Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is it 1952 or 2015?

Kudos to my friend Allison who sent me the article that spurred this post- 
You can read the article here, it's quite hilarious.

When is the last time you updated your addressing and salutation standards for your organization?
Wait, do you even have addressing and salutation standards at your organization?
If you don't it's one of the fundamentals of a good donor relations program that can help your entire institution. I would be a hypocrite if I talked all about it and didn't have one of my own so you can find an examples of one of the ones I use here.  

The author has a point, not just for same sex couples, but for all kinds of households. Remember that now, we also have many households that include multiple generations. Take a look at your mailings, your address fields on giving forms and other opportunities to make an error. 

I have to tell you, as a divorcee, I also see some things that set me back on my heels. I often see on forms, "please indicate the name of your spouse so we can share credit with them" and this is a mandatory field on a giving form. So I happily type Brad Pitt or Idris Elba and keep on clicking... wait you mean if I type it that doesn't make it true? If you're going to demand silly information, I'm not going to live in reality either. Also why a spouse? Can you call it a spouse or partner? Why not just ask me if there is someone I would like to share credit with? What if I want to share credit with someone I don't live with? 

Also, say someone does happen to "have a conscious uncoupling" when someone uncouples them in your database, are you ensuring that one of their addresses is also updated? I mean, in reality, someone gets to keep the house. Someone also needs a new address, are you running a clean up report to ensure you try to avoid a possibly embarrassing blunder?

We have to be conscientious of our constituents and their needs, we must adapt our rigid policies and procedures to the inescapable human truth, people desire the need to be recognized for who they are, not for what box they check. We need to recognize that as a population changes or trends emerge we need to be on the forefront, not 20 years behind... something to think about.

What are your thoughts? How do you adapt to the changing landscape? Would you like to share a link to your policies? I look forward to hearing from you.



  1. We had a recent grad be offended because we refered to her and her husband with the formal Mr. and Mrs. John Smith form. Her and a bunch of her friends believe this is outdated and we should be using Mr. John and Ms. Sally Smith, or some other variant that indicates both of their names (one suggestion was Mr. and Mrs. John and Sally Smith). We will change the couple's name and salutations if they prefer something other than the traditional and standard way we set it, but they are challenging us to change the standard and that it is outdated. Are others seeing this as a problem they need to address? Have you addressed it? What are your standards?

    1. I, too, am married and absolutely HATE being addressed as Mr. and Mrs. Ian Shepherd, and I much prefer something like Mr. and Mrs. Ian and Trisha Shepherd. Maybe it's a generational thing, but even though I know that my preference flies in the face of the standard, it's a huge turn-off to me to see anything addressed to me that only includes his first name. I would love to see more organizations change the way the address married women to ensure that we don't lose our names. Thanks, Lynne, for bringing up this topic!

    2. 100% agree, would HATE to be addressed as a Mrs. John Smith.
      Also, I'm a recent grad and had my Miss salutation changed to a Ms. I'm 27, and a professional, there is no need for anyone to know my marital status. Referring to me as a Miss makes me feel like a 6 year old.

    3. She and a bunch of her friends . . . .

    4. Before I worked at my current organization, the membership person -- who was 20+ years younger -- addressed me in a letter as "Mrs. Smith." I wrote on my renewal form that "Mrs. Smith is my grandmother; please address me as Ms." Happily, that staff member corrected it. When I came to work here a decade later, I discovered the standards had still not been updated. Sheesh! Now we ASK people how they wish to be addressed (duh!) and comply with their wishes.

  2. As someone who was in a heterosexual marriage, is now divorced and in a same sex partnership, I can relate to this post! There are so many variations of family today. We all need to get with the times... Thanks Lynne.

  3. Happy to share! People evolve and our systems seem to rigid to allow for the humanness of it all... We need to make our standards more modern and also more adaptable!

  4. If someone is in a marriage or partnership with shared last name, we address them as:
    Mr. John and Ms. Sally Smith
    Unless Sally is the alum, in which case we use:
    Ms. Sally and Mr. John Smith
    The alum name always goes first for us.
    We always use Ms. instead of Mrs. unless the donor indicates otherwise.
    We have been proactive the last few years to update our standards.

  5. Great work April. I too hate the terminology Miss or Mrs (insert man's name) I also think there is a good point here about transgender and how we deal with these addressings and salutations.

  6. Many thanks for broaching this issue of addressing donors. In lieu of a blanket policy, I prefer to take the opportunity to engage the directly. Use this information gathering to converse and get to know and thank again. Perhaps a call and/or a post card or email at the beginning of each year: here is what we have on file for you re addressing you. Is this okay/to your liking and comfort. If it is not, please do let us know. We want to ensure a happy experience with our donors. This takes regular communication.

  7. Our policy is use no titles, (relying on our Quaker roots) but to address everyone by their first and last name. For couples, we stack their names above their mailing address. For the salutation, we address the letter as Dear John and Mary Smith if they share the same last name, or Dear Lynn Smith and Robin Myers if they have different last names.