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Donor wall ideas: Why a digital donor wall is your best bet

A donor wall gives recognition to your supporters and can be a physical wall or a virtual wall. Learn why it’s important and some ideas on how to create yours.

Kylie Davis
June 14, 2023
March 14, 2022
Nerd Mr Butter

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One of the best ways to hit your fundraising goals is to transform one-time donors into loyal, recurring supporters. In fact, according to Double the Donation, recurring donors give 42% more than one-time donors. Which raises the question:

How do you build long-standing relationships with supporters?

Building deep-seated relationships with your donor base is not all that different from building relationships with anyone else in life. By expressing gratitude, showing appreciation, and recognizing supporters for all they've done, you can encourage donors to continue supporting your organization.

One unique way to express appreciation for supporters is through a donor wall.  Below, we dive into what a donor wall is and a few innovative ways to express your appreciation. Plus, we analyze new, jaw-dropping research on why a digital display may be a far preferable way to thank your supporters.

What is a donor wall, exactly?

A donor wall is a physical or virtual wall that displays the names of your donors in recognition of their support and as a way of thanking them for getting you one step closer to your fundraising goal.

Donor walls are commonly used by public and private universities, medical centers, nonprofit organizations, museums, and other organizations and institutions to amplify the efforts of supporters. How each of these organizations chooses to display donor names depends heavily on the institution, physical space, number of donors, and the budget for the project.

A donor wall serves a number of purposes, including:

  • 🤗 Expressing thanks: According to the Donor Loyalty Study conducted by the Nonprofit Times, the vast majority of donors want to be thanked and acknowledged for their contributions. A donor recognition display is a fun, innovative way to show your appreciation.
  • 🏆 Acknowledging major donors: Research shows that 88% of all charitable giving comes from 12% of donors. A donor wall is a unique way to express gratitude toward major gift donors and their ongoing support.
  • 🫶 Improving donor relations: While contributions from new donors increased in 2021, the donor retention rate from existing donors dropped by 7.2%. A donor recognition wall can be a new, innovative tactic within your larger donor retention strategy.

Modern donor wall ideas for your nonprofit

When developing your donor recognition wall project, you have two primary choices: a physical wall or a virtual wall. If you're envisioning a physical donor wall design, you'll need to develop a budget, select your materials, and find a location where the wall can be displayed.

There are lots of donor recognition wall ideas out there. To help kickstart the planning process, consider these donor wall examples:

  • Metal plaques: These metal plaques from Etsy are an affordable solution, don't take up too much space, and can be given to the donor or displayed publicly.
  • Donor tree: A donor tree is made up of a trunk (typically made from wood or metal) with each "leaf" inscribed with a donor's name.
  • Mural wall: If you're looking for a cost-effective solution, you can transform any hallway into a donation wall by painting supporters' names with acrylic paint.
  • Glass panels: For a donor wall with a little artistic flair, you can etch each donor name into a glass panel.
  • Stainless steel signage: If you're looking for an industrial approach, consider adding a gorgeous stainless steel panel with your supporters' names.

How digital donor walls can benefit your nonprofit in the long-run

In theory, a donor wall sounds like a wonderful way to recognize supporters for their contributions. But in practice, a physical wall comes with a number of shortcomings.

Case in point: Many organizations are switching from in-person fundraising events to virtual or hybrid campaigns. In that regard, a donor wall might be completely missed (i.e., never actually seen) by a large number of supporters. This digital movement could, in turn, make many physical donor walls obsolete.

So the question remains...

Is a donor wall the best way to honor your supporters?

Before you toss your donor recognition program out the window, consider this twist: Offer a virtual donor wall rather than a wall that is—quite literally—carved in stone (or steel, copper, wood...you get the picture).

What is a virtual donor wall?

Digital donor recognition walls highlight donors' names directly on your fundraising pages as donations come in. Not only is an online donor wall more cost-effective, but it also empowers your organization to show appreciation in real time while building on your fundraising campaign's current momentum.

Plus, unlike a physical wall, a virtual donor wall—like a supporter feed—offers a digital solution that can be enjoyed by all supporters, no matter where in the world they’re located.

How to build a virtual donor wall for free

Supporter feeds are automatically enabled on all fundraising pages and fundraising events when you create a free Givebutter account. The supporter feed offers an interactive, energetic way to acknowledge supporters throughout your campaign.

With this kind of virtual donor wall, you can:

  • Thank supporters in real-time 💌 Your team can comment on each contribution individually, thanking donors right in the moment. Keep in mind that donors who receive a thank you within 48 hours are 4X more likely to give again.
  • Add a little flair ✨ Your team can add GIFs, emojis, illustrations, and other fun designs to your feed, helping to hype up the recognition (which can feel more personal than a cold donor plaque!).
  • Save funds 💸 Pricing for custom donor walls varies widely, with some design elements on Etsy costing hundreds or thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, a digital donor wall through a supporter feed is completely free, just like all Givebutter's 100+ other fundraising features.
  • Build supporter engagement 👋 A supporter feed is a lighthearted way to drive the conversation around your current campaign. Check out how this Givebutter nonprofit carried on incredible engagement throughout its campaign.
  • Offer public dedications 💛 Enable supporters to give in honor or in memory of someone with the option to notify a recipient via email.
  • Respect donor privacy 🔒 With a Givebutter supporter feed, donors can make their contributions anonymously if they prefer. And yet, your team can still like, reply to, or add a few heart emojis to any anonymous contribution to still show your appreciation publicly.
  • Share donations on the big screen 🎉 With Givebutter's free live display, you can showcase your supporter feed on any projector screen, TV, or tablet to turn your online donor wall into an active digital display. Donors will see their names displayed alongside a fundraising goal bar that updates in real time with a confetti cannon each time a donation is made!
Donor wall: Givebutter supporter feed

Level up your donor wall with Givebutter's supporter feed

Donor walls are an innovative way to show gratitude toward your supporters. A donor wall can be physical or virtual, proudly displaying donor names to the public.

However, new research shows that physical, traditional donor walls may not be the best way to thank supporters. Interactive digital walls might be a more appropriate (and engaging!) method.

Givebutter's supporter feed serves as an interactive donor wall that helps garner excitement for your campaign. With a supporter feed, you can add GIFs and emojis, keep donor names anonymous, and thank donors in real time. Plus, the supporter feed comes as a built-in feature within Givebutter's always-free fundraising platform.

Build your dream donor wall today

Givebutter is the modern, all-in-one solution complete with fundraising tools, a built-in nonprofit CRM, and marketing automation. Givebutter's suite of services is always free, thanks to optional donor tips—thereby delivering the lowest fees in the industry.

Ready to see how Givebutter can help you reach your fundraising goals? Sign up for your free Givebutter account to get started.

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