Naming Opportunity? Please! No!

August 17th, 2011

Enjoy this with a smile. And then, if you are a fundraiser, be horrified!

To me, this represents the basis of all criticism I ever hear about donor recognition. It is an extreme “real life” example, somewhere, of what the use of naming opportunities to raise money can degrade into.

If we are not careful, as a fund-raising industry, to treat the “naming of a space” as a HIGHLY respectable and sought after public honor, given to thank someone for a big boost, then we do ourselves no good. In fact, we may be doing ourselves actual harm. Fundraisers must present naming opportunities as elevated “thank yous”. They may be critical to the fund-raising success of the campaign.  The organization represented by the “come one” pictured here makes a retail mockery of donor recognition to me.

Without thoughtful planning, such an ad to “hang your name in the window” contributes to the detriment of donor recognition. Occasionally, we all  hear strains of criticism, regarding area namings, in newly opened facilities, “It’s everywhere! Did they have to name everything? Seems too commercial to me.” And so on.  Such acerbic snipes by career-grumblers, nevertheless, demean our cause. We must take thoughtful notice of what we are doing. What is it that have we planned? How have we done the asking? How have we named? How have we thanked? What was the outcome, the benefit? It can all be measured.

“Come one, come all!  Buy this!” That’s what I see in this photo. Too bad, they could have been much more discerning. Yet, as I write this, I realize that knowing which message is best and then finding the right communication channel for consistent story-telling are the same keys every organization struggles with. It’s simply not easy to unlock the right strategies that will  thank, move people to action, and motivate giving, but it simply must be our goal.

Written by Robin E. Williams

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