add branches for new contributions. Keeping up with the times by installing a multimedia presentation is another option, allowing you to offer displays that feature audio, video and text that recycles or is interactive. Combining the interactive presentation with a more traditional wall with donor names gives you a way to appeal to as many people as possible.

About the Author

Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.

Photo Credits

  • Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images News/Getty Images