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Best Practice

Recognition and Donor Walls

Stewarding Donors
| 2 minutes to read
Last Updated: 02-28-2022


Donor walls are a great tool to give public recognition to your donors. This includes questions and considerations to help you brainstorm when proposing a new donor wall.

Context and Use

Donor walls are used most often with building projects (for those who have named objects) or donor recognition societies. Recognition walls seem to work best when they have high visibility and encourage donors to aspire to higher giving amounts. Cumulative listings of donors can provide a good opportunity to recognize donors’ total involvement and present the full scope of donor participation. Most organizations structure their programs to list a hundred or more donors in the entry-level category, with only a few listed at the highest levels. Cumulative giving is often coupled with planned giving, historical information, and other content to enhance viewers’ understanding of the role of philanthropy within the organization.

Creating a successful donor recognition program starts with understanding that recognition is about saying thank you in ways that celebrate your donors while highlighting your organization’s mission. All donor recognition is a balance between the needs, goals, and resources of the organization and the effort to thank and further engage a donor.

Trends: Honor rolls and traditional formal modes of recognition continue to fall by the wayside. When organizations opt for a donor wall, they trend toward using technology (e.g., interactive displays or online honor rolls that allow display of more than just donor information).

Considerations before Creating a Physical Donor Wall

  • What are your goals?
    • Inform?
    • Inspire?
    • Recognize?
  • What are your desired outcomes?
  • How does this align with your organizational strategy?
  • Where will the donor wall be located and what audiences will most likely see the donor wall?
  • Do you have the budget to create, install, and manage upkeep?
  • Do you have the resources to manage, maintain, and market the donor wall?
  • Is your donor base large enough and engaged enough to be impactful/tell a story?
  • Do you have a sense of what your donors want in terms of recognition?

Potential Alternatives to Donor Walls

  • Digital recognition
    • Wisconsin School of Business
    • School of Human Ecology, young alumni: Contact Linda Zwicker
  • Donor events/experiences
    • Recognition event
    • Student-donor reception
  • General impact communication to a group of donors


  • Brainstorm with your team around the above questions.
  • Plan accordingly as physical donor walls are a big commitment of time, resources, and money.
  • Explore alternatives to physical donor wall recognition.

Additional Resources