How to Alienate Your Donors with a Single Keystroke

When I saw this billboard in the news and on social media the week before the Super Bowl, my first thought was, “Seriously? You’re trying to recognize and honor Russell Wilson for contributions he made to your Wisconsin Badgers football team during his time there, and you misspell his name?” 


My next thought was, “This is how some nonprofit organizations (inconsiderately) steward their donors.” I can’t tell you how many times I see donors’ names misspelled in materials for nonprofit organizations in my community. This is such an easy thing to get right! Here’s how:

Have others review the list

When you’re compiling a list of donors for your annual report, event program or website donor recognition page, share the list with others for their review. Let your reviewers know their task is specifically to confirm the correct spelling of your donors’ names.

Everyone on the fundraising team should look at the list—they have the best handle on how to correctly spell your donors’ names. Also, if you know there is a stellar editor in another department (e.g., communications), definitely ask that person to also do a read-through.

Review past communications from your donors

Your donors’ names are certainly spelled correctly in their email signatures! You can also look at pledge forms your donors have signed—generally a donor will correct any spelling errors prior to signing a pledge.

Use online resources

If there are spellings that no one on your team can confirm, google those names. Be sure to include your city to increase your chances of finding the right person (e.g., Jane Donor Denver). High-profile donors are sure to be listed somewhere on the Web. 

A word of caution: Don’t rely 100% on your donor database. It’s likely that the donor list you’re reviewing was generated by this very same database. We all know those are notorious for containing errors!

In short, you’ve worked hard to build your fundraising program, cultivate donor relationships, and ask for money to support your organization’s mission. Don’t blow it by misspelling a donor’s name in the very vehicle designed to recognize and honor their contributions. 

For more crazy typos, see this list compiled by HubSpot: 14 of the Worst Typos We’ve Ever Seen

How do you ensure that pesky typos get caught before they are posted online or sent to the printer? 

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