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December 3, 2021
Recognizing Donors to Your Fundraising Campaign
By Robin Cabral

Robin Cabral
Robin Cabral
An important part of any fundraising campaign is how you plan to recognize your donors at different giving levels, understanding that different things motivate different donors.

While not all donors are motivated by donor recognition opportunities, the fact is some are. And, you need to be prepared to offer this valuable tool to inspire the sights of your donors who are motivated by public forms of recognition. So, always begin by knowing your donor.

Public recognition inspires all donors from big to small and for all kinds of fundraising campaigns, not just capital ones. Here's a step-by-step method to creating donor recognition opportunities that will inspire your donors to set their sights higher.

There are several important guidelines one should consider first before actually coming up with the recognition opportunities.
First, it is important that you have several recognition opportunities available for your donors to select.

Second, the top-level gift should be larger than the largest gift projected during the fundraising campaign. For example, if you need a top-level gift of $100,000, your named gift opportunity could be offered at $150,000. Doing so will set the sites of your donor higher.

Third, the cumulative values of the donor recognition opportunities should add up to significantly greater than the overall fundraising goal. For example, if you have a $500,000 fundraising campaign goal, you may have donor recognition opportunities that cumulatively add up to over $750,000.

Lastly, the donor recognition opportunity should be two to three times the costs of construction, furnishings, or overall costs of the opportunity. For example, if a “room” costs $25,000, you do not necessarily have to allocate a $25,000 named giving opportunity precisely, depending upon the “appeal” of the named gift opportunity, you may make this a $50,000 named gift opportunity.
Once you have given these guidelines consideration, here is how you can establish your donor recognition opportunities step-by-step.

Step #1 ”“ Invite key staff and volunteers to a donor recognition planning meeting and review your building plans or fundraising campaign outline.

Step #2 ”“ Brainstorm all possible named gift opportunity “places” or “things,” e.g., main lobby, flag pole, endowed department, scholarships, staff positions, etc. Think expansively and creatively, remembering that nothing is off limits.

Step # 3 ”“ Write each possible naming opportunity on a sticky note and put them on the wall in random order.

Step #4 ”“ Look at your campaign gift range chart and determine how many gifts are needed at each level to reach your goal.

Step #5 ”“ Determine the “curb appeal” gifts. These gifts are those that provide value for the opportunity and are not necessarily just based on gift size. For instance, a lobby will hold more “curb appeal” than say a large industrial kitchen located in the back of the facility hardly ever seen by the general public.

Step #6 ”“ Take your sticky notes and match the top “curb appeal” gift with naming opportunity that is the largest on the list, etc. placing them on the building plan outline if possible.

Step #7 ”“ Be sure to present this donor recognition plan to the board to ensure that it approves of your plans. Ensure that the board votes to approve this plan. Don’t skip this step! You need the board’s support.

There are other ways that you can recognize your donors. For instance, you can recognize mid-level to lower-level donors in on honor role engraved on a plaque, in print, or on your organization’s website. You may also choose to run a bricks and pavers or wall tile program. And, you should recognize all of your donors at a post-campaign celebratory event once the project and fundraising are complete.

One thing that we must remember is that different reasons motivate different donors. Some donor motivations include:
  • Participate in something worthwhile
  • Become involved with something in which one believes
  • Increase connection to something cared about
  • Align with something positive
  • Support shared beliefs, values, priorities
  • Respond to a friend’s request
  • Gain access to a particular group of people
  • Recognition of an effective effort
  • Assuage guilt
  • Give back
  • Learn something
  • Support a desired change
  • Get a tax deduction
One thing that you do need to ensure is that you are consistent with how you recognize your donors. Everyone giving the same gift amount needs to be treated equally regarding what his or her gift will afford in a named gift opportunity. For example, you cannot offer a $50,000 donor the front and center lobby and then another $50,000 donor the kitchen located in an unseen location. While the same gift amount, one gift holds more appeal than the other. Use this as an opportunity to develop policies to ensure donor recognition consistency.

Now the organization is ready to begin asking for gifts, using different named gift opportunities as a way to motivate donors to step up their giving to the campaign.

Robin Cabral, principal of Development Consulting Solutions, is a certified fundraising executive, who works with mid-sized nonprofits to build capacity and improve fundraising results. Email her at or call 508-685-8899.
July 2017
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