Managing households in LGL

In this article:


We're often asked if it is possible to track households in LGL. The short answer is to this question is, “Yes!” However, there are two ways you can do this in LGL. This article walks through each and goes over how to manage the contact type in the household, because that affects how you'll be able to contact the households/constituents.

Instructions are available in the two sections that follow.

One for two: “Couple” records

Let’s say you receive a check from a married couple. The check is in both of their names, and you want to add them to the database so you can enter their gift. In such a case, it's common to create a single record representing the couple. The data in this record may depend a bit on your own conventions, and also on the donor’s preferences for how they want to be addressed, but it might look like this:

Here we have added a record with both names in it: Jim and Eliza. And we have two pairs of addressee/label names and salutations, one informal and the other formal. Keeping with your style for the names you include in letters and labels, you can set these up in whatever way is most appropriate. Some clients and donors prefer the more formal approach, and others prefer an informal one.

The advantage to tracking a couple as one record is that it simplifies donation tracking and mailings. You never have to worry about sending them the same letter twice, and soft credits are unnecessary.

Two for one: Tracking the household

While tracking a couple in a single record is convenient, there are many cases when it doesn’t cut it. Here are some common reasons to track the individuals in the couple in two separate constituent records:

  • Both couples are involved with your organization in different ways—perhaps one is a volunteer and the other is a member of the board. Or they both volunteer, and you want to track their hours separately.
  • They have different email addressess and you want to send email marketing messages to both of them, either directly from LGL or by taking advantage of LGL’s integration with Mailchimp or Constant Contact. This would require two separate constituent records because only one email per constituent can be used when sending emails from LGL or sync’d with Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
  • They both donate independently, with different names on the checks.
  • You want to be able to track birthday and education information accurately.
  • You have to split some households into two records because of the reasons above, and you want to be consistent across the board.

Whatever the reason, this is where LGL’s householding features can help you save some time. Here’s what a “household” in LGL might look like conceptually:

In the database, they’d show up like this in a regular search:

On the surface, these two records appear to be separate from one another. However, they have been tied together with a constituent relationship, which helps simplify managing address and phone data, as well as gift entry.

Learn more about  how to set up relationships with address/phone sharing.

Using contact type to keep your mailing list clean

This is great for regular searching, but when it comes to preparing a mailing you probably don’t want both of these records in your list. That's where the contact type comes in. In the example above, we have the head of household, John Doe, coded as the “Primary” contact type. This is the default contact type for all constituents (unless you’ve changed things around); Jane Doe is coded with a “Spouse/Partner” contact type.

So, looking at this limited example, we can just add a “Contact Type = Primary” restriction to our query, and things will look good:

Setting up the “Primary” record for mailings

Using this strategy, the primary record is a bit special in that it serves to represent the household in a mailing, but it represents the individual in all other capacities. To accomplish this, you can set it up so that the first name is the first name of the primary constituent, and then use the addressee/mailing label field in a broader sense. For example,

  • Mr. & Mrs. John Doe
  • John & Jane Doe
  • The Doe Family
  • etc.

What if I want to send mail to just John, rather than to the household?

In cases where you want to maintain the ability to send mail to the Doe Family and John Doe individually, you can do that by using the “Alt. Addressee” and “Alt. Salutation” fields:

Traditionally, the [[addressee]] and [[salutation]] fields are used in the LGL mail merge process or in exports, but in both cases (mail merge and export) you can also use the [[alt_addressee]] and [[alt_salutation]] instead. When you do that, the system will look for those values if present, and then fall back to addressee and salutation if they are not. This gives you the ability to treat the head of household records in two different ways for any given mailing.

Can I send email to more than one member of a household?

It is possible to email multiple members of a household only if each member has their own constituent record and their email address is contained within it.

Gift entry for households: Soft crediting the spouse for each donation

In addition to sharing contact information between primary constituents and their related spouses, it is also common practice to create soft credits for donations to related spouse records. So, if we get a check from John Doe for $100, it is a great idea to add a soft credit to Jane Doe’s record.

You can do this easily while entering the initial gift for John Doe within the Related gifts section of the gift record:

Read more about adding related gifts