In a continuing effort to stretch our consciousness about what matters to our donors, greetings and salutations remains a hot button item. Do you have greetings and salutation standards at your organization? Are they inclusive? Are they aware of this century? More often than not, I find that a simple mistake in a greeting or salutation can have a large impact on the donor experience.
Of course, one of the hottest debates out there is who comes first? Not a Marx brothers comedy, it's about how you address envelopes, the order of the names in your letters and even more. What seems like a small detail can have large ramifications. I myself am sick of coming into organizations and seeing the classic 1950s version of a couple's combined formal greeting: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.
Where is Jane in this picture? Yes, John and Jane have been married for 20 years but when did she stop being seen as an equal partner? Times change and so should your greetings.
Completely erasing the woman in the relationship and undermining her presence in the philanthropic world. Ignoring the fact that women make 76% of the giving decisions. Seems a bit short sided and altogether antiquated. I grew up in the south, where women always came first, from ordering food at dinner to entering a door to greetings. I always list the woman first for many reasons but also because I was taught never to separate a man from his last name.
It should be
Mrs. Jane Smith or
Mr. John Smith
Mrs. Jane and Mr. John Smith or
Jane and John Smith
Some of you may have the person that goes first be the person with the deepest connection to your organization- it's up to you, but you need a standard. And it needs to be consistent. How you address an envelope across a university or an organization is not dependent on what department send the mailing, it's the donor's preference. My favorite reference on the topic is a book from the DC Protocol school- http://www.formsofaddress.info/
Also remember if the woman has a formal title, she ALWAYS comes first-
Dr. Monica Weber
Mr. Chris Weber
How do you address partners who are not married? Is your organization constantly using the word spouse and leaving partner out? How do you greet people of the same sex in a letter? Stacked greetings work well here:
Mr. Alain Raj
Mr. Joseph Stone
And whose name is first- it's alpha order by last name!
I urge you to take a look at your greetings and salutations and look for your blind spots. For example, how many of you have a gender neutral greeting prefix of Mx. in your database? If not, why not? All databases allow for this option. Is gender in your database a binary choice? Why?
All this being said, some people have preferences, and they will express them to you. Once they have, you should follow them, even if it means going against your set guidelines. And remember, dear friend or dear alumni is NEVER ever a good idea!!
When is the last time your organization modernized and examined your greetings and salutations? How have you been able to change your protocol to adapt to a modern world?
I would love to hear your thoughts, questions or advice!