Dear Mr. Legend and Teigen - Mailing Mishaps: Smart Name Formats for Blackbaud CRM™

By: Bethany Avery; Selena Fowler; Alesha McCann; Sara Swiatlowski

Once upon a time - this is actually a true story - while working with an international organization, I was asked, “what happens if we don’t have the King’s first name in the system and we send an invitation to him and the Queen? Will the system know how to address him automatically?” My first question was, how do you not know the king’s first name? My second question was, how do you want to address them?

Have you ever received a letter in the mail that addressed you poorly? Maybe it mixed your name with your partners? Or maybe it had that most obvious of mishaps, “Dear <Name>”. Needless to say, you likely did not give much if any time to whatever was inside the envelope.

Incomplete data, along with certain limitations of standard Blackbaud CRM™ name format functionality, can easily lead to inaccurate or embarrassing addressee/salutation values. “Dear Mr. Legend and Teigen” is sure to get a swift response from Mrs. Teigen! You’d probably rather see Mr. Legend and Mrs. Teigen or John Legend and Chrissy Teigen but never Mr. Legend and Teigen.

Increasingly, organizations may be hesitant to collect supplementary data such as Title. The downstream effects of this, however, can be missing or incomplete name data which reads very poorly, especially in a direct mail “addressee” or “salutation” context.

To add to this, the out of the box name format functionality in Blackbaud CRM™ is somewhat limited in its ability to handle missing data gracefully.

Case in point, let’s say you want to set up a simple name format of Title + Last (i.e. Mr Smith). If Title is missing on a record, your resulting name format will be “Smith”, and there is nothing you can do about that since the “Remove if previous or next entry is blank” would not work. Suddenly, your donor is in that awkward scenario we opened with and likely trashing the envelope addressing them as Dear Smith.

For this reason, we have created a FREE custom “Smart Name Format” that is intelligent enough to take into account various scenarios such as missing title, presence of spouse, presence of first name, nickname, mismatch of data elements across records etc. and create the most complete/sensical name from the available fields.

As a result, every constituent always has the "best" possible name format (for their particular data scenario), all without having to manually manage different groups of records and scenarios!

For example, say you are an individual with a missing title, (our Dear Smith example). The Smart Name Format would populate with your First + Last.

With a couple, where one person has a title but the other does not, rather than a discombobulated Dear Mr. Smith and Jones, the Smart Name Format would flip it to a no-title version of Dear James Smith and Jenny Jones, for consistency.

The Smart Name Format structure is dynamic, based on a hierarchy of logic and updates in response to any changes on the record itself (just as any out of the box name format does). Add a Title for James Smith and you’ll see the new formats.

These custom name formats can also be set as your default primary addressee and salutations so if you have those fields in any existing export, you won’t have to make a change.

Watch this short video tutorial to see the Smart Name Format in action. If you’d the free Custom Smart Name Format, please contact us.