An Addressee and Salutation are a basic piece of data

December is a busy time for multi-channel Christmas appeals. My letterbox and email box, like yours, were filled with asks from various Australian charitable organisations. This year I was struck by the number of charities who got the manner they addressed me simply wrong. An Addressee and Salutation are a basic piece of CRM function. A basic piece of data which, if done incorrectly, can really turn off a donor.

Flawed Salutations

This year I received pieces of mail and electronic direct marketing (eDM) pieces from dozens of Australian universities, schools, and charitable organisations with the following types of flawed salutations:

• Dear Friend

• Dear Mr Stephen M Mally

• Dear StephenMally

• Dear Mally

• Dear Mr S Mally

• Dear <Blank>

One Australian university advancement office sent me an eDM on Wednesday, 18 December reading “Dear :”. Clearly someone called the error to their attention because a second copy of the eDM was sent 5 hours later reading “Dear Stephen:”. There was no notation as to why I received the duplicate copy except the obvious correction to the flawed eDM sent earlier that morning. If someone did not check their emails with frequency they would have seen the two emails back to back and thought they were duplicates.

Simply put, a salutation demonstrates the way you know your donor. Dear <Title> <First Name> <Middle Initial> <Surname> states you not only do not know me whatsoever, but sends this donor the message you do not care to know me any longer. Variations of such sloppiness which include Dear <First NameSurname> without a space in between the <First Name> or <Surname>, Dear <Surname> or Dear <Title> <Middle Initial> <Surname> show donors you either lack the ability to manage your constituent relationship management (CRM) solution or, perhaps, your mail house is making errors in assembling your packs. Either way, these are the sorts of issues which cost you in your fundraising and response rates.

4 Steps to Better Greetings

It’s time every organisation holds people accountable for the condition of the data in your CRM and in the way we manage each and every record. Here are steps you can take to address how you greet your donors on an individual basis:

1. Run a report of all donor records in your CRM to diagnose the magnitude of the issue by searching for the examples I have named above.

2. Globally replace “Friend” with <First Name> or <Title> <Surname> depending on whether your organisation has a policy of informal or formal greetings. 

  • Perhaps you are lucky enough to own a CRM which is robust enough to accommodate both options.

3. Next, identify the records containing the other errors in the examples above, fixing them on a global basis and, where required, manually.

  • No record should lack a salutation.
  • Donors give their name when they make a contribution. Donors deserve to be greeted formally or informally.
  • No record should suggest your data management is “sloppy”, such as Dear <Surname> or Dear <First NameSurname>.

4. Train staff to make it a habit to establish records correctly and, thereafter, to edit and enhance every record when in possession of the record.

Make the New Year an opportunity to turn over a new leaf in CRM and data management and in supporter care. Start with the greetings you hold in your CRM for your supporters. What steps are you taking to ensure you do not turn off your donors because of a flawed salutation?