Juliet may not have thought names were important and Starbucks may think it’s funny to write something ridiculous on your cup, but I am betting your supporters don’t like it too much when you call them something else.
People get my name wrong A LOT. If I am giving my name out loud, I am used to them spelling Kristina with a “Ch-” and capitalizing the “R” in Leroux. It makes me cringe every time, but it’s just something I have gotten used to and now brush it off.
BUT at the same time, I don’t have a relationship with those people. If one of my friends or family members called me Kristin, Kristine or Kristiana, I would not be happy at all.
And it’s the same with your supporters – you can’t afford to call them by the wrong name. Even if it’s close.
This is one reason we tell you to skip the donor lists in annual reports – it’s a minefield!
Personalized communications is really essential these days. Your letters and emails should always contain the name of the reader whenever possible. People like seeing their name.
Making them think about anything other than your awesome email or letter is the last thing you need. They already have enough distracting them without thinking “These people want money from me, but they don’t even know my name!”
Accidents will always happen – typos, miscommunications, technology issues, etc. (Our CRM doesn’t easily allow for a different billing name, so people often get emails with their boss’ name since that’s who the credit card belongs to.)
But to minimize potential embarrassment, do your best to keep your lists up to date.
For donation cards, be sure to have a way to distinguish between the name that may be on their checks and the one they want to be called. If your donor management or online donation systems don’t allow for a separate field, ask in a follow-up email what their preferred name is.
And you should also have an easy way to update names if something changes (marriage, divorce, etc) even if it’s just telling them to send you an email. And honor that request ASAP. (Speaking of, if we have your name wrong in our system, just email me and I will get it changed!)