Donor Naming Opportunities and Policy: Questions to Answer

Vol. 13 No. 9

development eletter Vol13 No9 thankyou

Naming opportunities recently came up as a topic of conversation on our Development Director e-List. After all, publicly acknowledging a major donor with a plaque or a sign on campus is a fantastic way to say thank you for his/her support. That said, your school—spearheaded by the Development Office—should plan how it will approach donors interested in signing their names on your school, in a manner of speaking.

When considering naming opportunities, ask yourself why a donor would want his or her name publicly displayed and associated with your school. Donors often request naming privileges to:

  • establish memorials at a place they—or loved ones—valued during their lifetimes;
  • fulfill a brand promise for community relations purposes (i.e., a company who’s promised to support technology education might sponsor a new computer lab); or
  • see public acknowledgement of their generosity to an institution they respect and love.

With those potential motivations in mind, you and your school should plan for these sorts of opportunities in anticipation of queries from future donors. Consider the following questions.

  • What naming opportunities can your school offer a donor? Naming opportunities cover everything from the names of buildings to a plaque or engraving on a wall of acknowledgement. Scholarships or specific endowment funds can also be named for or by particularly prestigious donors.
  • How much would a donor have to donate to be acknowledged through having their name posted somewhere on campus? The size of the gift needed to get the donor’s name on a plaque would be smaller than that required to have a donor’s name on a building. Furthermore, will the size of the gift be measured in percentages—the donor gave 50% of the cost of the renovation—or a dollar amount?
  • What will the name say, and who will approve it? Now is the time to decide what sorts of names will be allowed. Donors often want their names up as the building name, but someone may want to pick a different name altogether. Also determine which administrators will be involved in approving a donor-proposed name, and by what criteria they’ll judge it.
  • When will signage be placed? Will the building be announced as Donor Name Building after all the promised gift has been received, or at a certain point in the payment schedule—say, after two-thirds of the total gift amount has been processed and cleared?
  • What happens if the building is rebuilt or undergoes a major renovation? If an already named section of the building needs updating, how will you handle names? At what stage is a building or wing so dramatically changed that it merits a new name—and possibly a new naming donor?
  • Under what circumstances would the name be revoked? Say a public figure makes a donation and has a building named after him or her, but later becomes newsworthy for reasons with which the school doesn’t want to be associated. Would you rename the building? Make sure the donor understands and agrees to the terms your school’s policy dictates in this situation.

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 13 No. 8 The Hidden Costs of Fundraising
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 12 No. 1 What Motivates Donors to Give?

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 40 No. 2 Planning the Comprehensive Campaign: Guiding Principles for Success

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