What to do when the plaques must come down…

September 8th, 2009

As donor recognition consultants, we are often asked how to manage the inevitable situation where past recognition is superceded or made irrelevant during a renovation or demolition. Need for additional capital often necessitates “retiring” older namings. Many institutions store removed plaques in an archive or other less formal storage situation, not really knowing what to do with them. On the one hand, this shows respect for the donor by saving the recognition item, but on the other, you’ve really lost the benefit of the story that plaque represents – for both the organization and the donor.

Don’t lose the benefit of the story the plaque represents – for both the organization and the donor.

The most effective recourse in this situation is to plan for listing past donors in a historical display that acknowledges the time and importance of the gift, and if appropriate, the reason it was decommissioned. For those with the space, this can become an attractive destination and may include some or all of the actual plaques and other recognition elements. If space will not allow for a large installation, perhaps just a single listing of past donors, coupled with historical information about the building and the impetus for this renovation, would ease the transition. That list can be incorporated into the current recognition plans.

Also, organizations should include a clause in all donor agreements that specifies that recognition elements will be displayed for the functional life of the space only. Should a renovation be required, new funding – with corresponding naming opportunities – will be sought. Whenever possible, give the families of the original naming donors the opportunity to give again and perpetuate the legacy of their name within this historical facility.

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