What is CiviCRM?

CiviCRM is a powerful, web-based contact relationship management (CRM) system. It allows an organisation to record and manage information about the various people and organizations it interacts with. CiviCRM is more than just an address book, it also allows you to track your interactions with people and organizations, engage with constituents, and solicit donations through your website. The information you gather is all stored in one place but you can access it from almost anywhere.

CiviCRM focuses on the needs of non-profits. CiviCRM emphasizes communicating with individuals, community engagement, activism, outreach, managing contributions, and managing memberships.

CiviCRM is Free/Open Source software, which means there are no license costs or user fees associated with downloading, installing, or using the software. Being Free/Open Source also ensures that you have the freedom to view and modify the source code and to distribute copies of the original source to any person or organization.

CiviCRM is web-based, which means it can be accessed by many users at the same time from different locations. It has been developed with the international community in mind, and translations and multi-language options are supported.

One way to understand what a CRM does is to think of your personal address book with enhanced capabilities. Imagine that every time you make a phone call to a given person, your address book automatically makes a note of it, together with brief description of the conversation. It can also decide whether to ask this person for a particular favor, based on whether she did this favor for you a week ago, and schedule a follow-up meeting following the call. After using this address book for a while, you could ask “What were my interactions with Ji Lao?” or “How many people helped me this month?” and it would give you the whole history.

Now let’s say you’re organizing a dinner party and you want to invite all the people you’ve met during the previous year. Just write the invitation and tell your address book to send the email. You don’t have to worry about anything else after this point (apart from preparing the dinner!). Your address book handles the RSVPs from all invited guests, together with information about who is vegetarian and who is not. It even lets you know two nights before the event how many people you can expect.

It would be great to have such an “assistant”, right? Organizations need one even more. It’s hard to remember all of your meetings, phone calls and other forms of contact (especially over the long term), but the more you know about the people and organisations you interact with, the more successful your work will be. You’ll be able to target your message to specific groups, because you know who will be interested in specific topics, and you’ll be able to observe their reactions and adjust your next interaction, and continue to improve how you talk to different groups.

CiviCRM is a modular system.  In the simplest set-up you can:

  • record basic contact information such as name, home or postal address, email address, phone number
  • define relationships between your contacts
  • send emails
  • keep a record of your interactions with your contacts

Components and extensions will let you do more things such as sign up members for your organisation, take registrations for your events, receive donations or distribute grants.  See theComponents and Extensions chapters for more information.

CiviCRM works together with another common piece of software: a content management system (CMS).  A CMS is a tool for creating and managing websites, and most websites these days are based on a CMS.

CiviCRM integrates with Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. Integration with a CMS opens up a lot of useful possibilities.   Visitors to your website can carry out many activities on their own, such as renewing their membership, signing up for events, requesting email updates, and donating money and you can share parts of your CRM data, for example event information, with visitors to your website. You can read more about integrating with a CMS in the Website Integration section.

CiviCRM allows organizations to create event registration pages and record a constituent’s attendance to their activity record.

CiviCRM allows you to easily create registration pages for free and paid events. An intuitive interface allows you to establish your event’s date, time, registration period, capacity and fees as well as confirmation and receipting messages.

With CiviCRM you can:

  • Create event registration forms
  • Automatically generate registration confirmations and receipts
  • Easily import and export participant data to/from other systems
  • Search for participants by event, event type, participant role, etc.
  • Allow users to export events as iCal files and configure online calendar applications to “subscribe” to iCal feeds of your public events

CiviCRM enables organizations to build advocacy campaigns by tying together and tracking the progress of a campaign’s events, mailings, activities, and contributions.

This enables organizations to measure and analyze the effectiveness of their outreach and mobilization efforts.

CiviCRM allows you to:

  • Create surveys and petitions
  • Record responses to surveys and petitions
  • Link activity such as donations, mailings and events to a particular campaign
  • Track who has voted using Get Out The Vote (GOTV)
  • Record individual members’ levels of interest and engagement in a particular activity.

CiviCampaign is integrated with other CiviCRM components so that you can select which activities are part of of the overall campaign or goal.

CiviCRM offers a complete suite of communications tools allowing organizations to build subscriber lists and create effective mass mailings.

Engage your supporters with e-mail blasts and newsletters. Use CiviCRM to:

  • Collect subscriptions
  • Create HTML and/or text mailings via a WYSYWYG editor
  • Target mailings to any CiviCRM group
  • Target or exclude recipients of previous mailings
  • Personalize your message via mail-merge tokens
  • Schedule mailings for specific dates and times
  • Track recipient opens, click-throughs
  • Manage lists, bounces and unsubscribe requests
  • Easily import and export mailing lists

CiviCRM allows you to create as many fundraising appeals as you need via multiple contribution forms.

This might include a general appeal, a newsletter appeal, a year-end appeal or a special Mother’s Day campaign. Non-technical administrators can easily create contribution pages and track their results. With CiviCRM you can collect and record contributions to your organization made via check, phone and public Web forms and tie them directly to constituents contact records.. These contributions might include:

  • Pledges
  • One-time Donations
  • Recurring Donations
  • Tribute Donations
  • In-Kind Donations
  • Membership Payments

You can also:

  • Define your own contribution types for the different contributions your organization receives: in-kind, cash, and volunteer time, for example.
  • Add custom fields to track extra information about a contribution or contributor (for example, specific information required by the FEC for campaign contributions).
  • Create as many different online contribution pages as you need – for different campaigns, chapters, etc.
  • Automatically generate receipts, and track thank-you notes
  • Easily import and export contribution data to/from other systems like an accounting package.
  • Search for contributions by type, amount, date, etc.
  • Offer a selection of premiums (thank-you gifts) to your contributors
  • View past contributions when viewing any contact record

CiviCRM allows organizations to track and manage interactions with constituents via case management.

