Businesses have lots of Customer Relations Management software to choose from; the voluntary sector has one, tailored for the needs of voluntary organisations from the outset. Unlike most similar software, it is not a free-standing program but runs as an extension to Drupal (for which it was originally designed), Joomla or Wordpress. Moreover, you can select the components of CiviCRM that you need. So you don’t have to burden yourself installing features that you are never likely to need.
CiviCRM is based around the concept of contacts; there are three fundamental types of contact: individual, household and organisation. You can add other types of contact based on these three types but you cannot remove these three types. For all types there are some key fields:
fields for different communication methods, e.g.
communication preference fields.
But you can add custom fields to suit the needs of your organisation.
You can create groups of particular types of contacts, for example, working groups or local branches, and set up relationships between contacts saying, for example, who is related to whom in a household or who is a member or officer of a particular organisation.
The modules from which you can choose are:
CiviContribute: with this you can manage donations, subscriptions and event fees; you can set up separate pages on your website for those contributing to your organisation, those who wish to become members and those who wish to attend an event. The CiviAccounts module allows you to integrate the management of contributions, memberships and event fees with your accounting software.
CiviPledge: with this you can manage fundraising campaigns where people are going to give money in the future.
CiviMember: with this you can enrol members through the website, give members access to their data and enable them to renew their subscriptions via the website, reducing administration by setting up automatic email acknowledgement. If your organisation is not large enough to afford setting up online payment, you can still enter the data manually and give members the option to update their data on the website. You can also arrange for automatic reminder emails when their renewal is due. You can assign a status to a member, such as new, current, grace and expired. Grace is used for members whose membership has recently expired — by default the six months after it expired — but you can change this to a shorter period.
CiviEvent: with this you can publicise events, register participants, collect fees, limit the number of registrations to suit the venue and so on. If there are different charges for different types of participant, you can create a price set for the event.
CiviCampaign: with this you can set up campaigns, petitions or surveys and track their progress. (If you are using Drupal, you can add CiviEngage which allows for more personalised campaigning.)
CiviCase: with this you can manage contacts with the recipients of your services, grants or other forms of support.
CiviMail: with this you can manage mailings whether by email, post or text message; you can select who will receive a mailing and when (sending out a large number of emails at 4 am will even out the burden on your server). You can include tokens which may, for example, be a link to an event or other page on the website or an unsubscribe option.
CiviReport: with this you can generate reports on contributions, members, events, participants and so on.
For ad hoc searches, there are comprehensive search options for locating contacts by any of the data associated with them — name, address, group, tag and so on — and for finding events, participants, activities, the amounts of money raised and so on.
You can create activities with which people are associated. These are not used for events but for activities which have no time boundary.
You can create profiles, or templates, for use on your website; apart from a profile used as a search view which is restricted to one type of contact, they can include any fields that you wish to include. This avoids, for example, having to design a new page for every event.
While groups can be used to group contacts of one type, you can create tags to associate anything within the database and then search on those tags.
All aspects of CiviCRM can be configured through the Administration module including the look and feel of the installation, address formats, email, profiles, scheduled reminders, using reCAPTCHA and so on. This includes options to import data from other databases; CiviCRM uses the same underlying database as your Drupal, Joomla or Wordpress installation, normally mysql, and provides facilities to match the fields in your old database with the ones in mysql.
Depending on your organisation, you may benefit from a support contract with a commercial organisation or you may find that you can obtain enough free support through the CiviCRM online forums and CiviCRM events. There you will encounter other people working for voluntary organisations who will be happy to share their experiences and expertise from using CiviCRM.
There is a UK demo site. Whatever you do is deleted at the end of each day.