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July 1, 2024
by Holley Snaith

A Quick Guide to Donor Walls for Nonprofits + 7 Top Ideas

A Quick Guide to Donor Walls for Nonprofits + 7 Top Ideas

Celebrating donors is a practice nearly as old as recorded history, and there are plenty of different techniques to do so. From sending thank-you notes to inviting donors to appreciation events, it’s crucial to recognize your key supporters to strengthen your relationships and inspire their continued loyalty.

If you’re looking for a longer-lasting donor appreciation strategy, look no further than donor walls. In this guide, we’ll cover the following information:

With these most effective and unique donor wall ideas, you’ll have a well-equipped toolkit for demonstrating your gratitude to your most impactful donors. Let’s get started!



What is a Donor Wall?

A donor wall, also known as a donor recognition wall, is a display that features the names of your nonprofit’s most impactful donors. You’ll commonly see them installed in a nonprofit’s public facilities and office spaces so that they’re highly visible to visitors. 

Donor walls are often constructed after a large capital campaign to recognize the donors who made it a success. However, some nonprofits use donor walls to celebrate their supporters and impact more generally, aside from specific campaigns. Digital solutions today allow organizations to create highly flexible displays and easily update them over time.

Donor walls usually come in one of three forms:

The three different forms that donor walls take, discussed in more detail in the text below.

  • Traditional. When most people think of donor walls, they’re thinking of names etched on a physical wall or plaques. However, that’s not the extent of traditionally tangible recognition displays—they can range from plaques to sculptures to engraved bricks to trees planted in a donor’s honor.
  • Digital. Digital donor walls are still physical installations, often with well-designed physical framing elements, but center around large digital screens instead of static materials. Digital walls allow you to incorporate vivid imagery and interactive media to create a more engaging viewer experience.
  • Virtual. Virtual donor walls are a quickly growing trend in nonprofit recognition. For organizations with very little wall space or a lower budget, a virtual wall is an easy way to show appreciation for donors without taking up physical space, as they are displayed online.

Donor walls are usually permanent installations reserved for major donors, but digital and virtual walls can be updated and customized to support any stewardship goal. Regardless of which donor wall form you choose, they’re a tried-and-true way to recognize donors and thank them for the support they’ve given your nonprofit.



Why Should Your Nonprofit Construct a Donor Wall?

There are two main reasons for nonprofits to construct donor walls:

The two main reasons why your nonprofit should construct a donor wall, also covered in the text below.

  • Inspire gifts from supporters. A donor wall displays your most impactful donors and oftentimes their gift amounts. This can help inspire other supporters to make gifts to your organization by showcasing the impactful community that rallies around it. In particular, other potential major donors may be more likely to make a gift after they see how you recognize your existing supporters.
  • Show appreciation for major donors. Unlike other forms of recognition, donor walls are a tangible reminder to major donors of your gratitude. They serve as a semi-permanent to permanent acknowledgment of their support, helping you to solidify your relationships with your most impactful partners.

But aside from these most common purposes, nonprofits may find several other reasons why a new recognition installation or display is a wise investment. Other use cases might include:

  • Recognizing corporate sponsors and illustrating tiers of support
  • Bringing a major, long-term campaign’s plans to life with text, photos, and project renderings
  • Prominently highlighting impact metrics and mission stories
  • Promoting specific organizational priorities like new programs

Depending on your stewardship and organizational goals, you can lean into any one or more of these use cases with your donor walls. The added flexibility of digital displays has made them a rising trend in the nonprofit world, too. Let’s take a look at different donor wall ideas that will help increase your fundraising revenue.



Donor Recognition Wall Ideas

If the purpose of your donor wall is primarily to celebrate your donors and support your stewardship efforts, here are a few ideas for you:


Donor Plaques

Two donor plaques hanging on a white brick wall.

Donor plaques are a fairly traditional method for expressing gratitude to major donors.

Essentially, you’ll designate a wall in your nonprofit’s headquarters or other area to hang engraved donor plaques. These plaques will include the donor’s name and even their giving amount if they wish to disclose it.

If conventional donor plaques aren’t dynamic enough for you, consider digital ones instead.

The flexibility to easily update your donor plaques will allow you to add holiday themes, create special decorations on a donor’s birthday, add or remove names, tell the donor’s story, incorporate other storytelling elements, and much more.


Donor Lists


Show off your donors in a way that grabs attention and lets everyone know how much you appreciate their help. A donor list is fairly self-explanatory—it allows your nonprofit to list out all of your major donors and contributors in one place, making for an efficient donor recognition strategy.

Set up breakpoints to recognize different donation tiers among your major donors. For example, you might create these tiers:

  • Bronze: Donations of $50,000 or above
  • Silver: Donations of $100,000 or above
  • Gold: Donations of $250,000 or above
  • Platinum: Donations of $500,000 or above

These tiers allow you to showcase the levels of generosity of your major donors and provide the appropriate level of public appreciation for them.