A wide range of organizations – human services, legislative, and educational – use CiviCRM for case management.

You can use CiviCRM to manage single interactions – such as recording the results of a phone conversation with a constituent. You can also use it to track a complex sequence of interactions or communications. For example, your organization may have a specific workflow and timeline for assisting constituents in enrolling in a program. This workflow might operate along a specific timeline and be disseminated among your entire staff. CiviCRM allows you to define the steps in that process – an intake form, a phone call, a face-to-face meeting – and assign those tasks to the appropriate staff. The resulting case is then recorded in the constituent’s profile for future reference.

CiviCRM empowers organisations to record and manage their staff and volunteers via it’s HR management tools

The CiviHR extension provides you with all the tools required to record and manage the people who work for your organisation, from full-time paid staff members to part-time volunteers, and everybody in between.

Key features:

  • Directory listing of Paid Staff and Volunteers
  • Contact Details (both Work and Personal)
  • Joining/Induction/Leaving
  • Identification
  • Visas / Work Permits
  • Skills/Qualifications
  • Career/Education History
  • Job Positions / Job Roles
  • Remuneration
  • Emergency Contacts

CiviHR understands that the people working for non-profit organisations may be responsible for more than one job at a time so it allows multiple job positions and multiple roles to be associated with the same contact in the database.

CiviHR also understands that people may have changing involvements with an organisation over time, so it allows contacts to move easily from being beneficiaries to volunteers to paid staff and to being donors, without the need to re-enter all of their details into the database.

CiviCRM empowers donors themselves to raise funds on behalf of an organization.

CiviCRM allows individual donors (or teams of donors) to participate in peer-to-peer fundraising. Donors establish a fundraising goal for their campaign, create their own contribution page, and invite their peers to give. This powerful tool allows donors to raise funds around any activity e.g.: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or sporting events. As peers contribute, their gifts are automatically attributed to the campaign, listing them in a scrolling ‘honor roll’ and visualizing how much closer the campaign is to its goal.

Each contribution either creates a new contact in CiviCRM or adds the contribution to an existing contact. All personal campaign page contributions are also soft-credited to the campaign’s organizer establishing peer relationships at a glance.

CiviCRM processes peer-to-peer donations using the same payment processor as regular contributions. Unlike CiviCRM, proprietary peer-to-peer fundraising solutions charge fees of up to 7% per transaction and store the resulting contacts and contributions in a separate database.

CiviCRM provides flexible membership management for organizations including convenient online sign-up and renewal.

Imagine allowing new members to join your organization via a simple Web form that establishes their level of membership, collects their payment, and creates a contact record. CiviCRM also automatically sends membership renewal reminders to existing members adding renewal information to their supporter profile.

Use CiviCRM to:

  • Create electronic membership appeal campaigns
  • Create custom web pages for self-service membership sign-up and renewal
  • Configure any number of membership types or levels for one or more organizations and/or chapters of an organization
  • Customize membership statuses and rules
  • Search and list memberships by date, type, status, contact information (for administrative or member-to-member directories)

CiviCRM’s robust reporting allows organizations to continually assess the success of their CRM usage.

Reporting helps your organisation to evaluate its impact and achieve its mission. Sometimes this is a requirement for funders or other stakeholders. CiviCRM allows you to create, run and schedule reports based on the data CiviCRM has about your contacts and their interactions with your organisation.

These reports are queries on the database using criteria and fields available in a report template. Reports can be delivered on the page when you run them, as a dashlet on the dashboard or a scheduled email which can include a CSV file or PDF.

Create reports from pre-existing templates such as Donor Report Summaries or LYBUNT (Last Year but not this Year); or create entirely new custom reports. CiviCRM reports allow you to:

  • Configure reports with relative date ranges
  • Create reports as print-friendly HTML or downloadable PDF formats
  • Export as CSV
  • Add report results to a given group for case management (eg: send email, create mailing lists)
  • Automate report delivery to one or more recipients via e-mail
  • View the data in a table OR as a Bar chart or Pie chart
  • Limit access to a specific sub-set of your users

CiviCRM allows organizations to build one holistic record for each constituent.

CiviCRM understands that well-managed contacts are the building blocks of solid constituent relationship management. CiviCRM allows organizations to build a complete profile around contacts. A supporter’s contact information is tied to all their interactions with an organization including contributions, memberships, events registrations, subscriptions and other activities.

Imagine being able to interact with the myriad individuals and organizations that support your mission via one database:

  • Donors
  • Subscribers
  • Program & Event Participants
  • Members
  • Volunteers
  • Advocates
  • Grantees
  • Grantors
  • Voters

CiviCRM allows you to define contact types to suit your needs such as individuals, households, organizations, activists, families, affiliates. It allows you to define the data you will collect from these contacts based on their interactions with you including contact, billing, subscriber, events, membership and contribution information.

It also allows you to manage their relationships with one another such as employer/employee, spouse, parent/child, member and volunteer relationships. You can alsogroup contacts for the purposes of giving them access to select content on your Web site or to select electronic mailing lists such as a monthly e-newsletter. You can automatically add contacts to relevant smart groups based on their interactions with your organization’s Web site.

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