Blackbaud CRM™ Attribute Series Part 1: Attributes - junk drawer or gold mine?


by Selena Fowler, Alesha McCann, and Susan Hines


Attributes -- junk drawer or gold mine? They might be the little pieces of information that don’t belong anywhere else, but they are valuable pieces of information that you wouldn’t want to lose. Because we love them so much (and we’re sure you do too), we’ve put together a series of posts to look at different aspects of attributes including their creation, their extension, and finally their clean-up.



So what do we love about them? They’re multi-functional for a start. Attributes can be applied to a large range of record types; we are all familiar with Constituent Attributes found on the Attributes tab of the constituent record, but many other record types support attributes as well, for example, revenue, addresses, designations, events, to name just a few. You may not have noticed all the attribute tabs scattered throughout the system because many don’t display until an attribute is created for a particular record type.


So how do we create attributes?

In setting up attributes we refer to Attribute Categories; these are the attributes you want to save on a record, and the Values are the pieces of information entered for those attributes.


They’re set up in the Administration functional area, by clicking on Attribute categories.

  • First, enter a Name for the attribute; the name must be unique per the Record type.

  • Select the Record type; this is the type of record that this attributes tab will appear on.

  • Groups can help you manage the attribute categories, so assign to an Attribute group if you wish.

  • Select the type of data you will allow the user to enter.

  • Attributes come in a wide range of data types, the common ones being Text (a free form field), Number, Date, Yes/No, Currency, Code table, etc.

  • If you select “code table” enter the code table name or click the New button at the far right of the Code table field to create a new code table.



If you’re creating a new code table, enter a unique name for the code table, as well as a name for the database table; Your DB table name must end in “CODE”. Select a code table category; this is the category that you will search in when you go to add values to the code table.

Check the Allow only one per record box if you want to limit the user to have only one instance of the attribute on the record. This is also an important option to check if you want to include the attribute category on form extensions, or BBIS event and donation forms. (We’ll take a deeper dive into Attribute Form Extensions in Part 2 of our Attributes series.)

Check the Make available in lists box if you want to make the attribute available as a list column (this will allow you to display the option when you click the Columns button on a list builder).

Click Save when finished.


There are a few things to be aware of; things that will make your life easier if you consider them at the outset:

Code tables help maintain consistency. By providing the user with a drop-down list of defined values to choose from instead of letting them type in text ensures correct spelling and no duplicate values that you have to clean up later.

When you create a new attribute make sure you select the correct record type, data type, and check the Allow only one per record box if you need to do so. Once you save the attribute there is no going back to edit those options. You would have to delete the attribute category and start over if you failed to get those details correct.

In the case of BBIS revenue and registrant attributes created in CRM, it is okay to not check the Allow only one per record box for code table based attributes, but it is important to mark Date, Text, Number, Currency, and Yes/No attributes as allow one per record or they won’t display in BBIS.


Deleting Attributes

There’ll be times when you want to delete an attribute category; perhaps your organization has decided that they no longer want to use the attribute, or perhaps something went wrong in its creation and you need to start over.


So how do we do that? Step 1 is to remove the attribute from any records where it exists. This is an important step because the system is not going to let you delete the attribute category if it is in use.


An ad-hoc query could help you identify all the records where the attribute exists.


Next,in the Administration functional area, click Attribute categories.

Select the category you would like to delete and click Delete. A confirmation message appears asking if you are sure you want to delete the attribute. Click Yes.


Et voila! The attribute category is gone. Or is it?


When you delete an attribute category, you assume the program completely removes the attribute category from any associated records. Within the program, this appears to be true, but taking a look at the back end reveals that the attribute category values remain present even once the attribute category has been deleted. In part 3 of our series -- Attribute Clean up and a custom cleanup utility give away -- we will explain the giveaway and how you can use it with your system.


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