Guiding You to the Right Donor Recognition Budget

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It seems to be a near-universal feeling that budgeting always comes with a substantial amount of uneasiness.

Whether it’s a household budget, a personal budget, or a project budget, there are elements that are simply uncomfortable. But, in general, it’s the guesswork and unknowns that fuel that feeling. Your donor recognition display budget is no different. We can take some of the mystery out of the equation – enabling you to budget effectively and comfortably.

Ideally, budgeting is addressed very early in your process. The more accurate, and the less variables, the better. It simply makes everyone’s life easier. Based on our experience, the first question that results in eyes darting around the room is “How much should we spend?” While there are many things to take into consideration – and we’ll touch on some of those – a good starting point comes from The Association of Donor Relations Professionals (ADRP). They recommend allocating between 1-2% of your capital campaign budget for recognition. This will, of course, vary based on your specific needs, situation and priorities, but it can help provide some perspective.

Let’s examine a few of the factors that are going to have the biggest effects on our budget.

The location of your display.

Where you plan to locate your display, and how prominent it will be, is a key element to consider. A comprehensive study, completed by Professor Steve Martin of University of Southern California’s Marshall Business School, found that larger displays have a larger impact – attracting larger donors and delivering a better return on investment than an understated, less-prominent and visible display.

“… the study results indicate that strategically designed and placed donor recognition displays …. increase both the size and frequency of donations from existing donors while helping to attract new donors.” 1

Your overall investment.

Quite simply, understanding how much money is available to allocate to this project is key. Wishful pie-in-the-sky dreams of grandeur, while often fun, could bog the process down when plans need to be adjusted. Knowing what’s realistically available and determining whether it’s enough to finance the project is important to address early. Remember, a donor recognition display should never be viewed as just an expense. This is an investment in an ongoing fundraising tool. The potential ROI of this tool, today and in the future, should be considered when developing your initial budget; even if this means increasing the size of your original investment to more than you initially planned. It could be a wise and economical decision.

The Recognition Paradigm Shift® explains more fully how recognition can be used as a way to help you reach your goals.

The Recognition Paradigm Shift® has shown us that donors want to be a key part of an initiative they feel strongly about. The right recognition display will make them part of that initiative’s story – this can be an important part of motivating your donors and reaching your campaign goals.

Your ideal design.

If you have a vision in mind for your recognition display, having an understanding of the associated costs early on is a good idea. That way, adjustments and accommodations to your design, if necessary, can be made while still in the planning stage. It’s also important to assess the functionality of your vision. Can it grow with your donors? Will the design make donors feel suitably recognized for their generosity? These are questions we are well equipped and more than happy to help you answer.

The importance of your design.

Quite simply, your donor wall must be functional. You’re putting a significant amount of time, money and effort into it; you need it to perform. And a big part of that is being easy and cost effective to update. It’s more than an expensive form of art – it’s a purposeful tool and a key part of your fundraising strategy. When designed well, your donor wall will help you increase your donations and provide a real dollar return on investment.

“…Donor wall design is critical and organizations’ on-going costs to update the display should be considered in addition to the initial capital expenditure. … study participants with Focal Point and Distinguished Presentation displays reported significantly higher increased donation rates than those with Primary Acknowledgement displays.”

– Professor Steve Martin

The desired impact.

The next generation of donors are action driven – they want to see the immediate impact of their donations.

Your donor recognition system must have a way of relating this impact to both existing and potential donors. It also must reflect the passion of your cause – this is what fuels their generosity. Ensuring they will know and be recognized for making a positive difference is essential. This will improve retention rates and attract new donors to your cause as well. Budgeting for impact is an absolute necessity.

“They want to tackle the root of a problem or issue they are passionate about … They see themselves focused on impact, first and foremost. They want to be able to see the impact they have made, and know that their involvement has contributed to that impact.” 3

Next Steps

As with all aspects of donor recognition planning, it is beneficial to speak with an expert early on in your planning process, and especially during budget deliberations, to ensure you are getting the most value for your dollars spent. Brook Recognition has the expertise to advise on budget, design, and location, as well as provide tips on ways to raise additional monies to fund your donor recognition project. We can also put you in touch with other professionals who are in similar situations to yourselves.

When it comes to any aspect of your donor recognitions planning, it’s always best to talk to an expert as early as possible. We happy to help you plan your recognition strategy – ensuring you are getting the most value for your money. Plus, we can advise you on the best locations and designs for your facility, as well as providing insights and ideas on how additional funds can be raised to help fund your donor recognition project.

Shawn Plater

Vice President, Recognition Strategist

(1) Brook Recognition – Impact Analysis, Professor Steve W. Martin
(2) Ibid
(3) Brook Recognition – How the Next Generation Gives