Configuring activity records

One of the strengths of AbleOrganizer is its ability to track activities. Activity records are used to store information about interaction with contacts, and to present this information in an organized fashion. Activities are associated with contact records, which gives you a direct means to track interaction with people over time.

A few things to understand about activity types:

  • The software includes a number of pre-configured activity types. These correspond to the features installed with AbleOrganizer. 
  • You can create your own activity types track information that does not come pre-configured in the system. For instance, you can create an activity type to track membership.
  • The software supports unlimited custom fields for each activity type. 
  • The interface for managing activity types is very similar to the one for managing contacts. Some of this might seem repetitive. 

Pre-configured activity types

AbleOrganizer includes a number of pre-configured activity types that are used by the software to collect information and construct reports. Some of these are more important than others.

The pre-configured activity types that are important for the operations of the software include:

  • Donations, which is used to track donations.
  • Even registration, which is used to track event registration.
  • Petition signature, which is used to track petition signatures.
  • Volunteer commitments, which is used to track sign-ups for volunteer opportunities.

These activity types will or will not appear based on how you have set up AbleOrganizer. If you have not installed the donation feature, for instance, there will not be an activity type for it. 

For each of the activity types listed, it is safe to add fields to each one, but be careful not to delete certain fields that may affect the operations of the software. You can feel free to modify these fields, but do not delete them.

  • Source: used to track the source of an activity. 
  • Date received (all): used to track the date an activity actually took place, instead of the date it was added to the system. AKA Registration date, Date of signature.
  • Amount (donation, event registration): used to track the actual amount of a donation. 
  • Donation page (donations): used to track the web page where a donation was received.
  • View publicly (event registration, petition signature): used to track whether or not a user wants their registration to be viewed publicly.
  • Status (event registration): used to track whether or not someone actually attended an event.
  • Registration date (event registration): used to track the date someone actually signed up for an event.
  • Personal message (petition signature): used to track personal messages included as part of petition signatures.
  • Petition targets (petition signature): used to track the targets of a mailing campaign.
  • Volunteer opportunity (volunteer commitment): used to track the opportunity associated with a commitment.
  • Status (volunteer commitment): used to track wether or not someone showed up for a volunteer commitment.

Working with activity types

AbleOrganizer provides a web-based administrative interface for managing activities. You can access it within the admin section of the website, which will give you a list of all the activity types that are configured for the site. This is the main activity management interface, you can use this screen to add new activity types or edit any of the existing ones.

For each activity type, there are a number of links to the left of the name. 

  • Edit allows you to modify some of the basic details about the activity type itself. 
  • Manage fields allows you to add, modify or delete any of the fields associated with each activity type.
  • Manage display allows you to control the order in which the fields appear, when presented on an activity record.  Please note: the overall appearance of activity records is controlled in other ways, this link simply lets you control the order of fields.
  • Clone allows you to duplicate the overall structure of an activity type, to use as a template for other contact types.
  • Delete allows you to remove an activity type, along with all of its associated records, from your system.
  • Export allows you to export the structure of an activity type for use in other websites.

Configuring custom fields for activity types

AbleOrganizer allows you to configure a distinct set of fields for each activity type. You can add, edit and delete the fields associated with each activity type through the web-based administrative interface.

From the main activity administration screen, select an activity type and click the manage fields link. This screen will provide some basic information about how each field is configured, along with controls that allow you to add new fields to the system. The fields appear in the order they will appear when being entered into the system. You can control the order of fields by dragging them into the desired order, using the handle to the left of the field name.

Each field will have a record that lists some basic information, which includes:

  • Machine name, which is a special code that is used for tokens within the system. You can use this machine name when you want to pre-populate some forms and reports. Don't worry about trying to memorize the machine names for each field, there are tools that allow you to select them.
  • Field type, which explains what kind of information is collected in this field. AbleOrganizer allows you to collect information in a lot of ways - addresses, phone numbers, social media accounts, e-mail addresses, etc. You can use different field types to handle different types of information.
  • Widget, which tells you how information is being collected in this field. Certain field types, such as dates, provide multiple tools for collecting information. You can use widgets to control the forms that are used to collect information.
  • Edit, which allows you to change the settings associated with the field.
  • Delete, which allows you to remove the field (and all of its data) from your site.

Adding new fields and reusing fields

When viewing the fields associated with an activity record, you can also add new fields. Scroll down to the bottom of the list of fields, and you will see a box labelled 'Add new field.'

Enter a name for the field, and a machine name will automatically be generated. From there, you can select a field type for the field, and also select the widget that will be used to collect information. Once you are done, click the save button at the bottom of the screen to go to the field settings page. The field settings page allows you to control other aspects of how information will be collected. AbleOrganizer ships with a variety of field types, and new ones can be downloaded from to expand the set of field types available for use. The specific field settings will vary based on the field type.

Some things to remember when creating new fields:

  • You can always change the widget used to collect information, but you can't change the field type once it has been created.
  • You can edit the machine name of the field when it is being created, but not after it has been saved to the system.
  • You can reuse the same fields for storing contact information on multiple activity types. Below the box for adding a new field is one for adding an existing field. You can select any field stored in the system from the drop down list.

Managing the display of activity records

The main activity administration screen provides tools that allow you to control the display of activity records. These tools control the order in which fields associated with activity records are displayed on a page by default, and whether or not each field is visible to users. 

You can control the display of fields by clicking the manage display link for an activity type. Each activity type has its own display settings. You will be taken to a screen that is similar to the one for editing fields. It will include a list of fields for the activity type, along with a set of options for each field.

  • The Label option allows you to control whether or not a label is displayed with each field.
  • The Format option allows you to control how the field will be rendered. The options available change depending on the field type.
  • Some fields feature a configuration icon all the way to the right, which provides you with more advanced options for how a field will display. Image fields, for instance, allow you to control the size of an image when it is being presented. The options will vary based on the field type.

Best practices for managing activity types

Tracking interaction with contacts can be complex. It's usually a good idea to plan for how you want to track activities before creating them in the system.

In general, the best practice is to use activity types to model business processes within your organization. Any time you want to capture information about interaction with a contact, store it in a way that is recognizably similar to the way you handle that information offline. If you have obligations to report on that information (for instance, as part of a grant), make sure it is being captured in the system. Taking these two steps ensures users will be able to understand how information is being tracked, and that you will have the information you need when it comes time to generate reports.

Beyond this basic suggestion for how to use activity types, here are some other things to consider:

  • It's usually a good idea to have a list that details the information you plan to capture in your activity types before taking the time to configure them. Using a spreadsheet to track what you expect to capture, and how it needs to be stored, can be very revealing.
  • Make sure you are not trying to capture contact information in your activities. The best place for someone's home address is as part of their contact record, and the software gives you tools that allow you to enter this information through a single interface.
  • Unlike contact records, use as many activity types as you wish. When modelling data, it's best to track activity types at an atomic level than to try and categorize them through fields. For instance, if you are planning to add pledge capabilities to your site, it is often better to create a new activity type for pledges than to try and retrofit them into donations.
  • When you create activity records, it's often a good idea to include fields for tracking a source and a date received. These fields can be used to track information based on where it comes from, and when it was actually received (instead of when it was entered into the system). They are very useful if you plan to use AbleOrganizer to track offline information or automate business processes.
  • If you are familiar with how to manage a Drupal website, the interface for editing an activity record probably looks familiar to you. The developers of AbleOrganizer went to great pains to ensure the software works the same way as other things in Drupal. In general, it's safe to assume activity types are managed the same way as content types.