Donor walls and boards are ways to centralize the recognition of donors in visitor centers or high visitor foot traffic areas. They can be viewed by hundreds, thousands, or millions of people and come in a variety of forms.
The National Park Service permits donor recognition boards/walls in visitor centers or other appropriate facilities (see DO #21, Section 10.2.3). As part of the park's donor recognition plan, the park manager is required to establish in advance the criteria for donor boards/walls, which should include minimum thresholds for recognition (ie. amount of money, number of hours volunteered).
A period must be established for the length of time donor walls and the individual donor recognition markers will be displayed. This period varies from park to park but generally, donor walls and markers are displayed on average 10 years. The timeframe will depend on the need for the space and the timing of successive campaigns. At a maximum, donor walls and markers should not be displayed beyond the life of the structure. During a fundraising campaign, short-term donor wall displays communicate the progress and giving opportunities of the campaign. Longer-term displays can be appropriate for very large gifts.
By placing a donor's name on a recognition board/wall, that donor has joined a distinguished group in partnership with the park. This type of recognition is generally reserved for large and medium gift donations of $5,000 - $10,000 - $50,000 plus. However it will depend on size of the campaign and how the organization defines it.
Most institutions conduct fundraising on a continuing basis, highlighted periodically with major campaigns. Long termed "permanent" donor recognition is reserved for the gifts of lead and major donors. Recognition tied to specific campaigns is prominently displayed during the public phase and after the successful completion of that fundraising activity until the next major campaign. Most institutions have limits on wall space available for donor recognition. So it is logical to think of phased donor recognition displays that can be supplemented with other forms of searchable donor records. Once the campaign is completed, the "permanent" donor display and donor board can be installed and displayed until the next major campaign goes public and needs a donor wall.
At Yellowstone NP, the names of donors that give a minimum of $50,000 to the capital campaign for the Old Faithful visitor center will remain on their donor wall for 25 years. The visitor center also has a digital donor recognition kiosk to allow nonprofit partners to update donors instantly. The format allows for more flexibility and information and includes stewardship stories and projects. It also allows all donors to find their names in an interactive kiosk in front of donor wall.
Donor recognition board/walls are effective ways to recognize and cultivate donors. Individuals who give significant amounts benefit by the prestige and recognition that comes with the public display of their donation. It may also inspire others already listed to upgrade their contribution to be listed in the next giving category on the board. Donors may also be encouraged to renew or upgrade their giving if posting recognition is done on an annual basis. This way each donor is required to give again to remain on the wall.
Placement of donor names on the wall can be broken down into cluster listings bearing names such as "Friends," "Benefactor," or "Patron." These names should be "themed" to the distinctive nature or history of your park. These names should be appropriate for the dollar amounts for each recognition level posted.
The donor wall (below) for the $12.5 million campaign for Lower Yosemite Falls will be on display at the Valley Visitor Center for 10 years at Yosemite National Park. Included on the wall is a description of the project and an acknowledgement of the partnership between the Yosemite Fund and the National Park Service.
Be creative. The donor recognition spinning wheel display below -- mounted to the wall in the central hallway of Crissy Field Center at Golden Gate National Recreation Area -- was created to become part of the visitor experience at the center. The three-foot diameter double disc spinning wheels recognize donors that gave $10,000 or more to the construction of Crissy Field Center.