CiviCRM: CMS Integration Example

I discovered CiviCRM this past Tuesday at The Social Impact Meetup at CSI [The Centre for Social Innnovation]. What makes CiviCRM compelling is that it is a complete Customer Relationship Management system integrated well with some of the most popular CMS software – Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress.

CMS systems have taken off in the past 10 years with 34% of the World’s websites being powered by either Drupal, Joomla or WordPress. In the last 3 years all of the CMS systems have worked to expand their connectivity to major software systems as part of  their SaaS offerings.

For example, WordPress as the most popular CMS with 50% marketshare has added REST API capabilities to the existing Ajax API  and XMLRPC connectivity options. Now more Integrators are offering WordPress-based SaaS solutions.

This trend is of particular interest to Governments, NGOs, and Civic Organizations where there is the need to foster connectivity and system support to their constituents. These organizations are looking to link  various Open Source software with their WordPress or other CMS systems.

Open Source CiviCRM turns out to be a most telling example of this type of integration. CiviCRM’s provides a basic core set of services for an NGO such as  contacts, relationships, activities, groups of constituents , activity tags and roles/permissions for its members. Administration  components help keep track of contributors (CiviContribute), events (CiviEvent), member lists (CiviMember), cases (CiviCase), grants (CiviGrant), campaigns (CiviCampaign), petitions (CiviPetition),  various mailing campaigns(CiviMail) .  The CiviReports and associated dashboards allow an organization management team to keep abreast of all the key performance areas within the organization.

Whats In the WordPress CiviCRM

First it is important to note that CiviCRM has extensive documentation of its core services along with an excellent guide to integration with WordPress:

Now CiviCRM provides interfaces for two major users – Constituents or Clients and Managers/Administrators. The following Accordion shows the how CiviCRM serves these two groups.

The Lineup of CiviCRM Features

Admin Operations Dashboard

This dashbaord provides overview of the CIVICRM System


Managers can check the status of Constituent, Events, Campaigns , etc.

Contacts Setup - Student Entry Form
CiviCRM allows for 3 default Contact types – Student, Parent, Staff. Here is the Contact form creation screen:

There are basic customizations allowed for CiviCRM forms.
Membership Operations Form
Membership can be filled in centrally by Staff:

Again the fields used can be customized.  and their are numerous aids to data entry including Date pickers and dropdown option selectors.

Client Membership Entry Form
The members entry form can also be done online with credit crad data entry using any of 15 pay processor tools including Paypal. There is extensive documentation on payments. This makes sense because Contributions and Campaigns provide alternative donation collection routines in CiviCRM.
Contributions Administration
CiviCRM provides extensive support for donation contributions on a variety of plans with constiuents. Here is so asmaple set of option settings:
As you can see just like with other WordPress PageBuilders, CiviCRM allow users to create contribution pages with the full WP Visual Editor with a variety of shortcodes at the users disposal. In addition those same shortcodes can be used with WordPress Pagebuilder like Elementor, Themify Builder or Visual Composer.
Mailng Campaigns
CiviCRM supports a wide range of mailing options for operational  donation and event campaigns. This is truly feature rich matching mail Chimp and other mail house approaches. Here is a look at the basic offerings:
And again,CiviCRM provides a complete set of documentation on the mailing options.

Events Sponsorship
What really distinguishes CiviCRM is its support for a variety of donation methods. The support for Events is quite complete so an organization can rollout on the website a complete event without having to resort to Eventbrite or other 3rdpart event promoters:
There is a complete set of reports for tracking an event. This is first class support for events like campaigns.

Pledge/Donation Tracker

This is one of several summary reports on the status of Pledge Campaigns and other Donations. So operational donation reporting is well supported in CiviCRM.

Custom Reporting
CiviCRM has a bettery of predefined reports as seen here:
But add to these predefined reports the ability to use such plugins as TablePress or WPDataTables to produce a variety of  additional reports. This is the payoff for WordPress integration – the huge 45,000+ plugins library inevitably has 2-3 relevant  ones for use with CiviCRM.

In sum, CiviCRM offers Social Organizations a remarkably complete and customizable set of operational features that can be used by small to full-scale NGO sized operations. The fact that CiviCRM interfaces well with all three major CMS [Drupal, Joomla and WordPress all provide solid integrations]gives the system a robust environ for deployment. So the esential question is how good is the CiviCRM support services.

Documentation and Support

One of the benefits for the Center for Social Innovation in Toronto is that it has Joe Murray as a member. Joe is a major contributor to CiviCRM. In addition, Joe has also co-written the latest book on Using CiviCRM – 2nd Edition. Finally Joe headsup JMAConsulting, a CiviCRM development shop in Toronto.

A  danger in using Open Source systems is that the documentation to some OS systems can be of mixed caliber. Not so in the case of CivicCRM which takes a 4 pronged approach to support and document its system. First there is a great introductory landing page that describes the key features and benefits. Second, CiviCRM has a great set of online demos which show off various standalone features and another set demo-ing ech of the CMS integrations. Third, the documentation is not only thorough but also available in French as well. Fourth, CiviCRM has a Find an Expert service which highlights organizations that are contributors, partners and sponsors to CiviCRM and can offer consulting services.

Summary

CMS systems like WordPress are coupling their fast improving pagebuilding and operational mangement capabilities with  some substantial  enterprise systems. This trend is seen with CiviCRM which is like the Open Source Business Intelligence systems such as Pentaho or JasperReports. These Open Source systems provide a)low cost intoduction to sophisticated functionality in their field; b)consulting and support services to aid and abate successful implementations and c)better integration with other IT systems. This latter point is what makes CiviCRM particulary attractive with  its strong integration with CMS systems which gives potential customers a close tie in with their own development resources. Finally, CiviCRM helps to breakdown the lingering nemesis in large-scale systems – isolated silos of information. Fortunately for often cash strapped IT Systems in Social Organizations there is a viable opensource solution set with CiviCRM.
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Software Name
CiviCRM
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Linux
Software Category
CMS Extension for Social Organization
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