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

What material is used in a donor wall?


Glass can be the dominant material used, or it can be used as just an accent piece. Depending on the installation, the glass can be illuminated, allowing the etching to glow. This impact is pretty cool. The LEDs are installed along the edges of the glass, with light going inside the thickness of glass, which creates an effect where the etched information actually glows while the rest of the glass is neutral.

Glass Donor Wall

Glass Donor Wall

Acrylic can also be etched, but doesn’t have this type of flexibility. Both materials can be used to create a display with an acetate film or poster printed with graphics and names, that is placed between two sheets of acrylic or glass and held off the wall with aluminum standoffs or sign posts. This makes the display appear to float off the wall.

Changeable Channels

A bit of an old school approach, this works well with displays that have a series of names, but where few are added each year. For example, we installed the Malcolm Baldrige Award for Quality using a channel display. Each year one new winner is announced and a new plate is engraved. They have been administering the Baldrige Award for Quality since the 1980s, awarded by the U.S Commerce Department. This award is administered by the American Society for Quality  in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Example of Channel Display

Example of Channel Display

Plates slide up to remove and engrave, and can then be slid back into place. The wood design matches the front entryway and all the custom furniture in the reception area.

Interactive Media

Touch screen digital displays have a lot of appeal because they can be updated as often as necessary,  they can tell the donor stories in the actual words of the donors, and are more impactful as potential donors explore the display and picture their contribution being reflected.

Digital Donor Display

Digital Donor Display

If you have lists of hundreds or thousands of names, it simply isn’t practical to engrave brass plates every year. If the display is never updated, then it becomes stale and loses interest for the viewer. A good interactive display also incorporates a design around the display that attracts the viewer. If it is just a monitor, it seems to not be as strong. Its also great for conveying lots of information in addition to just donor lists. This might be video of the presidents message, a local rss news feed from the website, weather, a calendar of events, how to give, alumni opportunities and more.


Think counter-top, that same stuff can also be used to create really cool displays. The material is easy to cut, easy to engrave, color-fills nicely and all around, is a great and long lasting material for a display.

Corian Display

Corian Display

The material can be beveled, is able to be cut to any size and really makes the names pop out.

Traditional Brass Plates on Wood Background

Traditonal Wood & Brass Donor Wall

This example of a traditional donor wall uses several sizes of brass plates depending on the amount of the donation, and large hardwood walls highlight each group.

The traditional brass plates on wood convey a warm and friendly feeling. Large or small, it is a classic look for a donor wall. The plates can be added each year as wall space or channels allow. This display uses both.

Donor Gifts

Donor gifts can run all across the board, with a lot depending on the cost that you want. A simple plaque will often accomplish what is needed, but sometimes you need to reach a little farther.

Multi Stage sand carving

Multi Stage sand carving

This etched display stands out, is illuminated, and makes a cool statement to the recipient. The LEDs are in the base, and shine upward, catching the etching and making it glow.

To contact us directly, check out our website or you can email us at:

RCB Donor Recognition Website link

Contact via E-Mail

RCB Awards

8000 W. Capitol Dr.

Milwaukee, WI 53222


RCB Awards

RCB Awards

The staff at RCB Awards has been creating donor recognition awards for 23 years. This depth of experience gives the crew expertise in multi stage sand etching, flame polished acrylic, engraving-cutting-burnishing of metal from brass to stainless steel, and Corian creations.  Take a look at some of the ideas presented on our website, and let’s have a conversation. What are your objectives? What do you want the donor gift to convey? What is the environment that your donor wall be installed into? Will the installation be closed or will you be adding names to it over the years?   While the considerations are endless, the real key is to discover how to make this uniquely yours, something that is custom and not found anywhere else. We don’t believe in using stock templates and dropping your logo onto the top of the design. It has to come from the heart. From the creative spirit. That’s what we do here.

Creative Donor Walls

Sometimes it isn’t enough to just have a fancy design for your donor wall, you need something that makes it one of a kind. Here are some cool ideas we have made:

Hospice House Donor Wall

Hospice House Donor Wall

The traveling Hospice House Donor Wall folds in half for traveling from location to location. It is used for awareness and to generate funding for the organization. The building bricks and shingles are engraved with the donors names.

Large Church Pew Plaque

Large Church Pew Plaque

Almost 6 feet long, this donor wall boasts 250 plates.

