Black promotional graphic; text reads "Donor Walls:  ZENTX Signature Solutions (03)"

Happy week-after-Thanksgiving! We hope you’re still in a thankful mood, because this seems like the right time of year to talk about gratitude. Gratitude is vital for individuals, of course, but it’s important for businesses and organizations as well.

Any nonprofit organization has a thousand stories it could tell about the people who help them through donations of time or money. And what’s one of the most effective ways to show appreciation for those gifts? The humble donor wall.

Don’t Discount the Donor Wall

Donor walls can get a bad rap, and to be fair, it’s hard to make a list of names look visually appealing. It’s certainly not impossible, though. What’s more, as an article from the Nonprofit Times reports, more and more nonprofits are opting for a creative approach to their donor walls.

Why? For starters, there’s anecdotal evidence that donors, especially high-dollar donors, may be motivated to give to an institution that puts thought into honoring its donors. Also, having a beyond-the-basics donor wall is a good way to demonstrate the depth of your gratitude, which reflects well on your organization.

Since we at ZENTX love creativity, we jumped at the chance to apply some of our creative juices to the donor walls for two of our clients, Memorial Healthcare and Saginaw Valley State University.

Showing a Lifetime of Support
Historical Donors Panel 02

Memorial Healthcare came to us with a unique challenge. They already had a collection of donor recognition plaques spanning seventy years of the hospital’s history, and they wanted to combine them all into one display.

The plaques had no consistent visual style and also came in a variety of shapes and sizes, so creating a unified display just with them was a tall order. But Memorial also wanted this display to integrate the names of current donors, with space for adding new ones later.

Memorial Donor Wall

We tackled the challenge by breaking the display into three panels. In the center are all the historical plaques, with the plaques for current and future donors flanking them. The center panel simply embraces the old plaques’ eclecticism. We brought some order to the layout, but by doing so also highlighted the diversity of styles and shapes.

The side panels provide some additional contrast with their clean and modern style. It’s a much more distinctive display than it would have been if Memorial had decided to copy the names from the old plaques into a uniformly-modern display. This way, the donor wall shows the whole span of Memorial Healthcare’s history.

Celebrating Future Opportunities
SVSU Donor Wall

Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) was in a somewhat different position. The university had just wrapped up a highly successful fundraising campaign. Their goal was $25 million, but they wound up raising $28 million to fund new scholarships, new resources for the business school, and increased STEM programs.

With such a successful result, SVSU wanted to make sure its donor recognition was especially special. So we designed a multi-layered wall with a variety of materials and finishes to make the display stand out. The glass reflects the light and catches the eye. Because the names are light against a dark background, they also stand out more.

SVSU Donor Names

Speaking of that background, the dynamic, fluid shapes give an impression of forward progress — which is exactly what the campaign enables SVSU to have. The warm brown wood creates a contrast with the darker material to add some extra energy to the design. It’s professional, but fresh.

Come to think of it, “professional but fresh” might be a hallmark of a good donor wall. You want it to be professional, to show donors that their gifts are taken seriously. But donations by their very nature make fresh new things possible. Which means there’s another reason to get creative with a donor wall: reminding viewers of the future that the donors who are mentioned enabled. After all, that’s what you’re thankful for in the first place.