Sizzle Part 3 Donors

Copyright © 2003 by Davis Multimedia, Intl. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in July 2003, Volume 29, No. 1 of The Engravers Journal.

     Helping customers choose the correct wording and layout for donor plaques is a common occurrence for award dealers. Sometimes customers will know the exact message and layout they want, and all you have to do is show them the different styles of plaques that are available.
    Other customers will know basically what they want to say, but they will be unsure of exactly how to word these sentiments. They will welcome your help in selecting an appropriate message.
Plaques as Donor Awards
    Donor award plaques are a popular way to recognize generosity. Donors may include: one person, two or more people, special interest groups, non-profit organizations and businesses. Donations can be made in the form of: money, land, buildings, equipment, food, clothing, works of art and more. And those receiving donations can be: churches, hospitals, charities, museums, public radio and television stations, schools and universities, parks, recreational centers, etc.
    The type of donor award plaque alcan also vary. Three types of plaque — master plaques, individual plaques and site plaques — are all popularly used to recognize donors. In order to understand how to compose award messages involving these three different types of plaques, you may find it helpful to consider a hypothetical example involving a hospital that needs funding to build a new wing.
    The hospital in this example, Metro Hospital, is in dire need of more patient rooms as well as updated laboratories. The hospital administrators decide that the majority of the funding for the construction of the new wing will come through private donations.
    In hopes of enticing donors, Metro Hospital administrators develop a donor award program that divides donors into three different groups based on the dollar amount of their donations. The three groups are labeled as such: Gold, Silver and Bronze.
    The highest level of recognition goes to the members of the Gold award group, those who donate $10,000 or more. These donors, either individuals or businesses, have their names placed on the Gold award group section of a master plaque to be located in the hospital lobby. In addition, they receive individual plaques and are individually recognized with a site plaque.
    A master plaque is a large award plaque that is usually permanently mounted in a prominent location within the facility. These plaques list the names of the donors as well as giving other important information about the project. The master plaque is often located in a highly visible or well-traveled area that is accessible to the public.
    Master plaques can also be perpetual plaques, i.e. with additional names to be added in the future. For example, if Metro administrators ever decide to make further additions to the new wing, the names of the new donors can be placed on the same master plaque that contains the names of the previous donors.
    Due to the size of their contributions, donors in the Gold award group receive individual plaques in addition to having their names on the master plaque. These awards are portable and almost always contain the name of the individual or business that made the donation. The individual plaque may also include any other key information which describes the circumstances surrounding the donation.
    Individual plaques allow donors to proudly display the awards in their offices, dens, lobbies, etc. Since donors often feel good about their charitable efforts, the individual plaques give them a chance to show their civic-mindedness to others. Metro Hospital administrators structure their donor award program such that the big money donors of the Gold award group are deemed to have donated a room in the new addition. Therefore, they are assigned “site plaques” in addition to the master plaque and individual plaques. The site plaques will be used to designate a specific donor name(s) to individual rooms throughout the new wing.
    Site plaques are an interesting way of recognizing monetary contributions. They are often placed next to the doorways of hospital rooms, laboratories, etc. Instead of thinking of their donation as a way of helping to build a new wing onto a hospital, they can consider their money as being spent on a specific room or piece of equipment.
    Even though their money probably will not literally pay for one specific room, the site plaque is still a good way to acknowledge the concept that particular donors make large enough contributions to pay for entire rooms.
    Site plaques are typically small in comparison to the other kinds of plaques. Usually they only have enough space for the donor's name and a short message, e.g. This room donated by Douglas E. Smith. Site plaques do not have to be limited to rooms in the new wing. The hospital also might decide to purchase site plaques that recognize the donation of a new laboratory or lab equipment.

FIGURE 1: Sample messages and layouts for master plaques.  

