5 Strategies: Donor Recognition and New Construction

November 6th, 2013

Here are 5 quick reminders on how to make the best use of donor recognition as a motivator for giving within new facilities.Plan Ahead

1.  Get involved in the programmatic details of the new facility as early as you can. If you are being asked to raise monies for it, you should be involved early on in the evaluation of Naming Opportunity locations, their worth. Fundraisers must become involved by the time the architect has developed building designs to 50% completion. This is a standard checkpoint for architects and their clients.

2.  Establish gift levels for the areas to be named. You can do this planning quickly yourself. Overlay the building’s floor & site plan with tissue paper. Outline the rooms/spaces to be named. Consider square footage allotments and equipment used within spaces to be named, certainly, but don’t forget public perception of the area to be named. Most often that is most important. Write in the amount you think is reasonable to ask onto the tissue paper. Once the array is complete, look over the various amounts and compare them to each other. Try to minimize the options by grouping like gift amounts under one gift size. Then look around campus/facilities and see how the amounts you’ve identified here compare to existing, similar named areas. This would be particularly important if another building on campus is under development and might “compete with” or be “compared to” the gift amounts you’ve identified here.

3.  Examine the architect’s floor plan for actual wall space where you will be able to plaques, displays and dimensional letters. Do this now to be sure you’ll reserve a place to hang whatever recognition element or group of graphic elements to be used for  a specific naming location. If you see problems, let the architect know the amount of space you’ll need to reserve. For instance, you may have areas that are used for a very prominent and public program that qualify for a large gift amount. Yet, you may likely find that the physical space in the architect’s plan where the administration of that program is to take place is not very large, or that it has no prominent place to honor your donor. Your architect can usually remedy this easily at the 50% checkpoint stage by creating a wall or by adjusting a door opening so that more space is available to you.

4.  Consider displaying other recognition elements in the building. While it is common that Capital Campaign donors of a certain entry-level gift amount should be displayed prominently along with area naming recognition throughout a new facility, think now about the use of the building itself. Would this be an effective facility in which to display Lifetime Giving? Planned Giving? Annual Giving? Employee Giving? Scholarship or Endowment Giving? If you choose to include other recognition elements in this facility, you’ll need to estimate now the content and size of each and to decide the walls or floor space needed to include them in the new facility. Again, the 50% stage of architectural development is an ideal time to identify and reserve the spatial considerations you’ll need later. Changes requested now, have time to be digested by all, before construction details are finalized.

5.  Estimate recognition budgets EARLY in the process. Establish a line item ASAP for recognition budgets. If not, you’ll come to the end of the project with no budget allotted. Using the list of recognition elements you develop above, establish a “close estimate” of installed product costs for each for your own planning. Add the total amount and increase it by 10%, or more, because the building construction may take 1-2 years to evolve beyond the 50% architectural progress stage. If you have already developed a Recognition Standards Program per gift level, then the amounts will be known to your organization.

Lastly, if recognition elements installed in other locations on campus are not appropriate for this new facility, or for the types of gifts found in this facility, hire a Recognition Design Consultant or use a manufacturer you know. (Remember, though, a manufacturer will only be able to accommodate your needs by using the product that he makes, whether it is the best for you and your budgets or not. And if they do not serve non profits regularly, they will not understand the long term impact of recognition decision-making and proper stewardship. )

If you choose to work with a Recognition Design Consultant, their understanding of marketing communication for fundraising, recognition program expansion over time, and actual sign materials will more than make up for the costs you’ll incur for their consulting fees.

Hint: The architect, as part of his services, usually allots a line item for the architectural sign program for the building. Perhaps some of that allowance can be recaptured and/or assigned to Donor Recognition if the two types of architectural environmental graphics are determined in tandem.

Written by Robin E. Williams


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