The ABC's of the Raiser's Edge

All record types in the Raiser’s Edge can have attributes associated with them. Atrributes are customizable by database and are originally set-up in Configuration. I get a lot of questions about (and perform a lot of clean-up of!)


  • What are they?
  • Should we use them?
  •   Do we need them?
  • Why would we use them?
  • How could we use them?
  • What do they do?
  •  What do they mean?
  •  Do we have to?


 Attributes are one of the most potentially powerful customization features in the Raiser’s Edge. That having been said, they are also one of the most abused and overlooked. In my 10+ years of experience, I’ve seen both feast and famine! I’ve seen databases so flooded with them as to render them useless; I’ve also seen them so overlooked as to render the database dehydrated.  In general, attributes are designed to do one of two things, if not both. 

  • To give organizations a place to store information that doesn’t already have a home in the system
  • To track information that an organization often likes to group on for mailings or reports  

In the first case, would it make sense to have a built-in field in the Raiser’s Edge called “Favorite Girl Scout Cookie” with a drop down table listing all the flavors of Girl Scout cookies? Of course not! Would a zoo care about that information? Maybe, but not likely. To my Girl Scout Councils, however, that is very meaningful information, so they track that as a Constituent Attribute with a customized table of choices.

In the second scenario, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to quickly send an email to all of Finance Committee members announcing a location change for their next meeting? If you are tracking Committee Assignments as an attribute, it’s easy as pie. All of the report parameters and mail parameter sets in the Raiser’s Edge have the option to include (or exclude) records in that report or mailing based on Attributes. They are also easily queried on for use elsewhere.

These are just two, very basic examples of how Attributes can be used to harness the awesome power of the Raiser’s Edge and help you work more efficiently. I can think of 100’s more; can you?