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Donor Walls:
Ditch the Bricks

It’s time to transform how we say thank you!

These may be the two most powerful words in any language. For higher education and other non-profits that rely on generous donors, saying “thank you” graciously is vital. That is why intentional environmental graphic design (EGD) is so important with oft-overlooked spaces like donor walls.

So why are there are so many long, dark hallways of tired bricks and plaques commemorating donors? Unfortunately, donor/sponsor recognition is often an afterthought and not intentionally integrated with the interior design and architectural storytelling of a space.

Effective donor recognition spaces say thank you eloquently. They share real stories which capture hearts and minds through powerful storytelling. They embed a desire to be associated with these stories and, and if done correctly, leave a lasting emotional impression that drives engagement and future funding.

Such is the case with the donor wall nestled within the St. Norbert College Mulva Science Center in De Pere, WI. Inlaid on catalpa wood, harvested from a 100-year old catalpa tree on which the new facility sits, this space celebrates the heritage of the grounds on which the college was built. Rather than a traditional wall of names, concentric rings mimic the rings of the tree, illustrating history, growth and strength – a fitting tribute to the many donors who contributed to the institution’s growth and specifically, what was the College’s most significant capital building initiative to date. Circle sizes correspond to donor gift size, subtly recognizing the contribution of all, and a monitor at the center allows for evolving storytelling. Each story celebrates the transformative effects this facility is having on students and the future of the sciences. Comfortable and thoughtfully positioned seating and lounge spaces encourage visitors and students to pause, learn, and engage with the stories of the people who made this important project happen – a fitting thank you that will live on well into the future.

Glass divider walls can also present a unique opportunity to subtly thank donors while dividing a space in a way which encourages transparency, allows light to enter, and creates storytelling opportunities all at the same time. The donor wall located at Curative Connections is a thoughtful example of this design element. Their recent renovation completely transformed the way they could serve their clients and families: seniors and people with disabilities whom they offer care and opportunities for independence due to aging, dementia, brain injury and other disabilities. What used to be a dark, dreary wall of bricks is now a light, airy and engaging glass space highlighting the generosity of friends and community members who provided the means for this much-needed space. The environment raises hope in the hearts of clients and their families. The names and stories can be seen as people engage in the light, open, and welcoming lounge while providing translucent privacy to the meeting room on the other side of the glass.

We are thankful to our EGD partner, Elevate97, for their partnership in creating both of these memorable and engaging spaces! If you’d like to learn more about how we are designing spaces that invite people to connect with your purpose and linger longer, please connect with us!

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