    Metro Hospital's next category of donors is the Silver award group, those who donate at least $5,000 but less than $10,000. The donors who contribute enough money to qualify for this group have their names included within the Silver award group section of the master plaque, and they also receive individual awards.
    The third category is called the Bronze award group and includes those who donate at least $1,000 but less than $5,000. They have their names added to the Bronze award group section of the master plaque and receive a framed certificate and letter of thanks.
    Of course, not everyone can afford to donate large sums of money. To recognize people who donate five or ten dollars at a time or write checks for small amounts, the hospital will include a general thank-you to all the special donors who helped.
    This article uses the example of Metro Hospital's donor award program as a way to discuss some of the types of plaques and how they might be presented to donors. However, there are numerous acts of charity that can be recognized through donor award plaques.
    For example, a married couple may donate funding for a row of pews and the church decides to recognize the contribution with an individual plaque as well as a site plaque for the pews. A college might have a master plaque recognizing alumni who donate more than a thousand dollars. A university might present an individual plaque to a professional basketball player who sets up a scholarship fund in his name.
    Now that you know more about donor award occasions and recipients, let's examine some of the different procedures involved in creating an effective message for donor award plaques.
    When helping customers create a message to engrave on a donor plaque, begin with the seven key elements. In order of importance these elements are: recipient's name, presenter's name, name of award (if there is one), reason for award, location, date and any descriptive, miscellaneous or connecting phrases. All of these elements may or may not be included, depending on the type of plaque and other variables.
    Descriptive and connecting phrases help to develop a clear and interesting message. Descriptive phrases explain the purpose of the award or provide a detailed description of the occasion. Connecting phrases consist of transitional words used to tie the message together. Word combinations such as: presented to, in recognition of, on this date and presented by are a few examples.
    Given the prestige that accompanies many donor awards, the tone of the message tends to be formal. Therefore, abbreviations are not often used. There are some occasions when an informal message might be appropriate: for example, if a famous television comedian donates funding for broadcast equipment to the Communications Department of his Alma Mater.You and your customers will have to make the decision of when informal messages are appropriate.
    Names included on donor plaques are often fully spelled out, including first name, middle name or initial, last name and any family titles (I, II, Jr., Sr.). Business titles, such as president or vice president, are also sometimes included along with the business name.
    The date can be expressed in different ways. The formal nature of donor awards usually indicates that the date should be fully spelled out, e.g. July 19, 2003. Another formal option is this 19th day of July 2003. However, an abbreviated version of the date, or even the year alone, will work for some occasions.
    Using company names on a plaque involves special considerations. Ideally, you want to achieve a level of consistency between abbreviations and fully spelled out names for a more aesthetically pleasing layout. However, it is not always possible to develop a steadfast rule concerning abbreviations, as there will always be exceptions.
    Double check all company names before proceeding. Some abbreviated versions are the official name of that company and are meant to remain abbreviated. If you must abbreviate a company name, it is important that you abbreviate the least important parts of the name, e.g. Robert Tom Jones Incorporated would be abbreviated as Robert Tom Jones Inc., rather than, Bob T. Jones Incorporated.
    Quotations are another option to consider when you and your customers are creating a message. Sometimes customers will come to you with a particularly meaningful quotation and you will be asked to incorporate it into the overall message. It might be a good idea to have a book of quotations, such as Bartlett's Book of Familiar Quotations, readily available for customers who need help locating appropriate quotations.

FIGURE 2: Sample images and layouts for site plaques and individual plaques.  

    Donor award plaque messages can be quite lengthy; therefore, dividing the message into several lines is often necessary. This process is known as segmenting. It is a good idea to split long lines at points where people will naturally pause when reading. This helps to keep the logical portions of the message on the same line. Try to keep nouns and their modifiers together as well.
    One good way to separate a particularly long phrase is to divide the line before the preposition. A phrase such as Presented in Recognition of Outstanding Generosity could be divided just before the preposition, of. Other prepositions include: in, on, at, to, for and from.
    Try to keep a person's full name on one line, including any family titles that may follow. However, business titles are commonly placed on the following lines if they will not fit on the same line as the person's name.
    Connecting phrases should be kept on the same line. This rule holds true for nouns and their modifiers as well. For example, words such as Boy Scouts are easier to read and understand if they are next to each other.
    When dealing with a list of several names, using columnar text works well. Names should be arranged in an organized fashion, often alphabetically or chronologically. On donor awards that involve multiple names, it is common to arrange the names into groups based on the dollar amount of the donation, and then alphabetize the names within each group.
    For example, the master plaque to be installed in the lobby of Metro Hospital will divide donors' names into three groups based on the size of their donations. Names within each award group will be arranged alphabetically.
    Remember to keep the overall layout of the plaque in mind and plan ahead so that the columns remain symmetrical. If the award is perpetual in nature, then remember to leave room for other names to be added in the future.
    Graphics may also be engraved onto a donor award plaque. Graphics can include borders, ornamentals, logos and seals. Sometimes a picture may be included on the plaque, e.g. a school, hospital or museum.
    Graphics should fit the size, shape and overall layout of the plaque. They should not be so large that they dominate the face of the award and not so small that they are lost among the text.
Message Handbook
    Because there are so many different award occasions, you might find it helpful to develop your own award plaque message handbook. An idea book such as this allows customers to see sample messages and layout options for all types of award plaques. You and your staff will be able to quickly scan this reference tool and locate the best possible ideas for your clientele.
    Your handbook should provide customers with the best samples from your previous work. This way, not only are you giving them ideas, but you are also demonstrating your experience with award plaques. On each page you can illustrate sample messages for various awards, e.g. leadership, safety or retirement. Try to show different message wording and offer as many layout alternatives as you can.
    How you organize your handbook is your decision. Some dealers categorize the handbook by the reason the award is being presented. For example, a separate section can be included for achievement, sales/incentives or sporting events messages. This way, if customers want to examine donor plaque messages, all of their options will be conveniently located in one section.
    Once you have decided on the arrangement that best suits your needs, you are ready to assemble the handbook. A good way to display your message and layout samples is in a three-ring binder. This provides easy access to the information and allows you to add and remove pages as needed. It is also a good idea to put the individual pages into plastic sleeves as a way of protecting them from wear and tear.
    Remember that neatness and thoroughness is important during the assembly of the handbook. Use a graphics software program, templates and/or a ruler in order to give the handbook a professional appearance. Try to include a wide variety of message and layout samples, so that customers and staff will have many options to choose from.
    This installment has highlighted some of the points to consider when designing donor award plaques. Figures 1 and 2 show different examples of messages and layouts that may be helpful to you.
    If you haven't already done so, get started on your own award plaque message handbook. It will make life a lot easier for you, your staff, and most important, your customers.
    For tips on award plaque messages and layouts for other occasions, look for the next installment of this series.


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