There are three ways that Sumac can manage households and families:
1) You can have just one contact record that represents the Household. Rather than having several contact records for each individual member of the family, you can just have one contact record (e.g. Smith Family) that incorporates everyone. All donations, communications, etc., had with anyone in that family is linked to the Smith Family contact record.
Pro - fewer contacts in your database
Con - you are not tracking anything related to individuals. For example, if you have a contact record for the Smith Family, and one of the members - John Smith - makes a donation, you have to link the donation to the Smith Family record, even though the donation was really made by John. John sent in the money, John should be recognized as the donor and receipted appropriately. If you are only able to link the donation to his family's record, you aren't going to be as accurate in your calculations of what John has given. You are only able to see what the whole family has given. The same applies to other types of records: volunteer hours, communications, etc.
While this option means fewer contacts in your list, you aren't able to track an individual's donations, volunteer hours, etc., as accurately as if you had contact records for each individual.
2) You can have contact records for just the individual members and create relationships between them. For example, you have a contact record for John Smith, who is a donor. You have a second contact record for Jane Smith, who is a client. You can use the relations tab to link the two of them and indicate that they are spouses.
Pro - fewer contacts in your database (although likely more contacts than with option 1) and the ability to track services and donations for individuals instead of just families.
Con - it becomes more difficult to keep track of data from a household perspective, like how much an entire family has given in a certain time period. It also means you'll have to be a bit more careful when running print mailings to ensure that you don't send the same letter to the same household multiple times.
3) You can have one contact record that represents the Household, as well as individual contact records for each of the members, and create relationships between all of them to indicate that they're all part of the same household. This option means that you can keep track of each person as an individual, as well as keep track of who they are as a family. Donations made by John Smith are linked to John's contact record. Volunteer hours relating to Jane Smith are linked to her contact record. But mailings you send to the entire family are linked to the Smith Family household record.
Pro - the ability to keep track of your data from both an individual's perspective, as well as a family. More flexibility for reporting on donations, volunteer hours, etc., and the ability to filter mailings to ensure that you don't send the same letter the same household several times.
Con - more contacts in your list.
Although this option means more contacts in your list, you ultimately have the best of both worlds: the ability to keep track of your data from both an individual's perspective, as well as a family.
Any of these three options are fine, it's really just about what's going to work best for your needs. Whichever option you choose, be consistent. If you choose to go with option 1, be consistent and always use that approach when tracking families. If you choose option 3, be consistent and always use that approach. Also, be aware of the pros and cons associated with each option in order to choose the best option.
NOTE: When couples have two different last names (e.g. Robin Smith and Taylor Jones), it can be tricky to decide how to record these names in Sumac to ensure it is accurate in your list of contacts, but also appears properly in mailing labels or reports. Here's how we recommend entering these names into Sumac:
In the Contact record, on the Basic tab, enter the following into these fields:
First Name field: "Robin and Taylor"
In the Last Name field: "Smith and Jones"
Donor Recognition: "Robin Smith and Taylor Jones" or "The Smith-Jones Family," or whatever this couple has requested.
In the Contact record, on the Residence Address tab (and perhaps also the Business or Vacation Address tabs if you are using these as well), enter the following into this field:
Recipient field: "Robin Smith and Taylor Jones" or "The Smith-Jones Family," or whatever this couple has requested.