Innovative Fundraising: Iowa Arts Center Sells Naming Rights to Its Toilets

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August 23, 2011; Source: Des Moines Register | A Cedar Rapids nonprofit arts organization that recently renovated its flood-damaged social hall is selling naming rights to its new toilets, complete with decorative plaques to be placed above each facility, for $1,000 a pop. The Des Moines Register reports that while supplies last, donors can even choose their particular comfort station. An e-mail from the group, Legion Arts, announced the exciting opportunity:

Here’s your chance to honor a loved one, a colleague, a favorite artist or yourself. . . . You could join with your neighbors to salute a beloved legislator or council representative. Express your respect for a teacher or mentor. Or go in together with a couple of co-workers to surprise your boss. The possibilities are endless.

An Ames public radio station used a similar strategy a few years ago, offering donors the opportunity to name a chicken at Living History Farms in Des Moines in return for a $35 donation. Apparently many people took them up on the offer. Says the Register article, “In the months and years that followed, whenever donors stopped by the farm museum to visit ‘their’ chicken, the staff made a big show of searching the coop and then pointing at some random bird: ‘Oh, it’s that one, right.’”—Ruth McCambridge

  • Ron Morgan

    It’s certainly innovative, no doubt. However, I wonder how similar the two examples actually are. Although people don’t necessarily often “visit” a chicken, I’d say they’d be even less likely to “visit” a toilet.

    One should also take into consideration the possibilities for vandalism, for which “comfort stations” are notorious. A donor would probably be upset to find their $1,000 toilet plaque scratched or defaced, making the plaques another upkeep cost for the Arts Center.

  • Andrea Kihlstedt

    I love innovative ways to recognize donors. The Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York has done something great with their donor plaques. You can read about this at: At the top of the page you will find a link to the directory of plaques. It’s an inspiring way to use plaques to not only recognize donors but to highlight the mission.

  • Ron Morgan


    I’d say that Ithaca’s initiative is in a whole different universe than the toilets, save that they are both looking for innovative ways to use and display donor plaques. Here are the major differences I see:

    – Ithaca’s plaques are relevant to their mission, whereas the toilets aren’t;
    – Ithaca’s plaques are publicly visible. One must keep in mind that 50% of the toilet plaques will only be seen by men, 50% will only be seen by women;
    – One has something to gain and learn from the plaques at Ithaca in a museum-type setting where they will be appreciated, learned from, and respected. The toilet plaques will be at risk of defacing.

    I honestly hope to be proven wrong once the toilet plaque initiative gets rolling, because they are really going out on a limb for innovative donor cultivation. I see, however, too many pitfalls against a small margin for success.