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Giving Thanks: Blackbaud CRM™ Name Formats and the Art of Letter Writing

Getting the salutation and addressee line correct is an important part of letter writing. And during this season of giving thanks, and #GivingTuesday just around the corner, making sure you're getting it right is even more critical. The envelope and that opening statement are after all, the first thing that the recipient sees, and it can leave a lasting impression. Getting it right reflects well on the sender, it’s a sign of caring and respect; and people can certainly be very vocal when the sender gets it wrong.

The Name Format option in Blackbaud CRM™ is designed to help you place a set of default name formats on your individual constituent records. You choose the elements that you require from an extensive list in the Name format options (you also have the flexibility to create custom formats if needed).

Example of how name formats might be constructed:

Formal Addressee [Title] [First Name] [Middle Name] [Last Name] [Suffix]

Informal Addressee [First Name] [Last Name]

Formal Salutation [Title] [Last Name]

Informal Salutation [First Name]

But nothing is standard in this world; with your varying communication efforts you will probably feel the need to create multiple sets of formats so that you can change your style of communicating depending on your audience. Understanding this, Blackbaud CRM™ has been designed to give you just that flexibility in both its name format options and its address processing options.

Some organizations opt for a set of formal name formats as well as informal, so that they can choose depending on what seems appropriate for the recipient and the nature of the mailing; others may take a decision that they will always use a formal addressee, but an informal salutation. Some organizations add in some form of “leadership name” that may be based on a nickname or first name, that is used to show a familial connection by leadership staff. You’ve probably got some great examples of formats that you use.

But what happens when the data doesn’t quite match the norm?

How are you going to handle households with different last names, for example?

Consider also that there are different rules for addressing armed services personnel, clergy, diplomats, judges, as well as doctors, educators and government officials. Do your constituent records include suffixes, and what about nicknames? You’ll soon discover that one size does not fit all; while we might want everyone to have a “formal joint salutation”, the “[Title] and [Spouse Title] [Last Name]” format is not going to suit everyone.

For those of you who work in Higher Ed institutions you’ll be familiar with the predicament that while it is common usage to put the male household member first, often it is the female who is the University alum, and she therefore expects to be addressed first.

Making sure that the data in your database is as complete as possible is an obvious one. In order to pull a “Mr. & Mrs.” name format, you will need to have titles on your constituent records. But data is not always perfect, you can correct only so much of it, after that you need to consider what steps you will take to work with it.

Although it may sound complicated to deal with all these exceptions to the rule, there is a custom solution that can take care of it for you. Once you have mapped out a matrix of exceptions, a custom global change (BrightVine has a free Name Format Global Change) gives you the ability to assign, update or remove name formats on any user-defined selection of constituents. This means you can globally apply your formats to anyone within a particular selection and keep them updated on a regular basis.

So, you can take a selection of constituents without titles and apply a particular format; you can take a selection of constituents where one or both members of the household are doctors; where one or both members of the household have nicknames and update them appropriately.

Here’s an example of what one name format might look:

Informal Joint Addressee William and Cynthia Johnson


Different last names William Johnson and Cynthia Smith

Same last name, both have nicknames Bill and Cindy Johnson

Same last name, primary only nickname Bill and Cynthia Johnson

Same last name, spouse only nickname William and Cindy Johnson

Different last name, both have nicknames Bill Johnson and Cindy Smith

And so on…

The name format global change described in this article is provided by BrightVine free of charge. If you are interested in talking to us about receiving the global change, please contact us today.

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