Small Changes in Perspective

Karen Singer WatercolorWhat do you do when you feel stuck? When you keep trying to solve the same problem or to make something change, and it just won’t budge.

When this happens, I try to remember what I learned from picking raspberries. My aunt has an amazing garden, and when she is out of town, she asks me to go pick the fruit. So I drive over there. I go to the bushes but all I see is leaves and thorns. Where are the raspberries?

If I am feeling rushed, I will conclude that they just aren’t there.

However, if I remember to slow down, something changes. I move my head just slightly – maybe to the side, maybe up, maybe down. Going slowly is the key. As I move, I see them – a little jewel of red hiding under a leaf. Maybe there are a couple more. Slowly I move a little more – I spot another. Little by little, I fill the bucket this way.

I try to remember this whenever I feel stuck. It seems to help whether the problem involves people, my artwork or my computer.

Go slowly, make very small adjustments, and then look again. Take time to assess and observe. Change your perspective. Move. Look at the situation from a completely different place.

Karen Singer Watercolor 2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Stalled Campaign?

I talk a lot about “donor forethought”, urging  fundraisers to budget for a recognition wall in tandem with goal planning. A design that creates a portrait of your organization’s core identity will attract positive attention and help you raise funds. This one step enables a non-profit to use the design for the donor wall as a visual aid in raising funds.

Okay, but what if that boat was missed?  You are in a campaign and it is stalled. What do you do?   It turns out that this method can be used to re-energize a stalled campaign!

My client, Capital Caring, a hospice in the DC area, had been in a campaign for several years. They had reached their goal, but then the expenses came in higher than planned. On top of that, the Recession hit, and going back to their donors became much harder.

The design for the donor wall changed the conversation. By capturing the way stakeholders envision their community and Capital Caring’s role within it, the design revitalized the perception of the project.

Featured prominently at two big events, a business breakfast and the annual gala, it opened up new conversations and inspired increased support from both old and new donors.


The symbolism throughout the mural was directly inspired by thoughts and feelings shared at a brainstorming session with staff, board members and donors.

This process strengthened the linkage between the community’s passion for the Capital Caring’s mission and their willingness to provide the necessary funds.


The completed mural provides a vibrant, colorful welcome at the hospice foyer. Just today, Cheryl Wearing of Capital Caring told me, “I hear that everyone who comes into the center is awestruck with the beautiful tile wall! “

Call me today at 215-849-7010 to discuss your specific needs.

How have you dealt with a stalled campaign?  



What is an Endowment


February is Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month, a campaign designed to encourage everyone to make significant change in our lives and our communities for a better tomorrow.

Establishing an endowment creates a permanent resource that makes a difference both for today and for generations to come. 

Supporting an organization in perpetuity is like planting a seed that will provide long term prosperity and sustainability. 

“It takes a noble person to plant a seed for a tree that will one day provide shade to those whom he may never meet.” 
– Unknown

Funding an endowment is one of the most important philanthropic decisions for a donor and for those that it will benefit. Many endowment donors “test the water” with smaller gifts as they contemplate making larger gifts.

Try thinking of donor recognition in all forms as planting seeds for the future. 
Sometimes the presentation of a truly meaningful donor gift can lead to a stronger and deeper connection. What a perfect way to plant seeds of greatness! 
Ceramic tile has survived for thousands of years. It comes from the earth and it is endlessly recyclable. What an appropriate medium to honor the donors of eternity!

Curtis Institute Endowment Gift


NATA Endowment


Association of Trial Lawyers of America Endowment Gift



Not your Grandfather’s Donor Recognition

In the early 20th century, donor recognition consisted of lettering with the names of benefactors listed on engraved brass panels. Its fundamental purpose was to honor major financial contributors.

Mid-century, we saw an array of media in donor walls. These may be attractive in design, but most are still a list of names that is eventually ignored. At some point, someone realized that donor recognition might function as an incentive. The Tree of Life was born, encouraging donors to buy leaves. It works but not as well as it could. If you have seen one Tree of Life, you have seen them all. Its not personal.

I believe donors give for a reason. A personal reason. Our  “fine art approach to fundraising” uses art to capture the core message and identity of an organization. Thus the donor wall is visually meaningful and speaks to the heart. Isn’t that what fundraising is all about?

Early planning of a donor wall, what I refer to as “donor forethought”, assures a return on investment. Keep in mind that “it costs money to raise money”. By following the recommended practice of budgeting 1 – 4% of a campaign goal for donor recognition, this cost is a minor line item for an essential part of the entire campaign process.

However, when people wait until the end (we call this “donor afterthought”), it is perceived as a major expense. Donor Forethought allows time for a well-conceived design that functions as a motivational tool. Let’s face it, people are visual. Previewing how gifts will be recognized in a permanent work of art is emotionally powerful and results in larger donations.sc0058f947

Once installed these motivational murals become silent fundraisers by attracting all to stop, look and ask,”how do I get on the wall?”bates_100310_0970wf_vsmj

I have created inspiring donor walls for the past twenty-five years and I am very willing to share what I have learned. Give me a call today.

“Having the recognition program in place before solicitation really helped to sell our program. We raised $18.5 million and every single naming opportunity was taken for a new ER.”

Linda Felt

Vice President of Development, Doylestown Hospital

Invest in donor recognition

From the AFP International Fundraising Conference in Boston earlier this year, Amy Eisenstein interviews Karen Singer, about donor recognition and stewardship.

Karen shares how to increase donor contributions by using the donor wall as a fundraising tool.

