Having the appropriate customer relationship management (CRM) system is a gamechanger for most businesses. There are specific types of CRM systems, CiviCRM being one of them. On this page, you’ll familiarize yourself with how CiviCRM works and more importantly what it can do for you.
Let’s start by clarifying what CiviCRM exactly is and why you may want to use it for your business or project. It’s also worth noting how the acronym ‘CRM’ can indeed be confusing – we clarify this later on in the page.
What is CiviCRM Hosting?
CiviCRM is a constituent relationship management solution packed with tools designed specifically for non-profit and civic organizations.
Quick and Flexible for Civic Organizations
Funding for non-profits is often cyclical and the need for a relationship tool can be as great as or even greater than those of organizations in the profit sector due to regulation, compliance, and the international nature of many non-profit organizations.
In other words, there’s no time to waste for administrators, managers, and coordinators – solutions have to be quick, flexible and ready to go.
That’s where CiviCRM shines as a powerful Constituent Relationship Management system. When you host it, you will want an instant platform with a quick deployment. Let’s look at what CiviCRM is, how it works, and how all those features inform the type of host you will need.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is an umbrella term that covers a variety of software focused on streamlining the management of customer information. However, those types of software don’t quite provide everything a non-profit requires.
Some CRM solutions are not much more than address books. But in the case of CiviCRM, the name includes the word ‘civic’ because this software is created specifically to address the unique needs of nonprofits and civil-sector organizations.
Who Might Use CiviCRM?
CiviCRM has a competent website with plenty of useful information.
CiviCRM is a better choice for organizations that deal with members, donations, stakeholders, and campaigns. CiviCRM knows non-profits have needs outside of strictly business concerns like managing customers, clients, leads, and sales.
Similar to CRM, But With Specialized Features
It’s a bit complicated because it shares an acronym with Client Relationship Management systems (CRM), but this tool is actually focused on the needs of charities, with non-profits and public sector organizations in mind, as opposed to commercial needs.
With this specialty on members, donations, stakeholders, and campaigns, rather than with customers, clients, leads and sales, CiviCRM is a great way to run a nonprofit organization.
CiviCRM Use Cases
Some interesting statistics about the use of CiviCRM.
Yes, there are plenty of noteworthy features to discuss, but it’s better to start with tasks it eliminates or simplifies. Having a good CRM software can drastically decrease time spent on often draining administration and follow-ups.
CiviCRM helps organizations with seven basic tasks:
No more humongous folders full of notes and dusty paper business cards. No more excel sheets full of manually manageable lists of irrelevant data. CiviCRM allows you to simply keep on top of your contacts and manage them as you should.
CiviCRM allows you as an organization to set up different levels and tiers of memberships. Membership types must be set up in order to make this structure work, which are essentially different plans for different accounts.
There are tons of options which are configurable for custom membership types, making it an ideal tools for structures of all sort.
The past ten years have seen the e-mail marketing market flood with software and tools. These essentials make it easier for business providers to directly contact or market to their user base online.
CiviCRM has a built-in e-mail marketing system, designed to create customized user-journeys. Furthermore, different triggers can be set up conditionally, segmenting users.
Creating Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Members are able to run their own personal campaigns, with which the ability of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) fundraising comes in. Each fundraiser creates a new contact, alternatively, it links the transaction to an existing contact.
Moreover, these donations or payments are made using the same processors and fees.
Having the ability to show recognition is priceless. CiviCRM lets you track down and process contributions with a user-friendly flow. Contributions can easily be located, checked and then tied to the appropriate contact records.
How frustrating can it be to manage workflows with an incompetent system? CiviCRM has a customized workflow management solution in the form of CiviCase. CiviCase acts as a container for activities with set timelines and schedules.
This is possibly the biggest problem CiviCRM eliminates in my opinion. There aren’t many things worse than digressing.
CiviEvent acts as a full on event planner and management tool. This customized event management tool allows you to create various criteria, guidelines, and conditions to meet when hosting an event. As we know, the more of these are automated the better – this is where CiviCRM comes in.
CiviCRM is Open Source with Many Features
CiviCRM is an Open Source software that is unique because it is designed to be installed on top of other Open Source Content Management Systems (CMS) including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.
The software includes a generous feature set. Included tools allow you to track things like:
We will look at some of these features in more detail below.
How Well Does CiviCRM Integrate?
Some features of CiviCRM
A harmonious integration means a lot of features make their way across the platforms, delivering the benefits of both in a unique fashion that makes this software powerful. With extreme ease, an organization can track the funds raised from its constituents, put together campaigns, and track statistics.
