I recently met with a development person from an organization that we support financially. We are new to LA and they were one of the first organizations we donated to upon our arrival one year ago. Our first donation was not our last, and now we are "members" as well as being vocal supporters.
NOTE: As long as I have been writing this blog and as long as I have had my @FundraiserDan Twitter account, I have gone out of my way to keep my fundraising world separate from my personal world. With this encounter that I am writing about, I believe it's necessary to bring in my personal life. I won't necessarily make a habit of it.
Donors come from all walks of life. We are different genders, races, martial statuses, gender identities, orientations (as in sexual), faiths, classes and this list could go on and on.
We as development professionals and fundraisers need to be inclusive. Yes, there are some non-profits that might not want donations from certain parts of society, yet for me, serving and agency that advocates for abused kids, I work to be as inclusive as possible, and as honorable as possible to all donors.
I say "I work to be" because I give it an honest try. I may not always succeed.
From how we use salutations in our donor letters to how we refer to a donor's significant other, to how and who we thank, this is something we really need to pay attention to.
As a donor and a huge supporter, I was pretty disappointed when the development person I was meeting with referred to my husband as my partner. In our conversations prior I had used the term husband and even in that same conversation I had used the word husband twice.
I'm sure it was not her intention, but in one swift sentence, she demeaned my marriage.
Too sensitive, no way. This is a new world. Yes, gay people are actually married these days (and have been for over 10 years.) Let the donor inform you as to how you should be referred to or as, and I did that.
Yes, not all gay couples are married, or want to be. I am, and I very much do.
We have to pay attention to this. And not only this. Gender pronouns are important, as is making sure we thank the wife if she is the donor or at least both people in the couple. Too many donors are thanked via their spouse and their spouse only.
If you don't know, ask. I assure you there will not be any offense taken. In fact, you might just catapult the level of your donor relationship.
Thanks for reading.