Do we really need an electronic donor wall?

What is the digital donor wall buying process?

This question gets asked by managers in donor relations, and needs to be looked at. An electronic or interactive donor wall is an investment and isn’t for everyone. Before you get too far down the path, take a good look at your existing donor recognition strategy:

  • Do you have an existing donor wall?
  • How is it updated
  • What is the cost and time to do so?
  • Does it work for you?
  • Do you need an interactive donor wall?
  • What will an interactive donor wall do for you that your current donor wall does not do?

We hear from institutions that feel that their current wall had become dated, that it was too difficult to maintain and update every year, that they want to control costs better, that the wall needed to tell donor stories of why philanthropy was important to them and not just have a wall that was a list of names. Usually the biggest reason is that the updating of static walls is time-consuming and expensive. Often, these walls go for years with no updates because staff just doesn’t have the time to do it. Additionally, an interactive donor wall serves as a marketing tool for new donors, and offers the ability for donors on the spot to get in touch with the donor relations staff.

Who should be involved in the decision-making process of selecting a digital donor wall?

Everyone who has a vested interest in the organization. This should include:

  • Everyone on the donor relations staff – this will touch every staff member
  • IT – They must have input even if they want a hands off approach. Network connections will be required and often RSS feeds, calendars and data from network systems are asked for.
  • Senior Management – C level executive  buy in is critical
  • Facilities and Project Maintenance – They will be involved in the installation and possibly cabling.
  • Marketing – This digital display is part of your organizations branding and must be consistent with the look and feel of the organization.
  • Graphics Design – Like the building of a website, graphic design is an integral part of the display.
  • Public  Relations – They will want to see how the organization is portrayed and will have valuable input.
  • Procurement – Typically, they will oversee the contracting and can help with the RFP and implementation.

Vendor Selection

The most important criteria are what are best for your organization. What works for one university or hospital may not be right for you. Do what’s best for you. Ask lots of questions, visit as many sites as you can. Try to see as many displays as possible, so that you have a good idea of what is out there and what you like. The worst thing you can do is tell a vendor, “I don’t know what I want”. You’ll be overwhelmed with information and in the end probably not fully realize the system to all of its capability.

RFP – What to include:

  • How will this donor wall help to improve your fund-raising goals?
  • How do you plan to use the electronic donor wall?
  • Be specific about how many donors you have, who they are and what categories you place them in.
  • Identify all the campaigns clearly: Capital, Annual Fund, Endowment, Elevator Addition, etc.
  • How do you expect to interact with the maintenance of the digital wall? A standard template that uploads in a specific fashion, or a custom interface that loads data exactly as you need it to?
  • Be specific about expectations during development, installation and training. What do you expect after the project is done?
  • Before you invest tons of time, have a ballpark idea of the costs for design/development of the wall, installation, maintenance, upkeep and annual subscription/support.
  • A good digital donor wall is not just a monitor stuck onto a wall. It should be part of a comprehensive donor display with a hardscape to draw in viewers, tell the story of philanthropy in your organization, and is overall attractive and appealing.
Interactive Video Donor Wall

Interactive Video Donor Wall

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