Capital campaign donor recognition is key to fundraising success


What donor wouldn’t want his or her name on a building? Capital campaign donor recognition is key to fundraising success.

There are many ways to recognize a donor, from the simple, like thank you notes, to the complex, like naming opportunities. Done correctly, a donor recognition program can help you dramatically increase the funds raised during your capital campaign.

Because of a successful naming opportunity, a recent Steier Group client was able to secure the first of many $1 million dollar gifts. The right opportunity presented to the right donor can build a meaningful, long-term relationship that is mutually beneficial.

As with most things, the key to a successful donor recognition program is planning ahead. As you create your recognition plan, establish guidelines that are easy to understand and follow. Creating these guidelines should be one of your top priorities – before you ever begin asking for contributions.

Your capital campaign donor recognition plan should include:

  • A statement of the philosophy of donor recognition that is consistent with your values, vision and mission.
  • Procedures for thanking donors at different levels.
  • Hierarchy of donor levels and the recognition for each level.
  • Criteria for donor recognition that includes location or place to be named, minimum threshold for recognition and the length of time the recognition will be in place.
  • Approval process for the name itself. For Catholic churches, this step may involve input from the (arch)diocese. For community organizations, check with your regional or national office to see what is allowed. Some require the person(s) to be deceased before a building can be named after them.

If you are building structures, there are any number of naming opportunities from the building itself to hallways, exhibits, rooms and bricks. It is possible to name a space within a space, but this should be done carefully and you should always be sure to communicate with precision so that all donors and the organization are on the same page. For example, a donor may name a classroom but within that classroom specific equipment may be donated from another patron.

The signage must complement the building or space. Clear communication with vendors is critical to help them understand your vision, what is expected of the finished product, and how it will complement the area being named.

While there are many reasons why you may want to consider naming opportunities, you should also take into consideration factors that could affect the recognition in the future. Consider future fabrication, weather resistance, vandalism and maintenance. Donor life circumstances may change that could affect a named area. How will you handle major renovations or even demolition several years down the road as the infrastructure ages? In this instance, many institutions offer the original owner the first rights of refusal when it comes to renovations.

Other capital campaign donor recognition options include donor specific events, gifts, affinity groups and donor walls. Just remember to acknowledge gifts promptly, personalize thank you letters and remember to show the impact of the gift. You can never thank a donor too many times.

I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions regarding donor recognition or the professional services of the Steier Group.

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