Impact Analysis of Donor Recognition Displays On Future Donations

Brook Recognition E-mail Registration

Why should fundraising organizations consider installing a donor recognition display – and what impact does the installation of a donor recognition display have on future donations and stewardship? Because donor wall impact can be valuable to future donations received.

Answering these crucial questions required a significant amount of effort and comprehensive study. That’s exactly what Steve W. Martin provided. A renowned business author and an expert on the study of human decision-making, Martin interviewed key fundraising professionals of leading healthcare, educational and cultural organizations. The resulting research, The Impact Analysis of Donor Recognition Displays on Future Donations, offers detailed insights as well as important metrics associated with donor recognition displays.

Categories of Donor Recognition Displays

The study identified three new categories of donor recognition displays based upon the organization’s goal and psychological intention: a “Focal Point” display, a “Distinguished Presentation” display, and a “Primary Recognition” display.

You can find donor wall solutions here.

Establishing the Donor Recognition System Budget

The average amount of money spent on donor recognition systems across all study participants was $63,000. However, this number is misleading. A far more accurate indicator of the money actually spent is provided when the donor recognition displays are analyzed by category type (Focal Point, Distinguished Presentation, or Primary Acknowledgement display). The average for Focal Point display was $155,000, Distinguished Presentation display was $79,000, and Primary Acknowledgement display was $33,000. The following chart shows the percentage of survey respondents by category of display.

“There are some walls that will be absolutely outstanding and will cost a quarter of a million and there are static walls that cost $30,000. The wall has to fit within the taste and culture of the institution.”

Financial Impact on Future Donations

Study participants who have installed donor recognition systems were asked about the impact they have had on donations. Ninety-nine percent of survey participants reported increased donations associated with their donor recognition display. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents said it had increased donations by 10-15% while 19% said it had increased donations 15-20%. Eighteen percent indicated a minimal but unquantifiable increase. The figure below shows participants’ responses:

“Donors continually ask how much do I have to give to get on that next level or why is my name not on there? How far away am I from that level? People who donated hundreds of dollars now donate thousands to be sure their name is on the board.”

In addition, study participants with strategic Focal Point and Distinguished Presentation displays reported significantly higher increased donation rates than those with Primary Acknowledgement displays.


The study results indicate that strategically designed and placed donor recognition displays (such as donor display walls, and donor naming plaques/signage) increase both the size and frequency of donations from existing donors while helping to attract new donors. You can learn more about setting your donor wall budget here.

About Steve W. Martin
Steve W. Martin is a noted business, Harvard Business Review contributor, and teaches at the University of Southern California Marshall Business School MBA Program.