5 Form Linking Tips for Social Solutions Apricot Software

Category: Forms System Design

Social Solutions Apricot™ software organizes data in a structure of Tier 1 and Tier 2 forms. Apricot’s structure is defined by a primary relationship between “parent” Tier 1 and “child” Tier 2 forms, but this relationship doesn’t cover all of ways your data may need to be related, filtered, and reported. Apricot uses linking to associate unrelated records that aren’t related in a Tier 1 and Tier 2 parent/child relationship. Linking is a critically important feature in an Apricot database because it associates records that don’t inherently have a relationship, thus expanding the density, depth, and value of your data.

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Standard Link Type

The Tier 1 to associated Tier 2 parent/child link is standard in Apricot software. This type of link forms the backbone of your Apricot database and plays an important role in the design of your Apricot forms.

  • 1. Tier 1 to Unassociated Tier 1

    Unlinked Tier 1 records have no relation to each other. Each Tier 1 is a separate section of your Apricot database. If you have a Tier 1 client record, volunteer record, and donor record and they are all unlinked, then they each exist in their own area of data entry, data management, and reporting in Apricot.

    There are times when you need to link Tier 1 records together. This is accomplished with a Tier 1 to unassociated Tier 1 link. The primary advantage of this link is the ability to build reports with fields from both Tier 1 records in the same report section. You cannot build a report section with fields from two unassociated Tier 1 forms unless the two forms are linked.


    • A Tier 1 client profile record linked to a Tier 1 household or family record.
    • A Tier 1 client profile record linked to a Tier 1 staff record assigned to that client.
    • A Tier 1 client profile record linked to a Tier 1 location record where that client will receive services or attend activities.
    • A Tier 1 incoming referral record linked to a Tier 1 referral agency record that made the referral.
    • A Tier 1 staff record linked to a Tier 1 donor record as a major gift solicitor.
  • 2. Tier 1 to Unassociated Tier 2

    Tier 1 records are automatically associated with Tier 2 records that exist beneath them. It is sometimes necessary to link Tier 1 records with Tier 2 records that are unassociated and exist within a document folder of a different Tier 1 form.


    • A Tier 1 staff record linked to a Tier 2 client service, assessment, or attendance record the staff member facilitated or lead.
    • A Tier 1 volunteer record linked to a Tier 2 donor contact record (if volunteers are used to cultivate donor relationships).
    • A Tier 1 volunteer record linked to a Tier 2 client support record (if volunteers need to be tracked with the supports they provide clients).
  • 3. Tier 2 to Associated Tier 2

    Tier 2 records are automatically associated with their adjoining Tier 1 records, but are not directly linked to other Tier 2 records under that associated Tier 1 record. As a result, a link can be created between two different Tier 2 records beneath the same “parent” Tier 1 record. Since there are no Tier 3 records in Apricot, the Tier 2 to associated Tier 2 and Tier 2 to unassociated Tier 2 (the next section) both allow additional depth to the structure of your Apricot system.


    • A Tier 2 program enrollment record linked to a Tier 2 client service record.
    • A Tier 2 client service record linked to a Tier 2 client assessment.
    • A Tier 2 donor pledge record linked to a Tier 2 donor pledge payment or donation record.
    • A Tier 2 client service record linked to a Tier 2 client incident report.

  • 4. Tier 2 to Unassociated Tier 2

    Linking unassociated Tier 2 records will depend on your data entry workflows. Unlike associated Tier 2 records, unassociated Tier 2 records under different Tier 1 records cannot be reported together in the same report section. As a result, it may be necessary to link unassociated Tier 2 records to reference other Tier 2 data in reports.


    • A Tier 2 outgoing client referral record linked to a Tier 2 referral contact (person) record (referral agency being a Tier 1 and a referral contact being a Tier 2).
    • A Tier 2 volunteer activity record linked to a Tier 2 client mentor support record.
    • A Tier 2 volunteer activity record linked to a Tier 2 project task record (project being a Tier 1 and a task on that project being a Tier 2).


5 Things to Consider When Linking Apricot Forms

  • 1. Data entry and workflow

    Links are created with a special field type in the Apricot form designer. Links are created by connecting a “Base” form with a “Target” form. The base form is the form that initiates the link. As a result, it is best to think about linking fields in terms of data entry.

    The point of entry is generally the base form. Reporting won’t be affected by your placement of a linking field, because a link is a link, but it is helpful to put linking fields on the forms that initiate the data entry.

    Note: The base and target link distinctions are most relevant when implementing wizard linking or adding dynamic fields to a form.

  • 2. Hide target form links

    If you are linking something like a location record to a client intake record, it may not be necessary to see a full list of clients assigned to a location on the location record itself. This link will be reportable, but it may not be helpful to see the linked records on the target record.

    You can hide the auto-generated linking field on the target form of the link relationship. This can streamline and cleanup the target form.

  • 3. Reports, reports, reports

    Links have one purpose, reports. Links are created so you can develop reports with sets of related data. Since reports are the ultimate outcome of linking, it is important to think about your report needs prior to building linking relationships.

    Your report requirements will tell you which links are relevant and which links aren’t. It isn’t a good idea to link everything just so you can correlate all data, but it is important to link records that have data relevant to your reports.

  • 4. Blueprint first

    Blueprint your form designs before you dive into linking. Produce a narrative blueprint of the link you wish to create.

    For example, write out a link in narrative format like this. Many client profile records (base) link to one referral record (target) and many client profile records (base) link to many household records (target).

    Writing out a narrative of the link will make sure your Apricot database remains functional and reportable.

  • 5. Discrete descriptions

    Links are reportable. Each link has the ability to produce a description. With discrete descriptions you can develop a single-select dropdown for each link that identifies the relationships between the two records in the link.

    Use discrete descriptions in report filters, columns, grouping, and sorting. For example, if you have client profiles that are linked to a household, you can identify the title of the member of the household with the profile (i.e. parent, child, primary, other). If you want to see a report of the full household unit, you can group by household name and display the link description to see the breakdown of household titles by profile record. You could also use the description in this example to filter for “parents” in the household.

Add structure to data in Apricot software

Linking is a critical function in Apricot because it adds depth, density, and clarity to your data. With linking you can transform your Apricot database into a dynamic data management system that far exceeds the capabilities of paper forms, Excel spreadsheets, and even some database solutions.

Linking unlocks the full potential of reports. In order to use links effectively, it is important to remember the different types of links, how each type works, and the five tips for Apricot form linking outlined in this post.

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