CiviCRM also gathers information in powerful reports that include membership summaries. These summaries can be broken down by:
The membership type
The number of contributions
By complete payment info
There are many more membership fields to fiddle with, the above are just to name a few.
Event Management Features
The CiviCRM demo lets you play around with different features in various modes.
CiviCRM also has event management features that set it apart. Event management features include:
Similarly to membership options, the event planning and management tool have dozens of customizable fields.
CiviCRM lets you accept contributions (online and off), automatically generate receipts and thank-you’s, and even allow peer-to-peer fundraising. Managing contributions well avoids confusion, organizational faults, and extra administrative work.
Manage Email Communications
Email communication includes everything an organization would expect from CRM, and events can be synced with iCal, social network sharing, and Google Maps. Stable releases are currently compatible with Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress, and the software is available in more than 20 languages.
CiviCRM can also develop and distribute charity newsletters for members.
Easy-to-Use, Customizable Dashboard
You’ll use a Web-based, customizable dashboard to access everything. Every feature has myriad options. For example, members can be created to work with multiple organizations, and at different levels in each.
After creating membership forms, renewal reminder mailings, organize membership lists, you can use those lists to set site access permissions.
A Reminder of Some Awesome Features
So, it’s clear that CiviCRM has some great features:
Written in PHP
Easily integrates with popular content management systems (CMS) like Drupal, WordPress, or Joomla
Allows you to own your own CMS
It’s an open-source CRM, so it’s supported by thousands of people worldwide
Entirely customizable and expandable
What You Need to Know About CiviCRM Installation
The CiviCRM installation is fairly simple. You can install it on WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla following an installation guide on the CiviCRM website.
You will need to make sure your host has the following features.
Server Requirements for CiviCRM Installation
Here are the server requirements for the installation of CiviCRM. It’s worth reading through, alternatively doing more digging on the official website prior to starting. Some forums have first-hand advice from experienced users and team members also.
WordPress 3.4.x or newer (CiviCRM is not compatible with earlier versions of WordPress) Drupal 7.x (CiviCRM is not compatible with Drupal 5) Joomla 2.5.x or 3.x (CiviCRM is not compatible with Joomla 1.0.x or 1.5.x)
PCRE with Unicode properties support MAMP XCache in-compatibility eAccelerator
Free to Use and Adapt
As an open source project, CiviCRM is free to use and adapt. As of December 2013, the stable release is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License 3 (GNU AGPL 3) and the CiviCRM Licensing Exception.
CiviCRM encourages active participation from you in any way you can manage, even if you’re not a developer. Translations and donations are two of the most popular ways for non-developers to support an open source project like CiviCRM.
Pros and Cons of Using CiviCRM
CiviCRM may not be the right choice for every organization, but it is a powerful aid to those in its target market.
If you’re seeking an open-source, customizable CRM solution with the right mix of tools for fundraising and advocacy, you’ll most likely find lasting value in this application. The following lists break down the most common pros and cons of using CiviCRM.
Integrates easily with an existing CMS site like WordPress
The service is a very robust system for managing contact relationships
Many features are dedicated to non-profit organizations
The records and information stored in CiviCRM can be accessed from anywhere because it is web-based
The CRM requires regular security updates to keep the system secure
Some of CiviCRM’s features can be tricky to set up
Customizing CiviCRM will require you to hire a developer if you don’t have programming knowledge
Top 3 Hosts for CiviCRM
Looking for a host for CiviCRM? If you are looking to put your CiviCRM hosting in good hands, consider the following hosts. Each of the hosts below offers 99.9% uptime, similar pricing, and great customer support. Let’s look at each host’s features in more depth.
As usual, Siteground comes out on top as the best hosting CiviCRM on optimized servers. Their cheapest hosting plans include a professional CiviCRM install or a free CiviCRM website transfer.
On a dirt-cheap shared web hosting plan, you can get WordPress and Joomla automatically installed, updated, and backed up daily. Better yet, they include their SuperCacher to optimize the speed of CMS websites.
For the easiest installation, go with A2 Hosting. Their amazing customer support team will happily install CiviCRM onto your website for you, for free. Their hosting is optimized for WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal so you can choose whichever CMS you want CiviCRM added to.
GreenGeeks may come out on top as the cheapest CiviCRM web hosting company. The service runs fast on their CiviCRM optimized servers. Like SiteGround, they also include a custom installation and a free website transfer. True to their name, GreenGeeks is powered by 300% renewable energy.
Ji's background is in journalism, digital marketing, and internet startups. He has studied at various places, including Yale University. His work focuses on digital marketing, growth, and internet startups. He has written widely for publications including Newsweek.
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Who's Best for CiviCRM Hosting?
We think SiteGround is the best choice for CiviCRM.