What is CiviCRM

CiviCRM is a web-based CRM (Contact Relationship Manager) or as the CiviCRM people call it a Constituent Relationship Manager. It has good progressive roots, growing out of the Dean campaign in 2004 and since then the development and implementation has taken off. It is not only being used by political parties and campaigns, but by a wide range of non-profit organizations both large and small. CiviCRM allows you to manage contacts, memberships, contributions, events and emailings. CiviCRM is free and open source software.


  • Web Based so multiple users can access the information at the same time from different locations.
  • Provides a single source of information on a contact. Change the phone number for a contact and it is reflected in every document for the contact.
  • Detailed documentation and large user support base.
  • Highly flexible and customizable.
  • Designed for non-profits such as political parties.
  • Free!


  • The flexibility and customizability makes it challenging to configure.
  • Steep learning curve on how to configure a site.
  • Requires a support person or contracting with a company to setup and maintain.
  • Users must be trained on using CiviCRM.
  • Cost for web hosting.
  • The ISP for a existing web site may have to be changed if it does not support the requirements for hosting CiviCRM

You can try out CiviCRM by on the CiviCRM Test Site. I find that I learn better by doing, so I set up a prototyping sandbox instance of CiviCRM on my desktop computer which will be the topic of my next posting. In the meantime you can look at what other information I have found about CiviCRM by subscribing to my CiviCRM tag on del.icio.us.