Does your organization care whether I live or die?
If your donors can’t instantly answer “yes,” you’re in trouble. So, the way you handle your data is not a technical issue. It’s vital to your relationship. Vital–literally, as in life or death.
My friend Rosie just wrote an angry note to the university her son attends:
I would be much more likely to feel “excited… for the start of the school year” for my son, or even to respond positively to the rah rah e-mail that you just sent me if you hadn’t addressed it to me and my late ex-husband!
We were divorced. That’s in your records. We have not shared a home for more than 9 years, let alone an e-mail address. And he has been deceased for 6 years (That’s in your records, too). He has not been alive the entire time our son has been a college student.
I have been through this with you before. Last time, you assured me that it would never happen again. Grrr.
Rosie is not a donor yet. She’s still struggling to put her son through school on a single parent’s income.
But when the university asks her for money in the future, what do you think she will remember? The great classes her son took, or the anguish she felt every time she opened an email and saw the name of the man she married, divorced, and buried?
To you, it’s just a database. To your donors, it’s what you think of them. Make sure you treat your data with the same respect you’d treat a person.