To Wall or not to Wall? Egos and Fundraisers

No matter what your cause, one of the keys to a killer fundraising strategy is recognizing your donors.  This can be tricky since culture, religion, opinion and taste all come into play in deciding what works as a “thank you”.  A common yet much-debated form of recognition is the donor wall.  You’ve seen them in the lobbies of hospitals, libraries and performance halls – they list the names of contributors to a fundraising project.  Some love them.  Some hate them.  Here’s a starter list of pros and cons for this kind of a wall.

Arguments AGAINST Donor Walls

1)  People might give simply to flaunt their generosity on the wall.

2)  Fundraisers are pressured to focus on stroking donor egos to get them to give.

3)  Religious arguments such as this one:  “‘But thou, doing kindness, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth.” – Matthew  6:3 (Young’s Literal Translation)

Arguments FOR Donor Walls

1)  It’s only right to say “thank you” and donor walls are a very public way to do so.

2)  Rather than appealing to ego, donor walls allow people to honor the memory of loved ones or to leave a legacy and set an example.

3)  A lot of people would not give unless they were recognized.

The Juggling Act

I definitely struggle with the question of how to recognize and motivate donors that give to the causes that I raise money for.  My feeling is that while I may not be able to influence the reasons people give, I can make sure that the ways I motivate them to support my cause, are positive.   If people understand the cause, connect with it and make it their own, then whether or not you have a donor wall is not the key question.

Bjorn Karlman

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