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Using hierarchy in the referral database

Representing a complex human services provider with a single resource record can be more trouble than it is worth.

For most resource and referral databases, it is fine to use a single record to encapsulate all of its information: service description, physical location, eligibility, application process, contact information, categorization, 2-1-1 taxonomy terms and more.

But some service providers are more complex. Take for example the fictitious example of the Salvation Army of Oak County. They are one agency that operates 9 different programs (Donation Station, Thrift Shop, Soup Kitchen, etc) any one of which might be available at their 4 different sites around Oak County (Elmdale, Picayne, Fort Smith and Chestertown). How would you enter this into your referral database?

You might be tempted to create 36 different entries – one each for every particular program offered at every particular site. But what happens when the phone number at one of the sites changes? You’ll have to make 9 different updates to your database – one for each program record you have created there. Not only is this more work than is needed, it also introduces the opportunity for errors.

What if, instead, there were only 4 site records, each of which could be associated with any or all of the 9 program records, and all of which belong to the overall agency? 

That is exactly what the Agency – Site – Program hierarchy can accomplish in iCarol.

In the example above, rather than make 9 different updates when the phone number changes at a particular site, instead you make the update exactly once, in that site’s record. And when people are viewing any program offered that site, they will automatically be getting the updated phone number.

This would also apply if you updated the program description of the Donation Station, or the eligibility requirements of the Thrift Shop. Make the update in one place and it will apply to all of the sites where this program is indicated to be offered.


iCarol is your help line software company that is here to make your job easier as Executive Director or leader of a non-profit contact center. Whether you have a crisis, help or 211 referral line, we are here to help you help more people in your community. Read more…

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