The “Art of Healing” Through Donor Recognition

Thinking of Recognition as Art

We are witnessing a healthcare revolution!  And I am not talking about the highly publicized and controversial healthcare reform legislation – but the widespread hospital design and facility upgrades.  Philanthropists have come to acknowledge the power of the “Art of Healing” and are heavily investing in new construction and interior design with the intent of helping patients heal faster and feel more comfortable throughout the process.

It is a long needed switch from an outdated and lackluster ambiance into welcoming, gentle, and even peaceful, spa-like environments.  Be it through the shape of a room, the color scheme, the Zen garden, the additional natural light, the new furniture, or the art on the wall, studies have shown the night and day effects on how design affects patients.  And this philosophy is another way to inspire potential donors.

You can help advance the culture of your organization around philanthropy by presenting recognition as art.   Like a Picasso or Van Gogh, good recognition invites an audience.  Use of color and design, images and content can draw patients, family, and employees – all potential donors – to your cause.  And the overall look and feel of your donor walls or naming plaques has the power to invoke pride and commitment.  Here are just a few ways to bring out the artist in you when creating recognition:

  1. Choose the location thoughtfully.  Isolate the high traffic, high visibility areas where people congregate.  Think of your facility as a fine art museum.  Will there be room for people to gather comfortably in front of the display?
  2. Select recognition materials and color scheme with care.   Simply put, you are contributing to the décor of the facility. Now is not the time to be trendy.  Stick with timeless materials and colors.  Well thought out recognition should stand the test of time and draw elegantly from its environment.
  3. Typography in donor recognition can be a great technique for communicating your institutions message.  Italics, bold, font styles, and use of color can be a tool to express emotion and feeling.  Design elements such as accents, rules, border detail, or the use of white space can lead to dramatic effects.  The text layout should be evaluated to consider indents to stress emphasis.  Have a little fun with it too.  Maybe all the donor names are arranged to form a larger image, similar to shape poetry, written in the shape of a form or an object.  However, keep in mind that the first priority is legibility.
  4. Too often we find organizations overwhelmed by generations of plaques consisting of various shapes, sizes, colors, and materials that have accumulated over the years.  Prevent this problem by settingdonor recognition standards and policies to maintain continuity into the future.  Create a reference tool to categorize gift levels as they relate to the size and shape of the recognition.  Set guidelines for maintaining consistent typography and use of branding and images.  Set policies regarding appropriate locations for recognition as it relates to other signage.  Streamlined, unified recognition that ties together thematically is not only artistic, but it can help viewers to identify recognition and not mistake it for signage or way-finding.
  5. Coordinate design with the institution’s architecture and image.  Enhance the healing environment with tasteful recognition that compliments or adds dimension to the building’s aesthetics.  You may decide to artistically incorporate the institutional brand into the title panel of a donor wall or the donor level logo to help identify different giving levels.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tie recognition into your organization’s mission and to engage and inspire donors.  And… to have fun while you do it!  Do not forget that recognition is the physical representation of your tremendous efforts – the fruit of your labor and the legacy of your donors’ commitments.  Recognition is an opportunity to drive home the purpose and mission of your campaign!


You might even consider incorporating historical information about founding philanthropists and including inspirational quotes and images to engage and motivate new and past donors.  Our next blog post will expand on ways to reconnect with your institution’s history.


Do you have experience or ideas to share as to how to apply the “Art of Healing” through donor recognition?

Categories: Design & Art

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