Donor Recognition Audits – To do or not to do… internally?

So you have recognized the need for conducting a Donor Recognition Audit.  You are about to begin a new campaign and want to have all donor prospects lined up.  Or you are in the middle of facility construction and need to make certain no plaques are lost or misplaced in the process.  Or maybe you want to set standards regarding donor recognition size, material, or location.  Or perhaps, you have found that you have no way to quickly and easily locate a plaque when requested.

Whatever your need may be, you have decided that it is high time to take the first step.  But how much time should be set aside?  And who should take the time to do it?

Very important questions.

Very important because time is money – and in this case, money means reaching your goal of improving a health care system, creating a successful scholarship fund, or supporting a needed community program.   Time is absolutely critical.


Our LegacyCurator clients have told us of their attempts to conduct donor recognition audits prior to recruiting our services.  Some had personally taken on the task and, due to other pressing responsibilities, were unable to get very far into the process.  Others had assigned interns, and in most cases, found themselves in even greater disarray due to the lack of personal investment, level of accuracy and foresight.

Below is a list of considerations when deciding whether to tackle your donor recognition audit internally versus externally.

Things to think about before you start…

– Donor recognition audits can take weeks dedicated time to inventory, even in the smallest of institutions.  And once the information is collected, the data can take twice as long to consolidate electronically and to analyze.  Does your team have time to spare? What is the cost implication of taking yourself away from your daily responsibilities?

– External sources can apply modern technology that an internal office team might not have on hand to complete a thorough and efficient inventory.

– External sources can bring a much more objective point of view when assessing recognition condition, location, and standards/policies.

– Recognition experts can bring knowledge and recommendations with regard to condition, location, and policies as they relate to recognition standards

– Advantage of having a consultant available to train management and staff  on how to use and update the database most effectively in addition to  provide an overall project assessment and recognition review.

– Benefit of consultant bringing previous client application ideas to your organization to assist in maximizing the utilization of the information.

– Benefit to having someone with experienceconsolidate the information in a forward-thinking manor – creating a database that will fit your specific needs.  Do you need to be able to search by donor first name?  Is it important to be able to search by “in memory of” or by date?

– Rapid completion of the project is possible by employing an external source.


As Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google recently stated, “Never underestimate the importance of fast – speed matters because your time matters.”


There is value in having your development team evaluate recognition first-hand.  The experience of walking the floors and discovering recognition in its element can be enlightening – sometimes even shocking.  However, I do not recommend spending valuable staff time on collecting the data.  The same benefits can result from reviewing photographs and professional recommendations without wasting time searching through your facility floor by floor, room by room.

Okay, so I am quite obviously biased.  To me, the benefit to recruiting a recognition consultant is so clear cut.  If donor recognition audits can be performed effectively by internal personal, why has it not been accomplished at so many non profits?  Why are we still misplacing plaques and leaving donors locked up in storage closets and under office desks?

I challenge you to prove me wrong.   Have you conducted a donor recognition audit on your own?  What did you learn? Please add your thoughts to the comment section to bring to light the pros and cons of conducting a donor recognition audit internally versus externally.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>