Interactive Video Donor Wall

Interactive Video Donor Wall

This interactive video donor wall has over 25 unique menu options, video and is easily up-datable by staff. A 55″ touch screen monitor comes to life with stories of individual donors, a video about philanthropy by the President, and even has a fun college quiz that everyone takes, testing their knowledge of their alma mater.

Multi Stage sand carving

Multi Stage sand carving

This multi stage sand etching looks 3 dimensional, sits in a luminated base.  Perfect for a gift to a donor. Completely custom, can have any design put into the glass.

Donor Wall Book

Library Donor Wall Book of Donors


This 60 plate donor wall was created for the Friends of the Library. It is made of a single piece of wood, and cut to look like a book. The size is approximately 32 1/2″ x 24″.


Looking for more ideas?

Contact RCB Awards


Donor Wall Inventory Best Practice


Over time, staff people come and go and the continuity becomes lost. In that process, new policies for recognition are created, and the rules seem to always be in flux. Every time a new person comes on board, this is frustrating. Eventually, everything gets to be documented, in a binder that can be passed on to anyone that sits in that donor relations chair. It is the preservation of your recognition history that we are trying to study. This will usually include:

Donor Recognition Inventory Best Practices

• Needs Assessment:

  • Lost or stored recognition pieces?
  • Method of tracking gift giving information?
  • Aesthetic organization of plaques and displays? Is the message consistent?
  • Continuity and theme? Do you have a face of philanthropy that you present to the world, a consistent look to every recognition component? Do you follow your organizations branding standards consistently? Do you need amendments for recognition?
  • Policy and structure pertaining to recognition?

• Existing Inventory Research

  • Gather, organize and catalog past and present recognition information-dynamic listing including all available and reserved naming opportunities
  • Spreadsheet-searchable database
  • Photographs of every item, filing system for photos linking to inventory spreadsheet
  • Include architectural plans with numbered locations for all donor recognition components that are used for coordination and record keeping.
  • Prioritize what needs to be updated.

• Information collection & inventory: names, dates, dollar amounts, plaque/donor wall/named room/named athletic field

  • See Inventory Doc attached. Inventory
  • Notes need to include what works well and what doesn’t, to facilitate future recognition coordinators.

• Consolidation:

  • Create a permanent log of the recognition information
  • Categorize and consolidate all recognition
  • Are there any refurbishing needs?
  • Can any plaques or plates be returned to donors?
  • What about a re-dedication ceremony for refurbished plaques and donor walls?

• Record Keeping:

  • Must be searchable!
  • Sort information by categories
  • Develop programs to contact past donors
  • Merge information into a database
  • Be able to show donor the location of their plaque when requested

• Standardization:

  • Decide on design concepts for a recognizable graphic identity: Materials/colors/fonts/logos/ or other graphics
  • Create a standardization template of sizes of plaques by size of gift
  • Create a standardization of styles for types of recognition: Naming opportunities/annual funds/cumulative/employee
  • Everything needs to be coordinated according to Size, Content, Materials and Placement per gift level and type.

• Policies

  • Why is a plaque proposed for this type of gift? Is the plaque intended to be permanent?
  • Who will be honored – How many people? What giving levels?
  • What wording will be used?
  • When will it be installed?
  • How will the plaque or plaque system be funded, and if necessary, be maintained? Who is paying for it?
  • Policy determining look, location, price and relationship to other wall items such as art and awards.
  • Budget policy for future awards is established.
  • Establish an authorization flow chart of gift acceptance rules and recognition so that everyone is on the same page.

• Plans for Reorders and Maintenance Procedures

  • Require concise, convenient documentation from all product suppliers to ease and expedite the re-order process. Must include date ordered, size, material, personalization method and who installed.

For more information, contact:

RCB Donor Recognition

8000 W. Capitol Dr.

Milwaukee, WI 53222


About Donor Recognition

Successful donor campaigns have long term:

Goals of multiple giving opportunities
Opportunities for major benefactors to step forward and tell their story
Recognition and Thanks of the contributions from those that have provided support
Examples for future benefactors, for them to see how they might be treated and recognized.
Checks are written every day in support of a multitude of causes, and all people want is a word of thanks. How do you recognize your donors?

Take a look, see what grabs your attention, and let’s talk. We will help you create your unique one of a kind donor recognition program, that will serve as a thank you to those that have given, and a welcome greeting to those that might. Most important, we help you tell your story to the world.

What RCB Donor Recognition can do for you:

Provide ideas to stir the creative juices.
Get you thinking about what might be.
Design a traditional recognition wall; one that is wood framed with brass name plates.
Design very contemporary donor walls; with metal, glass and acrylic components.
Design state of the art, cutting edge technology donor recognition; with donor walls that are integrated with a touch screen video display so each major donor, in their own words, can tell their story of why giving to the organization was important to them.
What style suits your needs for recognition?

Your campaign’s success will depend on planning and a sound recognition policy. Independent experts can help you with this.

Contact Maureen Schuerman, CFRE or call 414-510-1044. She is a Milwaukee area consultant working with fund raising professionals.

See also Robin E. Williams Inc. at 404-872-7646, or their website at: Robin E. Williams Inc. They help design total donor recognition solutions.

They are in the business of helping you.

We believe that the more information you have, the better a job you can do of planning and achieving the result you seek; a donor recognition program that continuously draws more donors. Take a look at the tabs for TRENDS;and DONOR RECOGNITION POLICY;to see if your thinking is in line with ours.

This site is dedicated to the non-profit organizations, academic institutions and healthcare facilities, to offer ideas that can be used in donor recognition.

Bronze Children & Brass Stars

Donor Wall: Bronze Children gazing at Brass Stars

How much is that donor wall?

You have to know, right, in order to move forward? You have to know, in order to plan a budget? So, how much is the donor wall going to cost? Do you build it now, in the hope that you will raise enough funds to cover the fund raising goal as well as pay for the expenses of a donor wall? Do you wait on determining how much you want to spend on the donor wall until you see how much has been brought in from fund raising?

These are all tough choices and I really don’t think there is a firm answer. Every situation is going to be different.

My suggestion is this: Look at your goal in fund raising and the length of time you will spend on reaching that target. Determine what you are comfortable in spending, 1% of the total, up to 4% of the total. Build your donor wall right away. This way, when prospective donors come to your facility, you can tell your story about how they can help you, and you can finish with showing them how they will be recognized. The real thing always makes a better impression than a piece of paper or an “imagine if you will” scenario.


Use your donor wall as part of your marketing effort. Let it be part of your story that you tell.

Interactive Donor Recognition

Technology engages visitors more in donor recognition displays

Published October 1, 2010 – BizTimes Nonprofit Weekly

Milwaukee-based RCB Awards recently released its interactive donor recognition wall for health care institutions, universities and other buildings to display and honor those who have donated to the organization’s efforts.
“We’ve taken a very traditional, very common idea and added a video screen to engage the viewer by letting each donor tell their story in their own words,” said Curt Denevan, sales and marketing manager at RCB Awards. “Everyone likes to tell their story; with this cutting edge donor recognition display, donors can do that. It has more impact than a static wall with names.”
According to Denevan, organizations in the Milwaukee area were asking for something more meaningful, more interactive and more engaging to tell their donor stories.
“Video seemed like the logical solution,” Denevan said.
The touch screen capabilities on the video screen allow visitors to select a donor by name to view their individual stories, but will also revert back to a ‘screensaver’ mode equipped with information about the foundation, organization or facility, Denevan said.
“The ways to organize the interactive donor wall are endless,” he said. “The design and technology implementation can be customized to fit the needs and wants of the individual organization.”
Traditional donor recognition walls require continuous upkeep and management, Denevan said.
With the interactive wall, the static name plates can be updated annually and the videos can be uploaded, edited or removed on an as needed basis, he said.
“It has the potential to be a lot less expensive, both from a cost and time standpoint,” Denevan said. “Videos can be uploaded to the hard drive in minutes, and the organization can do it themselves or RCB can manage the updates for them. We’re flexible to work with the individual organization’s needs.”
RCB will even work with the organization hire someone to shoot the videos for them, he said.
Displays can be integrated with video clips from donors themselves or photographs of what their donation was able to do for the organization, Denevan said.
Denevan is talking with multiple organizations in the southeastern Wisconsin area about the installation of interactive donor walls, but also plans to work with organizations nation-wide because of the technologies remote capabilities.
“This is where the future of large scale recognition is going. By allowing the user to see as much or as little information as they wish the display becomes more interesting to them and they become more engaged,” he said.
To see a video of how the interactive donor wall works click here. For more information on interactive donor recognition walls visit the RCB website.

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