Philanthropy Center

April 14th, 2010

We regularly use the term philanthropy center and when we do, we sometimes have to remind ourselves that this term has meaning to us as donor recognition consultants, but it’s meaning may not be apparent to others, even our fundraising clients.

Georgia Institute of Technology Philanthropy CenterIn fact, it may be that Robin actually coined the term in 1992 when she implemented the first of its kind (at least as far as we know) for The Sparrow Foundation in Lansing MI, then again for McLaren Foundation in Flint, MI and again in 1997 for Georgia Institute of Technology. This latter, comprehensive display actually became a destination on their campus, called The Gordy Room (shown here) and is used to this day for all sorts of donor-related and media events.

A philanthropy center, then, has come to refer to a premier destination for the celebration of donors and the many ways that an organization has benefited from philanthropy.  As a “center,” it goes far beyond the standard “donor wall” by communicating opportunities to give and fostering continued giving by long term and new donors alike.

Philanthropy centers typically highlight cumulative and planned giving programs, but may well include recognition of other types of giving, too. Through the analysis of all giving program policies, the inclusion of all sorts of lists, stories, imaging and interactive techniques can build a powerful communication tool for the organization and its fundraisers.

Annual, corporate and employee giving are frequent components in hospital recognition programs, for instance.  To our delight, recognition for named endowments and programs West Georgia Health Philanthropy Center SketchUp Renderingare becoming much more frequent now for all types of fundraising institutions and their centers for philanthropy.  Best practices for donor recognition dictate that inclusion of historical information, stories, donor testimonials, current campaign activity improve the communication potential beyond the traditional displays that include just lists of donor names. By definition, a philanthropy center must exist to inform, engage and excite viewers, all of whom are prospective donors.

The biggest requirement for implementing such a destination, beyond changeability, whether on line, on campus or inside a facility, is that the institution must think through the usefulness of the effort to tell their story, to reinforce their brand, their “face” of philanthropy. Care is to be taken to determine just the right types of displays and communication goals to set. Whatever the content, communicating the importance of philanthropy as a core value of the fundraising institution is to be the driving force of any philanthropy center.

Written by Robin E. Williams


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