Couple or Household? Best Practices for eTapestry Relationships

When adding families to eTapestry, users are faced with a key decision: to enter the family as a single account or as separate accounts?

Either choice comes with its own pros and cons—including specific impacts on reporting. Knowing the best practices and implications of each approach will help you make the right choice for the constituents in the relationship as well as for your organization.

Best practices for creating household accounts

There are two acceptable approaches to entering household accounts into eTapestry:

  1. When household members engage with your organization as a unit, add a single account with a Family Name Format and a Joint persona that includes all household members listed in the salutations.
  2. When household members engage with your organization separately, add an account for each person in the household and link them with a household relationship. Then add a Joint persona to the Head of Household account with all household members listed in the salutations.

So how do you know which to choose? And what does it mean for a household to engage as a unit or to engage separately?

Signs that a household engages as a unit:

  • Communication and engagement goes through a single primary contact
  • Non-primary household members only interact with your organization, if at all, through a primary contact

Signs that a household engages separately:

  • Communication with the household could be through any of the household members
  • Donations from the household sometimes come from one member, sometimes from another
  • Household members engage with your organization individually and you need to be able to segment them separately into lists for communication or reporting

Bottom line: Each time you enter a new household or household member, consider whether you need to report on a household member as its own entity or not. If you do, that is a sign you need to create an individual account for that member and link them to the other household members with a household relationship.

Associating family foundations and donor-advised funds to households

Tip: If a donor gives through a family foundation or donor advised fund for which you have created an account to hold their donations, the best practice is to link that account to the original donor account with a household relationship (note: the original donor should be the head of household).

This will attribute the family foundation giving to the household as a whole and allow you to report on that giving according to the attributes you’ve assigned to the head of household. For example, if the original donor is a board member, but the transactions are recorded on their family foundation account, if you link these accounts together with a household relationship and make the board member the head of household, the transaction history will show up when you run a Board of Directors donation report—as long as you set up your report correctly (see section on reporting below).

How to modify household relationships

Now, what happens if a couple you have saved as separate accounts linked in a household relationship splits up?

If a couple separates, you will need to modify the relationship and the personas for both accounts to reflect their new communication preferences. Follow these steps to update the accounts:

  1. Go to the account for the head of household.
  2. Select the household relationship on the relationship tab.
  3. Update the relationship type to reflect the new relationship (ex: ex-Spouse/ex-Spouse).
  4. Remove the household status by selecting N/A for the Primary and Member household designations.
  5. Save the relationship and choose how to treat journal entries (best practice is to keep journal entries on the accounts they were originally added to, but you can also choose to move journal entries in bulk to the prior head of household account).
  6. On the persona tab of the prior head of household account, modify the salutations on the Joint persona to remove the ex-Spouse or delete the Joint persona entirely. The goal is to make sure the primary persona has up-to-date preferred salutations and contact information.
  7. Navigate to the account for the prior household member, update the personas to remove the ex-Spouse from salutations and ensure the primary persona is correct.

How to report on household data when you use household relationships

If you enter households as a single-family account with all household members listed in the primary persona salutations, your queries and reports will be straightforward because they match eTapestry’s default reporting settings.

However, if you link individual accounts for household members together with household relationships, you will need to pay special attention to your queries and reports in order to export your data in the way you want it: unduplicated (i.e. one line per household) and with Joint persona salutations.

Use the following steps to produce an unduplicated household report.

  • 1. Build a query using the "Head of Household Accounts" (HHA) data return type

    Build a custom query with a data return type of “head of household accounts” to get an unduplicated household mailing list or donor recognition list. When your data return type is head of household accounts, your query will show you the related head of household account for any account that matches your query criteria.

    An account that is not in a household relationship is considered a head of household account. This data return type will only exclude accounts that are non-primary household members.

  • 2. Build a report that uses Household fields as columns

    When building your custom report, consider including certain household-specific fields that eTapestry provides for easy reporting on household summary data.

    • Household Giving Summary Fields – Fields like “HH Last Transaction Received Amount” allow you to report on household giving summary data for all transactions saved across a given household relationship.
    • “HH Member Name” and “HH Primary Name” – These display the Account Name for the member and primary household members for any given account. If an account is not in a household relationship, this field will be blank.

  • 3. Run your report by prioritizing the Joint persona in the persona hierarchy

    When running a report, eTapestry allows you to define a persona hierarchy to prioritize reporting on specific persona data over the data on an account’s primary persona.

    When a persona type is selected in the Personas Reported section of the Launch Report page, the report will display the data listed on the type of persona that is indicated highest in the hierarchy. If an account does not have a persona of the type(s) listed, the report will show data for next persona in the hierarchy or the primary persona.

    When reporting on household data for a mailing, or another purpose in which you want the data on the Joint persona, consider selecting the Joint persona in a persona hierarchy to ensure the report shows Joint contact information if the account has it.

Planning for the future with household best practices

It is a best practice to always add separate accounts for individuals.  Every entity will have its own account in eTapestry.  This is a best practice because it provides the most flexibility should you decide to start using household reporting in the future.  Although this is a best practice and allows for the most flexibility in the long term, it is important to evaluate how you report on households and define data entry procedures that match your reporting goals.

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