Best Practices for Constituent Codes—How to Use Them Efficiently

Apr 8, 2018

When it comes to leveraging constituent codes, are you using them effectively?

What’s the purpose of a constituent code?

How many constituent codes should an organization have?

Is order important when a constituent has multiple codes?

I have been consulting with non-profits on The Raiser’s Edge (“RE”) for more than 13 years and many of the clients I have worked with have been concerned about their constituent code structure. In this article, I will share my thoughts on these common questions and provide some advice on the best practices for handling some basic needs.

What is a constituent code and why use them?

A constituent code provides a high-level classification of the relationship a constituent has with a nonprofit organization. A new staff member with very little knowledge of your organization should be able to view a constituent’s code within the “Bio 2” tab and know why the individual/organization is in the system.

A constituent code is designed to answer the question, “Why is this record in my database?”

Here are some general rules of thumb for constituent codes:

  • A good constituent code is clear and broad, e.g. Board Member, Volunteer, Staff, Alumni/ae, etc.
  • A good constituent code is NOT too specific, e.g. Board Member-Chairman, Medical Volunteer, School of Engineering Alumni/ae, etc., more details about the constituent’s involvement are tracked in other areas of the system.
  • Constituent codes can be assigned with start and end dates; therefore, the code itself should not include dates, e.g. Board Member 2012, Volunteer 2013, etc. Adding dates to your codes will clutter up the constituent code table and make querying and reporting difficult.
  • A constituent code is NOT synonymous with source code, solicit code or donor level. Raiser’s Edge has functionality and fields designed to track that information. When fields are improperly used, important functionality in Raiser’s Edge will not work correctly.

The type and number of constituent codes will vary depending on the type and complexity of the organization.

Let’s look at some examples:

Most schools will have:

  • Board Member
  • Staff
  • Volunteer
  • Student (if the organization tracks this information in RE)
  • Alumni/ae
  • Parent
  • Grandparent, etc.

Most healthcare organizations will have:

  • Board Member
  • Staff
  • Volunteer
  • Matching Gift Company
  • Foundation (which could be divided into Government, Corporate, Private, and Family)
  • Prospect

Additional codes for arts and cultural, social service, and preservation organizations include:

  • Member
  • Corporate Sponsor
  • Community Organizer
  • Public Official

As for the number of constituent codes:

  • As a rule of thumb, smaller organizations should be around 5-10, while larger organizations may have as many as 20.
  • Fewer codes enable better reporting, faster queries, and cleaner, more consistent data.

Does order matter when entering multiple constituent codes?

Yes, the first line in the grid on the Bio 2 tab is considered the primary constituent code; the other codes are considered secondary codes. The primary constituent code is defaulted on the gift record when a gift is added.

When reporting on giving based on the constituent code, it is important to know, unless the code is changed by the gift entry person, the default on the gift will be the primary code. When reporting in RE and selecting to filter on constituent code, you have the option of using the code on the constituent’s record (on the Bio 2 tab) or the gift record (Miscellaneous tab on the gift).

The key is to review your codes and place them in a hierarchical list. When the data entry staff are entering codes for a constituent, they should place the most important code first, e.g. ‘Board Member’ before ‘Volunteer’.

The results?

When constituent codes are correctly defined and properly entered on constituent records, reporting and identification are quicker and more accurate.

For example, an executive may have a dashboard that monitors board giving on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. A director of alumni giving may have a dashboard that displays all gifts given by their alumni/ae this week or this month. A volunteer coordinator may need a weekly report of volunteer hours. In each of these scenarios, the report is based on constituent codes, no query required.

How are your constituent codes?

The first place I look when assessing if an organization is using these codes effectively is in reporting. In Rasier’s Edge, go to the Reports module and click on Demographic and Statistical Reports. Then, click on Tallies and create a New report. When the report opens click on 2: Fields tab, and then click the drop-down arrow next to the Fields to Use box. Select constituency code and click preview.

The report will list all your constituent codes and the number of records that have each code. Alternatively, you can use Omatic’s TableOmatic utility to analyze the use of constituent codes throughout the system on both constituents and gifts.

After installing, simply open TableOmatic and select the Constituent Code table to analyze:

How to Create a Constituent Code in Raiser's Edge

As you review each code, ask yourself: “Does this identify ‘WHY’ this constituent is in the database?”

Again, proper use of constituent codes in The Raiser’s Edge can go a long way towards ensuring that you and your staff are able to get the reports you need and keep your data organized.

Whether you are just getting started with constituent codes or trying to clean up your existing records, having a plan and incorporating the best practices outlined above should get you where you need to be.


Omatic Software
Omatic Software is dedicated to integrating disparate systems and democratizing data access for today’s nonprofits. Founded in 2002, Omatic has worked with thousands of nonprofits globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling nonprofit teams to leverage their donor data rather than be burdened by it. The Omatic team has one goal – unleashing the power of data to show a complete view of your donor, enabling data-driven decision making and opportunity creation for your organization.