The advantages of certificates are that they can readily be custom-designed and produced very quickly in-house with specific messages of appreciation, names, dates and images at a minimum cost. It's a good idea to design in a format that uses ready-made frames and glass or Plexiglas which is less subject to breakage. Creating special awards is another way to recognize donors. Presentation of these awards should be timely, and if possible, formally presented in a ceremony or appropriate venue.
Examples of parks and partners that recognize donors through awards, certificates and plaques include Friends of Acadia, Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) and Glacier National Park.
Each year the Friends of Acadia awards certificates that include a note written by their Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on the donor's contribution in one of six categories: Conservation Colleagues, Distinguished Public Servant, Artistic Excellence, Damn Good Work, Excellence in Volunteerism, and the Maryann Edwards award. Awards are presented at their annual meeting which is attended by approximately 200 people.
At Golden Gate National Recreation Area, those that donated to the Crissy Field Restoration were referred to as Crissy Field Heroes and received a plaque identifying them as a Crissy Field Hero.
Glacier National Park honors individuals that have been recognized by a donation from another individual for their memorial tree planting program with a certificate.
Vendors offer a wide assortment of recognition awards that can be personalized to recognize a donor. An engraved inscription to commemorate the gift, a statement of recognition, the donor's name, a date, and who the recognition is from on a metal panel can be attached to or engraved into, the wood, metal, glass or acrylic award.
These awards usually have a more prestigious look. This is a more costly approach than in-house printed donor recognition awards and often requires more lead time for fabrication and engraving by an off-site vendor. It is critical that all the information be accurate as last minute corrections are costly and require more time. Parks sign shops have lots of experience fabricating NPS arrowheads for departing staff or special awards. Use engraving materials and techniques that ensure the words and images are in sufficient contrast to the background to be easily read from 4-5 feet away. Without this contrast, engraving is difficult to read and partially defeats the purpose of meaningful recognition. Incorporating materials or a look that is evocative of your park makes the award more distinctive and appreciated.