Changes to Given Names, Nicknames, and Goes by Names

We made some changes to eliminate some confusion around how to store people's names. To explain why, it will be easiest to use an example.

Let's say we have someone in our church named Thomas Anderson. Everyone knows him as Tom, and he calls himself Tom. If an email were sent to him addressed to "Thomas", it would feel out of place. In our current set up, our recommendation would be to store Tom's first name as "Thomas" and add a goes by name as Tom. It's seems like a reasonable approach, but in actual practice it's proven confusing.

The problem is that a first name is required, but "Thomas" is the optional name that you may not even care about putting in your database. Plus, some people have a goes by name, and some may not, so which field should we show in a list of people, and which should you use in a mail merge? It's hard for everyone to understand.

We're correcting this now by renaming "goes by name" to "nickname", and adding a new field called "given name". Here are the new available fields and how we recommend using them:

First Name - What the person usually goes by. Thomas Anderson is usually called 'Tom', so here we would enter 'Tom'.
Given Name - The legal first name of the person. This is optional, and you should only use it if the given name is different from their first name. It can be helpful in associating a check from Thomas Anderson to Tom Anderson's profile.
Nickname - Nicknames are optional names such as "Tommy" or "Neo". They are only shown on the person's profile page in People.

(Of course, prefix, suffix, middle, and last name are still available without any changes to their behavior.)

So now you can keep Tom Anderson in your database as Tom Anderson, and when you try to match him to a check from Thomas Anderson, you'll be able to find him.

If Tom's data is stored the way we previously recommended, his first name is still "Thomas" and his nickname is now "Tom". What we now recommend is that his first name should be "Tom" and his given name should be "Thomas".

We had considered automatically converting everyone's first names to nicknames and goes by names to first names, but as we looked at existing customer data we noticed that not everyone uses that field correctly (because it's confusing) and that we would end up making matters worse for many customers.

However, if your organization uses goes by names and would like some help moving first names to given names and nicknames to first names, please click email support and we'll be happy to help you avoid the tedious job of making those changes manually.

We're sorry for any problems this might cause you, but we're confident that in the long run this is going to solve lots of confusion for many, many churches, which is what we're in the business of doing.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know by clicking 'submit a request' at the top of this page, or by sending us an email

Daniel Murphy
Product Manager

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