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Fire Your Friends

Nonprofits need to fire their friends. If I see another letter or newsletter with the salutation: “Dear Friends,” I may scream.

Okay, I may not scream.  I may claw my eyes out though.

I cannot overstate the importance of firing your friends.  I know. I know.  Being a “friend” is a prestigious title.  If you have great friends, you know that a friend is something special. Something amazing. 

But you know your friends’ names.  You know the significant people in their lives.  You have been to their home.  You would never say to them: Dear Friend.  That would be a demotion.  “Dear Friend??!??!”

Friends are what you add and subtract on facebook.  When you know someone’s name, they are more than a friend.  They are people you know.  People you have taken the time to get their name right.  To know their significant other.  To get their name right.

I can already hear the moans.  We don’t know their name.  Do you know how much time it would take to get the names of people that are addressed, “Friends?”

I do know.  It takes time and energy.  Here are some tips to make it easier.

During Data Entry

Look at the check stubs especially if they have given before.  Don’t assume just because you have a code or their name pops up that all the information is correct.  Check their name, their address, and phone number.  If they have filled out a contact card, check for emails.  Do not assume the information you have in your database is up to date.  Verify the details.

During Thank You Calls

When you call donors to thank them for recent donations, review their information beforehand and highlight anything you are missing.  If you are missing emails or a contact name for a business, ask the person if you could update their information.  Be kind and respectful.  Let them know making things personal and accurate are of extreme importance.

During Meetings

When you meet with donors, ask them toward the end of a conversation to review the information you have on file with them.  Ask them what the best way to contact them.  If they are a business owner, make sure you have information about their giving and business giving.  Having these conversations can save you lots of confusion and embarrassment.

During Life Events

Check obituaries.  You may have a long time donor that has passed away.  Take the time to contact the family with a card or flowers.  Wait an appropriate amount of time to talk to a significant other about how to change your file.  You might make some assumptions about deleting someone’s name from the record.  These are delicate conversations to have but necessary.  Being proactive is much better than getting a call or response via mail from an upset donor who is grieving the fact that you keep sending a letter to their deceased loved one.  

When In Doubt

If you are not sure about spelling someone’s name because you can’t read their writing or you have other questions about their file, CALL!  It is that simple.  People are cordial when you take the time to get things right.  

January thru June

Often you will have fewer donations and correspondence between January and June. Take this time to run reports looking for that “friends” list.  Any business, person or organization that gets mail from you with the dreaded, “Dear Friend,” should be on your “Fire our Friends,” list.  Take the time to get to know them. Call them, visit them (bring cookies) or send a card asking them for updated information.  

Be Strategic

Run reports each month to check for bad addresses, no names or weird spellings.  Make sure you have not had any data entry errors.  Doing weekly or monthly checks for duplicate accounts or addresses can help you spot mistakes.

National Change of Address

“Every year approximately forty million Americans move their place of residence and business, but their old addresses often remain in mailer’s databases. As a result, mailings continue to go to old addresses and not the new ones. It is estimated that at least 8% of all mail is undeliverable because of incorrect addresses. This means lost opportunities, lost sales, and wasted money.” National Change of Address

Most donor software has automated functions to run NCOA reports that will tell you which donors have moved or changed addresses.  It is recommended to run this quarterly.  Price varies based on your provider.  You for sure want to do these in August before any mass mailings you do in the fall.

People want you to know their name.  

I had a donor that asked me if I knew his name.  It took me six months to remember his name was Joe.  Funny that I remember it now and his first name is really common.  But for the life of me, every time I saw him for a six-month stretch, he would ask me directly if I remembered his name.  I couldn't remember it.

He would not tell me.  Finally, his wife said his name was Joe and apologized for him giving me such a hard time.  It was/is a lesson that I remember: People want you to know their name.