Additionally, if you’re worried about needing to update signage or you want a more visually impressive display, you may also choose to create a digital donor list. The bright, eye-catching nature of digital signage provides the perfect platform to display donors’ names while being effortless to update.


Virtual Donor Wall

The Washington Memorial’s website, showcasing a virtual donor wall.

Not every organization is a prime candidate for an on-premises donor wall—if your organization has low foot traffic combined with generally smaller donation amounts then a virtual donor wall is the way to go, especially if your website tends to have high traffic.

As mentioned previously, virtual donor walls are embedded directly in your website. Since you’re not constrained by physical space, this allows all donors, regardless of gift size, to be recognized.

If your nonprofit is just starting, this is a great place to begin listing all donors who’ve made a contribution to help you get your mission off the ground.




Donor Wall Ideas to Support Fundraising

If your main goal is to maximize your revenue, here are a few reliable (and unique) donor wall ideas to consider:


Impact Stories

Drive home that your donors truly make a difference by sharing the impact their gifts have had on your mission and community. Make these stories more compelling by including:

  • The amount the donor gifted
  • The issue your nonprofit addressed with those funds
  • The number of beneficiaries these funds helped

For example, let’s say that your nonprofit’s mission is to provide better education in underprivileged communities by building schools. In that case, you might say that Mrs. Smith’s donation of $500,000 during a campaign allowed you to renovate a school that serves over 200 students in one community. This impact story empowers you to acknowledge Mrs. Smith’s impact and demonstrate the work your nonprofit is doing for viewers.


Donor Highlights

A man standing in front of a donor wall focusing on donor highlights.

For this idea, your nonprofit will put together a series of donor highlights or stories. You’ll provide information about each donor’s:

  • Impact
  • Giving beliefs
  • Reason for contributing to your mission

Similar to the impact stories above, this donor wall idea allows you to recognize loyal major donors and also encourage other supporters to give.

When your audience views these highlights, they’ll see your major donors as an example to strive toward, inspiring them to also make gifts to further your mission.


Campaign Updates

A donor wall featuring an update on the Monroe Grace General Hospital’s fundraising campaign.

One of the most important parts of any fundraising campaign is its story. The campaign’s purpose, goals, intended outcomes, and how it will all be done are essential pieces of information for someone who’s considering making a generous donation.

A donor wall that features campaign updates will draw donors to your cause and bring your case for support to life. You may also include fundraising thermometers to visually display your campaign’s progress, encouraging donors to make a gift to help you reach your goals.


Live Fundraising Auctions

A donor wall featuring information about a nonprofit’s live auction.

A digital donor wall can support your next auction event. Instead of featuring impact stories or campaign updates, include a leaderboard during the auction to show who has bid on relevant items and who has won items so far.

This technique will generate increased interest in your event, and it’s best suited for digital or virtual donor walls. You may even update your donor wall ahead of the auction to feature your most sought-after items, building buzz and even attracting a larger number of attendees.


How to Get Started With a Donor Recognition System

To create a digital donor recognition system, you’ll need to identify budgets, the locations you want them installed, and the primary and secondary purposes of the system.

Once you’re past the idea stage, it’s about product specifications. Find out what combination of digital donor plaques, donor recognition boards, digital donor recognition walls, and virtual donor walls works best for the space and your objective and with a raw assumption of your budget.

Next, get that information in front of people that understand what you’re looking for. At this point, the company should be looking to work with you on the content specification for the equipment. Do you want campaign thermometers, peer-to-peer fundraising, donor lists, donor stories, impact stories, events, or campaign information? You’ll work with your provider to incorporate these elements in your displays.

Once it's all put together, you can simply manage it remotely for updates, additions, and changes at a moment’s notice. Simply keep in mind that your donor recognition wall is a dedication to your donors and a tool for fundraising—not a place for ads or general announcements.


Wrapping Up: The Power of Donor Walls

With a well-constructed strategy, you’ll be well-equipped to create a donor wall that inspires greater generosity, demonstrates your gratitude, supports your stewardship goals, and brings your mission to life. 

Don’t be afraid to look beyond traditional donor recognition displays. Today’s digital options provide a more dynamic donor wall experience—more flexibility for you, a stellar impression on your donors and visitors, and more modern tools for driving engagement. 

If you’re looking for a digital donor wall solution, OmniAlly offers all of the digital signage solutions you need. Reach out to us today to learn more about our digital donor wall design and construction services!


Click to reach out to OmniAlly for more information about partnering with us to create your nonprofit’s donor walls.


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Design Catalog for Digital Donor Walls

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