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CiviCRM and Associations

CiviCRM is an open source CRM package designed specifically for the non-profit market. CiviCRM integrates with Drupal and Joomla, two open source CMS packages. CiviCRM includes modules for contributions, events, membership, and broadcast email.

I’ve been aware of CiviCRM for several years now, but have only recently spoken with an association that is actually implementing it.

With his permission, I’m posting the following from Doug Trouten, executive director of the Evangelical Press Association. Doug’s association hired Datascribe to help them with the implementation of CiviCRM.

It’s the kind of thing I could have done myself, since I’ve done okay at figuring out how to implement open source software (before going into journalism I toyed with pursuing computer science for a career, although this was back when computers were made with flint knives and bearskins). But I decided to hire somebody familiar with the program to do the initial setup [Datascribe]. We paid them $1,000, and for that they handled the initial structure of the database (including some data import) and built an initial form (our membership form, which is our most complex). I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the 1,000-plus page manual for CiviCRM, and thought it would be good to have the initial work done by somebody who was familiar with the program and could make good decisions  about things that would otherwise fall into the “I wish I woulda known” category.

We originally kept our membership data in Access, and had some forms and scripts that helped automate basic tasks. We moved to [another association management system] to transfer some of the data entry and upkeep to members and to automate some of our on-line transactions. We’re moving to CiviCRM now, not because of the cost of [the other AMS] (although that’s a factor) but because of the inability to integrate the log-in for [the other AMS] with the log-in for our own Web site, thus providing a single sign-on experience for the user. I think that if we were using [all of the functionality of the other AMS] package and building our Web site within their CMS we wouldn’t have that problem, but I’m not willing to tie myself that tightly to a single vendor.

I should also add that the Datascribe folks have been good to work with, and that the $1,000 contract includes integration with my existing Joomla-based Web site and some training for my staff. We’ll probably do that in January. My association is a small one and it employs me part-time. My full-time job is as a college professor teaching journalism, so Christmas break will give me time to complete the transition from [the current AMS] to CiviCRM. We just finished sending our printed directory to press, and during the proofing we found a few things that we’ll want to clean up before doing a final import into CiviCRM. That’s my Christmas project.

Thanks for the update, Doug. I’d be curious to hear from other associations that have implemented CiviCRM. I think the product holds great promise, but like any other open source product, a critical mass of users is necessary to maintain its long-term viability.

Full disclosure: EDM is an independent third-party consulting firm. This means we have no financial relationship with any of the vendors mentioned in this blog. We provide unbiased opinions on what we see.

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

Jack Chiasson, CMP Executive Director
National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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