It happened again yesterday: I got a letter from an alumni association directed to a previous occupant of our house--a woman who passed away many years ago. I don't know how long ago that was, but we've lived in our house for eight years.
Now, unlike other types of nonprofits, I can understand an alumni association continuing to send letters to potential donors long after the time when most other nonprofits would have given up on them. But, there's a catch: I've called this office at least twice to ask them to please remove the person from their mailing list.
What's the harm, other than wasted paper, printing, and postage? It looks bad! If I were a potential donor to this organization, I'd be wondering about its efficiency. And if they sent me personalized letters, I'd know just how personal a connection they felt to me, given that they don't take note of whether their donors are alive or dead.
Just another reminder that, when we send out letters containing wrong information, they don't just disappear into a black hole. Someone reads them, possibly gets annoyed, and makes judgments. That makes updating donor records seem less of a time-wasting chore than it might first appear.
For more tips on how you can run a more efficient organization, check out Starting & Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide, by Peri H. Pakroo (Nolo).