My latest interview brought me to Karen Singer of Karen Singer Tileworks. Karen works with her clients to create artwork that becomes a visual mission statement, sparking an emotional connection between the donor and the organization.
Donor stewardship is an important part of the fundraising process. In this video interview, we discuss how donor recognition can enhance a campaign and leave donors wanting to give more.
Interview Highlights (Transcript)
Watch the full interview above or read the highlights below.
Donor Recognition Should be Personal
AE: Tell me about the role you play in donor recognition and stewardship in a campaign?
KS: I’m an artist. We make custom donor recognition walls, plaques and gifts.
Our approach is that donor recognition should be personal. When you commission an artist to make a work of art that captures the core message of your organization — the core identity — then you’re making something that’s deeply meaningful for the people whose names are in it, and for everybody in the organization.
AE: We’ve been talking a lot about that lately with donor recognition — how to make it more personal and customized.
KS: Art, when it’s good, it speaks to the heart. That is what fundraising is all about.
AE: When other people see it, it’s attractive to other donors, and becomes showpiece for the organization.
KS: Yes! And when they’re attracted by what it looks like visually and they’re compelled to come closer, then they go, “Wait a second, I know that person! Oh look, they gave to this campaign.”
Donor Recognition as a Motivational Tool
AE: Donor recognition is something you should think about early on. Can you say more about that?
KS: When you’re having an artist make a piece that creates a portrait of the organization, it can become a motivational tool. You can use it throughout not just the campaign, but also afterwards. You can use the artwork in the case statement and take a model in the silent phase major gifts visit. It becomes real for your donor — that their name is going into a custom work of art.
AE: What a beautiful testament you’re paying to donors, even before they come on board.
KS: That’s right. You’re also combining a graphic designer, a consultant, a name for the campaign — if all of those things are connected to what the donor recognition is going to be, and it’s all connected to your core identity, it has a much longer life.
Plan Your Budget with Donor Recognition in Mind
AE: Talk a little about the concerns that some organizations have about the cost of a custom donor wall or piece of artwork. Donors might see it as an unnecessary expense.
KS: I’m a big believer in the 1 to 4% rule. Plan for 1 to 4% of your goal for donor recognition. Remember, it costs money to raise money.
I’m constantly coming up with different ways to make things that fit different budgets. It really needs to be planned [in advance] to fit all of those factors.
AE: That’s a great way of putting it in perspective. A small percentage seems reasonable and in context. What final words of wisdom would you like to share?
KS: The importance of thanking people. Donor recognition, when it’s done right, is like a permanent thank you. It makes it so much easier to go back to people [for more money]. They feel good about being asked a second time when they feel like their [first] gift has truly been honored.
Karen Singer advocates that donor recognition needs to be personal to reflect the reason why these specific people give to a specific cause. She has extensive experience in collaborative mural projects with various communities from preschool children to senior citizens. This creative process builds a sense of community, with the finished piece inspiring others to give.
In what ways have you personalized your donor recognition? Share your comment below.