Ultimately, when deciding how to track and manage the contact profiles, relationships, communications, and donation history of partners living together, the best practice would be, whenever possible, to simply ask them their preferences. After all, you can’t go wrong when you treat people how they want to be treated!
However, asking couples what their preference is not always possible – or the preferences may not be consistent enough for your reporting needs. In these cases, you’ll want to first decide how to manage the profiles within Donor Management, and then determine how to track those corresponding donations for accuracy and ease of reporting.
Once you’ve decided how you will enter and manage your couples and their donations, we also recommend documenting this process and recording it in a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document. This best practice will ensure that your data entry remains consistent, regardless of whether you will be the one entering that data moving forward.
Managing Multiple Contacts within a Contact Profile
Some organizations choose to include more than one person in a singular contact profile, instead of creating households within Donor Management. This is most commonly used for couples who consistently give together, or a parent-child relationship who give together frequently.
There are two options in how you can choose to manage contacts that include more than one donor. Below we’ve listed the “pros” and “cons” of each option, so you can decide which would work best for your organization’s needs.
Option 1: Each member is entered separately into a contact profile.
A *|First Name|* merge tag can be used for email, letter, text, and video correspondence to each individual within the relationship.
Each individual can create a login to Fundraising Pages that would link their individual donations with the corresponding profile tracking, communications, donations, etc.
Individuals can be flagged in “relationships” with other contacts in the database without impacting the other’s data records.
Each individual could be flagged as the “point of contact” for an organization in the database, if applicable.
Two or more individuals can be still be added to a “household” for joint communications via postal mail.
If each member of the couple donates to the organization, the total giving of the couple cannot be easily pulled using a simple filter within Donor Management.
If a donation is entered for one member of the couple, the other will show up as a “non-donor,” even though the total donations of the household are still visible in the household profile.
When creating households, only one member can marked as the “head of household.”
When it comes time to report donations to the IRS, if the couple chooses to file separately, differentiating who gave what can become challenging.
Option 2: Enter the two members of a couple in one contact profile.
The total giving history of the couple is tracked in one singular contact profile.
The total number of contacts being managed is fewer than if individuals were entered separately.
When the *|First Name|* merge tag is used, both names are included, even though the correspondence is sent to each individual separately. You risk offending one member of the couple by listing them second – or potentially sending the correspondence to one individual and not the other.
The “Relationships” feature can become confusing because it is impossible to know which member of the couple the relationship applies to.
If one individual is a “point of contact” for an organization, both individuals would be listed as such. In instances such as this, we strongly recommend that a separate account need to be created for each individual.
When multiple individuals are entered into a singular individual contact profile, all gifts are listed as coming from all of those individuals – which may or may not be accurate.
Sometimes each individual in the relationship chooses to give independently, and our recommendation is that those donations should be tracked as such.
That said, having a clear picture of the total giving history of everyone in a couple or in a household can be very important. If you’ve decided to enter individuals separately, it is important to carefully manage and monitor the donation history of the couple through the “households” feature.
Our recommended method when entering a gift from one member of a couple sharing an individual contact profile is to immediately “soft credit” the other member of the couple.
This allows you to create filters within Donor Management to identify and segment all of your donors plus everyone with a soft credit, or all non-donors and those without a soft credit.
Remember, asking donors how they like to be addressed, recognized, and communicated with is an important step in the relationship building process – and ensures you can keep your data accurate and consistent.
Don’t be afraid to ask – and be sure to keep a record of what works best for your organization moving forward!