Create a tag library

Setting up a library of tags by determining a taxonomy for naming tags in your database is key to organizing your data effectively. 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. The first step to building a tag library is to build a list of nested tags.

Nesting tags

The process of linking together multiple layers of information into a single tag is called nesting tags. Building these kind of information chains can be a very useful tool when deciding on a tag that will be easy to use and remember in the future. Let’s continue with the example of our “Clean up the Streets” event. When setting up our tag for this event, we first start out with a very basic tag, like event, and then the name of the event, cleanthestreets, and then the year or date of the event, 14. This way our tag would look like Event - CleantheStreets - 14. You could go further and split this tag into RSVPs and attendees, or any other information that is more specific. Event - CleantheStreets - 14 - Attendee would be a really useful nested tag. When anyone wants to search your database for this information, they’ll know they should first type in “e” because it was an event, and they can then negotiate to the specific tag they want. There is no need to use dashes in nested tags, spaces are fine. Some people prefer to use them, however, to visually separate each segment of a nested tag.

To set up a nesting taxonomy 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 our 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, we’re going to add another level to our 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 taxonomy, the date or year in which the action occured, 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 great list of a basic taxonomy that will make up our tagging 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 will make sure your taxonomy remains

If you have a very complex taxonomy, or a complicated tag set-up that you are always teaching 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. We can have the naming guidelines on a spreadsheet within that workbook for easy access.

Now that we have a tagging 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 maintain the efficacy of the tagging process in your database, 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-08-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. 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 the tag to generate a list, and email that list about your new gluten-free products.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. You can use tags as search criteria for creating lists or filters.
  5. 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 the specific kind of volunteering position they are interested in, skills they have, etc, when they sign up to volunteer via your website or texting.


If you’re unclear on how this feature works, please ask a question. If you would like to see changes to this feature, please submit a suggestion.