The Ultimate Guide to CiviCRM

CiviCRM is a powerful, open-source Contact Relationship Management (CRM) system. 

This is essentially a tailored database that provides support to the majority of ‘front office’ business tasks, such as membership management, marketing communications, and recording interactions with clients. 

CiviCRM was built for the voluntary sector and advocacy groups, so you can record and manage all the information your organisation needs relating to the kind of people you interact with.

History of CiviCRM 

CiviCRM was created by Dave Greenberg, Donald Lobo, and Michal Mach in 2004. Having worked with non-profit organisations they noticed that other CRM systems on the market were too expensive for most organisations in the sector. 

In making CiviCRM open-source, the founders wanted to break down barriers to enable all nonprofits to access software that will make their work more efficient. 

Zack Rosen and Neil Drumm convinced CiviCRM’s founders to originally build CiviCRM on integration with Drupal’s CMS. 

This meant that developers could use Drupal’s functionality to spend more time on building an effective customer relationship management system (CRM). 

CiviCRM was also created in partnership with CivicSpace Labs, a digital citizen participation tool, and Advokit, a web-based CRM created for grassroots organisations

“By creating a highly qualified network of developers, product managers, customers, and customer advocates, we are working to build CiviCRM into a robust, full-featured, and widely used solution to nonprofit relationship management needs.” - CiviCRM, 2005


CiviCRM Feature Overview 

CiviCRM comes with several notable components that make it stand out as a truly powerful contact management system. 

Altogether there are twelve different features of the CRM: 

  • CiviMember - automates membership management

  • CiviEvent - event management tools

  • CiviContribute - financial reporting 

  • CiviPledge - donations at set times in the future   

  • CiviMail - mass mailer 

  • CiviReport - report automation  

  • CiviCase - tracks and manages internal and external interactions

  • CiviCampaign - tracks multiple campaign activities

  • CiviSurvey - offline survey builder

  • CiviPetition - online survey builder

  • CiviEngage - enhances CiviCampaign for non-profits

  • CiviGrant - tracks incoming funds



CiviMember provides flexible membership management to your organisation. 

It allows you to set up different levels of membership and divide these between different parts of your organisation, for example by region. 

You can then invite people to sign up for the appropriate membership on your website and add their own details to, your system.



This feature provides integrated online event registration and management for paid-for and free events. You can create your own event signup pages with different levels of participation and track participants. 

Using CiviEvent, it's easy to add custom fields for special requirements such as dietary requirements, disability access, etc. 

You can then search for participants by event, event type, participant role, etc., and users can export events as iCal files or subscribe to iCal feeds.



CiviContribute is an online fundraising and donor management component which enables you to track and manage contributions to your organisation. 

You can automatically generate receipts, track thank-you notes, and import and export contribution data to/from other systems like an accounting package. Past contributions are also visible when viewing any contact record.



CiviCRM’s pledge feature enables donors to pledge donations through an online form at a time in the future. 

This can be paid all at once, for example, a yearly donation, or at regular intervals such as a weekly or monthly donation. 

To ensure that payments are received in time, you can also set up automatic email reminders before these are due.  


This robust mass-mailing component allows you to engage your constituents with personalised emails and newsletters. 

Emails can be specifically targeted to certain groups within your CRM, as defined by you, to ensure maximum effectiveness. 

Plus, emails can be set to schedule in advance and be triggered by the completion of activities such as making a payment or signing up.   

CiviMail makes reporting on the success of email campaigns simple, as actions from an email are tracked and recorded in the activity history of recipients. 



This leads us into CiviReport, a feature that allows you to create, schedule, and run reports on your contacts to analyse data. 

A reporting dashboard can be configured on your CRM homepage with visualised pie and bar charts of your data which is a great way of easily sharing important stats with the rest of the team. 

To save you and your colleagues time, an email can be scheduled with the ready-made reports sent straight to your inbox as a CSV or PDF file. 



If you want to track interactions, workflows, and schedule follow-up activities you will need to use the CiviCase tool.

This is mainly used to manage internal processes within an organisation, which would otherwise be complex and time-consuming to communicate cross-team. 

CiviCase combats this, by recording interactions completed by members of staff which can then be assigned to other teams. For example, follow-up communications with members can be scheduled using this tool. 



Using this feature you can seamlessly track multiple elements of a campaign. 

With CiviCampaign you can create surveys and petitions, record the responses of these, link activities to specific campaigns, track votes, and record member engagement with activities.

This is particularly useful if you run several campaigns during the year and you want to be able to view campaign engagement separately from your usual activity. 

CiviSurvey & CiviPetition

Offline surveys can be created with this function and responses are recorded in an activity record of each contact that participates. Plus, reports can be generated from survey data to get a clear perspective on the results.

The key difference between CiviSurvey and CiviPetition is that CiviSurvey only records survey responses from those who are already in your CRM database. 

CiviPetition allows you to create a publicly available online survey which is a good way to collect insights from those who aren’t already members of your organisation. 



As CiviEngage is a Drupal module, you will need to have a Drupal website to use this.

This module was specially built with non-profits in mind, as it provides tools to enhance the features of CiviCampaign in the context of a community-based or civic campaign.  

It is an effective tool to record in-person activities in one place, such as door-to-door canvassing using WalkList reports, voting information, and recording telephone responses.  



CiviGrant tracks incoming funds to your organisation, which makes it a useful tool for organisations that distribute funds. 

Grant application processes are supported with CiviGrant, enabling your organisation to simply manage associated information and reports that come from this.    

Like other reports on CiviCRM, grant reports can be exported as a CSV file if you’d like to share it with others or conduct further analysis.


How we use CiviCRM 

Having worked with this powerful software since 2006, we are industry-leading experts in CiviCRM implementation and customisation. 

At Circle Interactive, we can integrate this system with your website so that online registrations automatically become CiviCRM records and individuals can maintain their own CRM record. 

You can also allow access to the database from any computer with an internet connection so your staff can work remotely, while still maintaining excellent security standards.

Over the years we have enabled a wide range of clients from commercial businesses to non-profit organisations to simplify their workflows, add new functionalities, and efficiently manage online activities by integrating their website with CiviCRM. 

For more information on how we can help your organisation, contact us today. 

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