How donor recognition can enhance a sense of place

There are donor walls everywhere from hospitals to museums and galleries – but some help to create a sense of place more than others.

Donor walls are a beautiful way of honouring people (or companies) who contribute financially to an organisation’s future through donations. You’ll find them in the foyers of art galleries and universities. They adorn the corridors of hospitals or museums. Or you’ll find them in any place that relies on the generosity of its patrons.

Until recently, donor walls used to be functional and plain, created by listing the people who donated most. But today, many donor recognition walls aren’t walls at all. They can be sculptural, interactive or delightfully abstract. No longer hidden away in dark corridors, donor ‘walls’ stand proudly and prominently as part of the architecture. They exist to celebrate existing donors – but also to entice others to give, too.

As SEGD explains: “Donor recognition elements are often architecturally integrated, artful, installations that not only recognize donors, but add a unique sense of place.”

Donor recognition at Sargood on Collaroy

We love designing donor walls at BrandCulture. We see them as an opportunity to create an art piece or focal point. Our goal is always to compliment the architectural palette and support our client’s mission or values by echoing their brand identity.

When Sargood Foundation needed a donor wall to commemorate its most generous donors inside Sargood on Collaroy, it was vital our donor wall didn’t resemble the plain and austere kind you might find in a hospital.

Sargood on Collaroy is Australia’s first health and wellness resort providing purpose-built, wheelchair accessible accommodation for people with permanent damage to their spinal cord. Its donors fund incredible recreational programs that prove that “nothing is impossible” for a person with a spinal cord injury. Sargood’s donors help to fund cutting-edge, life-changing programs from scuba diving courses to the ReWalk program, where guests can use robotic exoskeletons to take a walk.

We set out to create an art piece that compliments Sargood on Collaroy’s luxurious facilities and pays tribute to its donors. Taking inspiration from Sargood’s distinctive pine tree-shaped identity, the artwork consists of pinecone scales in white, black and copper, with larger scales representing Sargood’s most generous donors. Corporate logos are artfully integrated into the mural – with space to grow as more donors are added.

Our donor wall stands proudly in the resort’s foyer, helping to create a destination that feels nothing like a sterile rehab centre. Instead, Sargood on Collaroy is a place of healing in which to build strength, independence and confidence.

Things to consider

For inspiration, it’s worth perusing SEGD’s online gallery of previous awards winners. You’ll find brilliant examples scattered throughout the SEGD Award categories.

One of our favourites is the University of British Colombia, where illuminated poles of light celebrate the university’s donors in an interactive outdoor display created by PUBLIC in Vancouver. This project won an SEGD Merit Award in 2017.

It shows that donor recognition can take many forms. Don’t be afraid to harness digital technology, or to celebrate your donors using sculptural elements. Adding playful, interactive features are a great way to raise awareness of your organisation’s vision and values.

Remember, donor walls must be flexible enough to accommodate new names and logos. It’s the reason modular design features work so well. It’s also important to choose materials that will stand the test of time – and will be easy to source in years to come.