A Story of Salutations

As I am currently knee-deep in data for International House’s Fall Appeal, I thought it would be timely to share a dear friend and mentor’s story of a year-end appeal that she received from a school that she attended.  I’ll let her tell it . . .

I received the company’s year-end appeal — a very long, boring, obviously mass-directed letter with this salutation “Dear Jane Arthur-Arthur Doe” — so many mistakes right off the bat.  For years, I’ve received mail from the company addressed this way and for years — by phone, emails, and snail-mail — I’ve tried to correct the error without success.  The letter’s BRE attracted me because it included a check-off box for donors-on-the-fence; it followed the box with something like, “If not now, perhaps later” and included a few lines for an explanatory note.
I took the company up at its offer, checked the fence-sitting box and, without resorting to verbal violence, told the Director of Development that: 1) Basic English usage for salutations required “Dear First Name or Dear Nickname or Dear Ms./Mrs./Miss/Mr./Dr./Professor/Reverend/Pastor/Rabbi (etc.), followed by a Last Name; 2) I’m an alumna known as Jane Arthur Doe — one Arthur and no hyphens, please; 3) As an alumna, I deserve a special letter when you’re asking me for money or telling me anything — “attention must be paid” (all credit due to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman) with a letter based on some research, not only for the correct use of my name, but in acknowledging my status as a former dancer and contributor to the company’s remarkable history.
My note obviously took up more than a few lines so I inserted it into the BRE and mailed it — prepaid, of course.  Two weeks later, I received a brief note from the DOD.  She corrected the salutation and hoped that I’d reconsider and support the company in the future.

Since my dear friend told me about this, I’ve been pre-printing the donor listing as we have it on file for each donor on the buckslip that comes in their direct mail appeals.  Though most people have not paid it much attention, it has been nice to receive updates from I-House alumni and donors confirming how they prefer to be addressed.  As my mentor said, it is important to provide these opportunities to meet the prospective/current/lapsed donor on their own level.

How do you assure that your organization’s donor data is up-to-date and correct?  Do your direct mail appeals provide an opportunity  for donors to update or correct their contact information and listings?

One Reply to “A Story of Salutations”

  1. This is SUCH a common problem. I don’t understand why orgs aren’t smarter about how they manage this process. It screams ” we don’t know you – and we’re not interested in getting to know you.”

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