CiviCRM – An alternative in CRM for organization and campaigns

By Henri Makembe on 05.05.10

Social Contxt, A Boston-Based new media firmToday’s guest post is written by Riche Zamor.  Riche is the founder Social Contxt, a Boston-based new media firm dedicated to helping nonprofits and political campaigns make sense of the social web. Prior to Social Contxt, Riche served as New Media Director for CongressmanMike Capuano’s 2009 U.S. Senate campaign in Massachusetts and Deputy Internet Director for Senator Mark Begich’s 2008 Senate campaign in Alaska.

In recent years, many organizations and campaigns have sought to consolidate their constituent relationship management (CRM) to one place and by all accounts the trend is a good one.  Many of these organization and campaigns choose to use proprietary hosted solution such as one provided by Wired For ChangeBlue State DigitalConvio and Salesforce. The perception exist that if an organization is looking to use a CRM, they must choose from one of company listed above. That is simply not true. An alternative to these proprietary CRMs  isCiviCRM, an open-source than can be used a stand-alone software or integrated with Joomla! and Drupal.

There doesn’t seem to be much gray area around CiviCRM – either you love it or you hate it. ‘Tis one of the risk we face when we choose a CRM platform to use. Either we make informed decisions and select a system based on why it is (and isn’t) a good choice for our organization, or we choose solutions haphazardly and end up kicking ourselves when we realize it doesn’t do what we want the way we want it to.

For those not familiar with CiviCRM, it is an open source CRM system targeted at the “civic” sector. It offers common features that most nonprofit CRM systems offer now-a-days: data management and reporting; online contribution functionality and donation management; event management and online registration functionality; and email blast tool with open and click through tracking. Civi offers other components that make it a pretty robust all-in-one solution, such as membership management, grant management, and case management, that get less recognition but should also be noted.

People are also attracted to CiviCRM because it is open source. This means you have full access to your data and the source code of the system at any time. You can customize CiviCRM to meet your needs. Your team can run queries directly on the database. You don’t have to deal with restrictive licenses and high vendor fees. You are in the drivers seat.

There are many reasons to use CiviCRM for your campaign, probably as many reasons not to use it. As with any system, it has its strengths and weaknesses, all which are relative depending on your organization’s needs. The fact that it doesn’t offer a petition tool probably doesn’t matter to a foundation, but will to an advocacy organization. You have to take into consideration the features and functions which pertain to your specific use cases in order to make an informed decision on using CiviCRM or not.

In a follow up post, I will a deeper look at some of the feature that CiviCRM has to offer.  Stay tuned.