Analysis of a Successful Donor Recognition Installation

July 31st, 2009

Naming opportunities are a commonplace means of motivating donors, especially during a campaign. However, thoughtful design of permanent donor recognition can dramatically improve the outcome. Taking time to “think before you thank” will result in a product that enhances the legacy of the donor, communicates the credibility of the organization and motivates others to give.

To illustrate these points, I offer the following analysis of a display recently installed at the Gwinnett Medical Center – Lawrenceville. This display’s design follows the recommended Donor Recognition Standards & Guidelines for interior area naming established first for the Duluth campus and now adapted for the Lawrenceville campus. The Standards provide direction on a hierarchy of plaque sizes, each with a specific content and an array of components, based on gift level.

Gwinnett Medical Center Strickland Chapel

Gwinnett Medical Center Strickland Chapel




Improve donor stewardship

First and foremost, donor recognition is a public, permanent statement of appreciation to the donor. As such, the more specific and meaningful it can be, the better. Recognition should be designed to contribute to the legacy of the donor and record specific information about the individual(s) and the reasons behind the gift. Dimensional letters alone cannot achieve this level of storytelling. Instead, major donors should be recognized by an acknowledgement of who they are, what relationship they have to the institution and why they made this gift. In this case, the recognition also includes the opportunity for the donors to share, through their choice of verse and a quote of their own sentiments, a challenge to others to give.

Strickland Chapel plaque layout

Strickland Chapel Plaque Layout

Communicate the unique character of the organization
Beyond appreciation shown to the donor, donor recognition components have the potential to communicate the unique character of the organization to all who see it. In this case, the style and quality of the materials, the casual pose of the donor portrait and the friendly tone of the writing were all carefully crafted to demonstrate the hospital system’s intentionally open, amiable relationship with its community. The design of the display is a conscious statement of the organization’s personality, thus providing a positive brand experience for both the donor and the viewer.


Motivate greater giving
Quality donor recognition tells a meaningful story and provides a positive interaction with the organization that encourages others to give. Proof of that point was immediate. Gwinnett Medical Center held an informal event shortly after this and other donor recognition displays were installed. The Foundation reports what we’ve heard so often… the quality of the donor recognition impressed both current and prospective donors and immediately resulted in new pledges!


Written by Anne Manner-McLarty


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