Donor Gifts & Room Naming Plaques

Upon completion of the donor wall, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School commissioned us to design and fabricate complementary room naming plaques and donor gifts.

We believe that when you have an image that resonates, keep using it. Reinforce the impact by reiterating the imagery. Think of the donor wall as a branding system. Use it on room naming plaques, promotion materials such as donor gifts, thank-you notes, annual reports, etc.

In Christianity, cherry trees symbolize the sweetness of character that derives from good works, encouraging the Good Counsel community to fall in love with service of God. The tree and its blossoms were chosen for the mural not only for symbolic meaning but also in recognition of the cherry tree that stood in the Senior Courtyard on the Wheaton campus.

Image 11

Good Counsel Capital Campaign Donor Wall

A series of Naming Plaques are located at entryways throughout the performing arts center.




Donor Gifts including a cherry blossom tile and stand, and a set of watercolor note cards that were presented to donors at the dedication event.


Donor gifts that are displayed stimulate conversation, leading to the owner spreading word about the organization and their involvement.  For this reason, we consider gifts like this an additional marketing and motivational tool.


Plus, sometimes the presentation of a truly thoughtful donor gift can lead to a stronger and deeper connection, inspiring increased giving.

Want us to find symbolic imagery for your organization? Call today:  215-849-7010

Donor Wall Tree Symbolism


This 60 foot long ceramic tile mural forms the grand entry to the new Performing Arts Center at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, MD.  

We believe donor recognition needs to be personal – to reflect the reason why people give to a specific cause. 

This donor wall was inspired by the school’s five Xaverian values and culture expressed through symbolic meanings. The school successfully raised $10 million and credits our work as a major factor in meeting their goals.


Cherry trees are traditional symbols of sweetness of character derived by good works. The tree and its blossoms were chosen for the mural in recognition of the cherry tree that stood in the Senior Courtyard on the school’s original campus in Wheaton.


White Dogwoods have flower bracts that resemble the nails that held Jesus to the cross. The tree represents new life and new beginnings as it blooms in Spring around Easter. The trees and shrubs represent the passage of the seasons and signify the growth and transformation of the students.


Fir trees symbolize patience and outreach towards Heaven. They refer to the spiritual growth and faith formation nurtured and developed at Good Counsel.


Oak trees symbolize endurance in the face of adversity. Each Good Counsel student is challenged and nurtured in the pursuit of excellence.

“The donor wall is one of the most attractive I’ve seen.  And I’ve seen plenty.”

Jerry Panas, Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners

Donor Wall Symbolism

Our newly installed latest and largest donor wall to date. This 60 foot long ceramic tile mural forms the grand entry to the new Performing Arts Center at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Ol…

Source: Donor Wall Symbolism

Donor Wall Symbolism

Our newly installed latest and largest donor wall to date. This 60 foot long ceramic tile mural forms the grand entry to the new Performing Arts Center at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, MD.  The school successfully raised $10 million and credits our work as a major factor in meeting their goals.

Good Counsel Capital Campaign Donor Wall

“In Harmony, Small Things Grow,” is the motto of the Xaverian Brothers. The motto and the Brothers’ five spiritual values speak to the transformational growth at the heart of the Good Counsel student experience.


Simplicity is represented by the Virgin Mary cradling, Jesus. The depiction is modeled on a statue located at the front entrance of the school and for whom the school is named.


Humility is depicted by a group of Xaverian Brothers wearing the traditional habit. The Brothers opened the school in 1958.


Compassion is shown by student hands reaching out to engage with the world in service to others.


Zeal is portrayed by Good Counsel students on stage showcasing their remarkable talents.


Trust is symbolized by the path that leads graduates to a future full of promise. The falcon, a symbol of strength, freedom and majesty, soars overhead. The falcon is also the school’s mascot.

More to come………………………



Our Largest Donor Mural Yet – Our Lady of Good Counsel High School

Good Counsel Capital Campaign Donor Wall

Our largest project ever was dedicated on May 14th, 2016! “In Harmony, Small Things Grow”,  a 60 foot long ceramic mural forms the grand entry to the new Performing Arts Center at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland.

Good Counsel came to us in 2012 before the silent phase of their campaign. Our challenge was to showcase the school’s values and culture in a meaningful work of art that would inspire increased giving. Our design materials formed the centerpiece of their campaign literature.

Good Counsel Capital Campaign Donor Wall Booklet     Good Counsel Donor Wall Capital Campaign

We were informed that the school has a reputation for athletic excellence that has overshadowed their equally top-notch academics, fine and performing arts. This campaign arose from the determination to give the performing arts the facilities and recognition they deserve.


The mural is structured around five arched “windows” each representing one of Good Counsel’s Xaverian values. Choosing the imagery for each value sparked a client-artist dialogue about the school’s core identity- past, present and future.

Good Counsel High School Donor Mural Reveal

It was gratifying to see people’s reactions to the mural. It really seemed to WOW them. This comment sums it up. “You described to me what this wall would look like and even showed me pictures.  But it is so breathtaking, and it is so much more than I imagined it would be. It’s beautiful, and I can’t wait for our names to be up there.

The opening events featured orchestral, dance, vocal, and drama performances by students. Their professionalism and passion were truly impressive!

I cannot wait to continue to add donor names, and see how the students flourish in this amazing space!

Good Counsel Donor Wall Karen Working

Let’s talk about how we could do this for you! Make a phone date – 215-849-7010.

%d bloggers like this: