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.


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