Create a tag library

Setting up a library of tags is key to organizing your data effectively.

Updated over a week ago

Where to Start

To create a tag library, you'll start by determining a naming convention for tags in your database. A tag is only useful if you and your staff remember it and use it multiple times on multiple different profiles. You can tag a profile with 100 different tags, but unless they are specific and searchable, they won’t serve much of a purpose. 

You can create an initial tag library by going to People > Tags > Create tags (or View All). Otherwise, you'll just set your naming conventions to begin with and add tags as you go to build up your library. Here's a shareable 🎬 Tagging Library Template you can use to start your own tagging library. Watch the video below for more info.

Naming conventions and nesting tags

The process of linking together multiple layers of information into a single tag is called nesting tags. Building these kinds of information chains can be a very useful tool, so it is important to decide on a tag name that will be easy to use and remember in the future.

To set up a naming convention for how your organization will tag in your database, first think about the kind of categories that can be used to group the people in your database. Some examples:

  • Event

  • Volunteer

  • Customer

  • Donor

  • Voter

  • Issue or Interest (like Graffiti, Gluten Free, Climate Change)

This is a good jumping off point for a tag library, but these tags are too vague to mean much. What “event” did the person attend? What item did your “customer” buy? What "issue" are they interested in? For this reason, its useful to add another level to a tag library- a more specific piece of information about the category.

  • Event - Name of Event

  • Volunteer - Kind of Volunteer

  • Customer - Item Purchased

  • Donor - Level of Donor

  • Voter - Issue

  • Issue - Stance

Now our tags are becoming more useful! Let’s add another level to our naming convention, the date or year in which the action occurred, to get even more specific.

  • Event - Name of Event - Year

  • Volunteer - Kind of Volunteer - Year

  • Customer - Item Purchased - Year

  • Donor - Level of Donor - Year

  • Voter - Issue - Year

Now we have a solid naming convention for our tag library. Tags auto-fill in NationBuilder, so that when you begin typing a tag that has already been applied to a profile, your original tag will auto-fill. This helps to ensure your naming convention remains uniform.

Let’s continue with an example. Say I have a hypothetical “Clean up the Streets” event. When setting up the tag for this event, I start out with a very basic prefix, like "event," and then the name of the event, "cleanthestreets," and then the year or date of the event, "2018." So, my tag will look like "Event - CleantheStreets - 2018." I could go further and split this tag into RSVPs and attendees, or any other information that is more specific (e.g., Event - CleantheStreets - 2018 - Attendee).

📌 You can already filter for people who have RSVP'd for or attended a specific event based on the name of that event.

Now, when anyone wants to search my database for this information, they’ll know they should first type in “e” because it was an event, and they can then navigate to the specific tag they want. While dashes are used in this example — use whatever formatting convention you prefer!

If you have a complicated tag set-up that you are always teaching to new volunteers or staffers, you can also set up a list of tags outside of NationBuilder. All you have to do is enter your tags into a simple spreadsheet with columns for tag, what it means, who created it, when it was created, or any other information you’d like to capture. This way, you can have the naming guidelines on a spreadsheet within that workbook for easy access.

Now that we have a tag library set up, we know how we will tag people when they take certain actions and have ensured these tags will be in a consistent format. This will make it easier for your organization’s staff to tag new members, and create new tags for new actions, as they will have a template for how to build an appropriate tag. It will also mean that staff or interns can come and go and the efficacy of the tagging process in your database is maintained, causing no disruptions to your workflow.

Short-term vs. long-term tags

Some tags are really useful for a short period of time, but are no longer relevant after a significant amount of time passes. For this reason, it’s helpful to differentiate between short-term and long-term tags. For example, my organization has been using a series of nested tags for our Clean the Streets events since 2008, styled like: Event-Cleanthestreets-2008-Attendee. At this point, it is no longer useful for my organization to have all these event attendees broken down into different groups based on their short-term tag. I don’t particularly care what year a person attended the cleanup event, but I do care that they have been to one of them.

In this case, I’m going to merge all of these short-term tags into one long-term tag like Event-Cleanthestreets-PastAttendee, so I can contact them all at once with an invite to this year’s event, no matter what year they attended in the past. If I still want to keep the short-term tags, to see people based on year, or for another reason, I can simply add the new long-term tag to every user who has one of the relevant short-term tags.

Thinking about whether your new tag is going to be short-term or long-term can be helpful when naming your tag, and can even be a column in your tag library.

Tagging tips

  1. If you're cleaning up an existing tag library, you can simply edit the name of an existing tag by navigating to People > Tags > View all, then clicking Edit next to the tag you're looking to rename.

  2. On survey pages, set tags for individual survey answers, so that you can know what option a user selected, and can then create lists of people based on these answers. For example, if you’re a food co-op and ask your customers what their dietary preferences are in a survey on your website, you can give each person a tag based on what option they choose. You can then later search for the tag gluten-free, use that tag to generate a list, and email that list about your new gluten-free products.

  3. Think out your tags ahead of time. Create a list of the tags you anticipate needing and make them accessible to the control panel users of your nation. This way, nobody will feel that they are making up a new tag.

  4. A tag is only useful if more than one person will have that tag. Tagging people in super-specific attributes that they will never share with someone else (i.e., tagging Diana “Tom’s wife”) is not helpful. This would be better in the relationship section of the user’s profile.

  5. You can use tags as search criteria for creating lists or filters.

  6. Tags will appear in alphabetical order on an individual's profile so long as the name of the tag is capitalized. Tags starting with lowercase letters will appear toward the end of the listing (i.e., if I have two tags, "Event - Annual Luncheon - 2020," and "campaign - Save Our Park - 2021," on my profile, the "Event" tag will be listed before the "campaign" tag).

  7. You never need to tag someone “volunteer” or “donor” in your nation. Whether or not someone is a volunteer or donor is an attribute in the database that gets appended to a person’s record when they take these actions or are batch updated. These are searchable fields in NationBuilder. You can elect to tag someone with the specific role they're interested in, skills they have, etc., when they sign up to volunteer via your website or text keyword.

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