Listing Donor Names

Dear Kim:

I’ve found your books and many other writings very helpful. Thanks for all you do for the non-profit world.

Here’s my very basic question that our board president and I have a friendly disagreement about:

How should we list people’s names in giving lists?

1. Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Jones
2. Mr. and Mrs. John Jones
3. John and Jane Jones

We’re currently doing #1. It’s the safest but also uses up lots of space. #2 seems offensive as the wife loses her identity. #3 seems OK or even better to me but will older generation folks feel that we’re being less than respectful?

Thanks very much,

-What’s in a Name?


Dear Whatsina:

Your letter is a good example of why fundraising is sometimes called “Death By Detail.” Going forward, you should include in all your reply cards a line that says, “We like to list all our donors’ names in our annual report. Please write below exactly how you would like to be listed.”
Donors often give you clues about how they name themselves. Make sure whoever enters donor information into your database pays attention to what is written on the reply device. In the line that says NAME, if someone writes, Mr. and Mrs. John Jones, then that is how they are to be listed.

If you haven’t done any of this, and are now putting together a donor list, I think your risk the least offense saying “John and Jane Jones.” You definitely want to avoid honorifics for people who don’t have the same last name: John Jones and Jane Smith. If you think a donor may have a strong opinion about this, call them and ask them how they would like to be listed.

Good luck.

-Kim Klein