Putting your donors' names on stuff

naming1I was on the phone with an old friend a few days ago, and our conversation turned to two naming opportunities with which he was struggling. One situation dealt with naming his agency’s golf outing after an aging volunteer who is the central organizing force behind the event. The other situation pertained to a planned giving prospect who is contemplating the possibility of leaving a very large legacy gift.
For me, the big question isn’t whether or not to name something after a donor. The BIG QUESTION is whether or not you’re ready to go down that road?
Not sure what I mean by this? Consider the following . . .
Naming opportunities are endless. The following are just a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Annual campaign giving levels
  • Donor recognition societies
  • Memorial fund
  • Tribute fund
  • Endowment fund
  • Scholarship fund
  • Event sponsorships
  • Program sponsorships

Moreover, there are all sorts of vehicles you can use to affix people’s names to things:

  • Plaques on rooms
  • Signs on buildings
  • Engraved bricks
  • Wall art (e.g. giving trees)
  • Electronic signage
  • Website opportunities
  • Print materials (e.g. program books, campaign materials, etc)

naming2Finally, have you thought about the permanent nature of putting someone’s name on something and what happens when life throws your agency a curveball? If I’m being too cryptic at this time in the morning, I want you to think about what you would’ve done if you had accepted large donations with naming opportunities from either of these infamous gentlemen:

  • Bernie Madoff
  • Jerry Sandusky

I probably could’ve created a list of infamous names as long as my arm, but I’m only on my second cup of coffee this morning and I think you get the point.  😉
Before your non-profit organization starts talking about naming opportunities with a donor, you really need to answer the following questions:

  • what will we name and what won’t we name?
  • how will we and how won’t we affix names to stuff?
  • what are rules will we put in place around important issues such as: sunset provisions, procedures for removing names, who has the final say-so and how does that decision get made, etc

In my opinion, this becomes a great policy project for your organization’s resource development committee (e.g. Named Gift Opportunities Policy, Donor Recognition Policy, etc)
I’ve done a little research for you this morning and found a handful of documents and samples for your consideration.

Has your agency been down this road? What did you do? Did you approach it as a policy writing opportunity? If so, what type of policies did you write? Please use the space below to share your thoughts and experiences.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC