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Are You Getting Your Donor’s Name Right? Here’s Why It Matters.


We know what you’re thinking – That’s easy! No problem!

You’ll be surprised to learn that one of the biggest mistakes made by small nonprofits is getting their donors’ names wrong – in emails, on envelopes, and even during phone conversations.

It could be an incorrect spelling, or the inclusion of an improper title. Perhaps you forget to use a preferred nickname, or you’re addressing donors by their first name before it’s appropriate. Maybe you’re trying to avoid these mistakes altogether and begin your requests with “Dear Friend.” No matter which way it presents itself, misspelling, misusing or mispronouncing your donor’s name is off-putting.

These might seem like inconsequential errors or oversights, but the reality is – they can cost you donations. A person’s name is their identity. Getting it wrong or reducing them to a general ‘friend,’ sends the message that your nonprofit doesn’t know them and doesn’t appreciate how they’ve helped. In other words:

“They’re asking me for money but they can’t even get my name right?!”

How to Get Your Donor’s Name Right

The best way to get the donor’s name right is to go straight to the source. Ask the donor! This should happen over phone or via email. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid asking in a hard copy letter, as this would require the donor to mail something back to you.

Your 3 Must Ask Questions –

  1. What name do you prefer to go by?
  2. Am I pronouncing your name correctly?
  3. Is your title Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr.?

Ask these questions early in the relationship. Record the answers in your donor database. For pronunciation, be sure to write it out phonetically. For example, the pronunciation for the name ‘Matthew,’ would be written “Math – You.”

If you haven’t had an opportunity to ask the donor what they would like to be called, the safest approach is to keep it on the formal side. In your initial greeting, use the title of Mr. or Ms. It’s important that you use this introductory communication to ask the donor their preferred name, before asking them for money. The goal is to make the donor feel comfortable and connected rather than taken advantage of.

Excel spreadsheets are often used to store donor data. While this can feel like the only cost effective way to manage your donor database, it is important to weigh your options. Excel spreadsheets increase the risk of naming mistakes. Volunteers or staff could confuse contacts, they could mistakenly place a nickname in the wrong cell, or they could inadvertently combine lines. This leaves you with inaccurate data and an untrustworthy system.

Eleo and other donor relationship management software allow you to enter your donor’s name in a straightforward manner, and can only be edited by people with certain access levels. You are able to store formal and informal salutations, create custom nickname fields, choose preferred communication styles, and you can even add notes about name pronunciations.

What’s in a name? Well, a strong donor relationship and a donation, if you get it right. To find out how you can use Eleo to enter and manage donor information, watch a demo.