Capital Campaigns #14: Recognizing Your Leaders & Donors

Sections of this topic

    As noted earlier, the first official announcement of the campaign is about the person who has volunteered to Chair the Campaign and who has made a significant (pace-setting) commitment. That is one way in which the Chair is recognized.

    The Chair, who is often (one of) the largest donor(s) to the campaign, is recognized initially by being asked to be the Chair. And, most/many other pieces of campaign and post-campaign publicity will include his/her name and how s/he has made a difference. The same, at appropriate levels, goes for all of the Division Leaders, Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs

    In addition, those leaders, who are likely major donors, get to decide what other formal recognition they’d like !! Yep, in a way, it’s their decision.

    Recognition is not just a matter of putting up plaques or publishing lists, recognition must satisfy the needs of the leader/donor. Remember, in the Planning Study that was done to determine how a campaign would succeed, potential leaders and donors were also asked about the kind of recognition they thought would be appropriate.

    So pay attention to the information you got from the Study. Listen to people !!

    Recognition can be as simple as a handshake from the right person. It can be an inexpensive, unique gift (like a signed book or something made by someone served by the nonprofit, it can be a name on a brick, it can be almost anything … as long as it’s meaningful to the person being recognized.

    Some folks do like to see their names on buildings, walls, equipment, the backs of seats at the opera, accomodations for the homeless animals, and in published lists of donors, etc., etc. You can name programs or parts of programs after major donors … or after someone they’d like to honor/remember. A creative person can come up with an extensive list of “naming opportunities.” Some folks don’t like that stuff !!

    Even many anonymous donors want/need to be recognized – maybe not publicly, but in some fashion. Consider the (really anonymous) donor whose gift comes through a law firm – a narrative, of how that donor’s gift made a real impact, can be sent to the contact at the law firm for forwarding to the donor.

    Although it’s highly unlikely, an effective recognition program may have as many ways of honoring/recognizing its leaders and major donors, as it has leaders and major donors!!

    In essence, “Recognition” is a matter of satisfying people’s needs. The more people you can “recognize,” the more people will want to work with you and/or give to you in the future.


    Have a comment or a question about starting or expanding your fundraising program? Email me at With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, we’ll likely be able to answer your questions.