Installation & Basic Set-up

Before reading further, please be aware that much of the information contained here is intended for technicians and may be difficult to understand if you have little or no experience in setting up web applications. If you don't understand this topic, you may wish to either seek help, or point your organisation's technical staff to this material.


CiviCRM must be installed on a computer that has been configured with a web-server (such as Apache or ngnx), PHP 5.2 or later, and MySQL. Some people prefer to try out CiviCRM on their own local computer before installing it on a dedicated web-server. If you are doing this and don't have the per-requisites just mentioned, you can download packages from the Internet such as WAMP, XAMPP, MAMPP and LAMP, which will quickly install an Apache web server, PHP, and MySQL. (The first two packages are for Windows and the second two are for the Macintosh and Linux respectively).

Before you can begin installation, you need to decide whether you are going to use CiviCRM integrated with Drupal or Joomla!. Refer to the appropriate section in the online CiviCRM Installation Guide for the latest system requirements and specific installation steps:

Network Access

Once you are ready to start using CiviCRM in your organization, you'll probably want CiviCRM to be available on the Internet. However, some organizations only want internal staff to have access. In this case they may choose to install CiviCRM on an intranet or local area network.


New versions of CiviCRM are released two or three times a year, and you will need to apply upgrades to your CiviCRM site periodically in order to take advantage of new features and improvements. Some upgrades contain security fixes and it is crucial that these are applied in a timely manner. It's important that you plan for the resources (people and time) required to apply upgrades to your site. You need to plan on testing upgrades on a copy of your live site to make sure the process runs smoothly. It's also critical to make backups of your site and database prior to running an upgrade on your live site even if you had tested the process on a test site.

Refer to the appropriate section of the online CiviCRM Installation Guide for specific upgrade procedures. Be sure to select the procedure that is targeted for the environment you are running (Drupal or Joomla!), and the version you are upgrading to.


Now that you have CiviCRM installed and running on your web-server, it's time to review the initial configuration tasks which allow you to customize CiviCRM for your organization.

You can easily access each of the configuration screens described in the following screen from the Configuration Checklist. Log in to your CiviCRM site and navigate to Administer CiviCRM > Configure > Configuration Checklist. This section will cover the general tasks, while component-specific configuration will be covered in each component section.



Localization involves adapting CiviCRM for use in a specific country or language by translating the text displayed on the screen and setting region specific formats for dates and money (including currency). By default, CiviCRM is localized for the United States. If you are using CiviCRM in a different country, need to store contact addresses that appear in countries other than the United States, or want to use CiviCRM in another language, you will need to review and update the values on this screen.

CiviCRM has been translated into a number of different languages. These translations are contributed by community members. So your first step is to determine if a complete translation exists for the current version by visiting the Translation Server home page at If you find a completed translation, you can download it and select it on this screen. Otherwise you will need to consider whether you have resources for contributing a translation.

It is also possible to configure your site to support multiple languages. In this mode, your users will be able to choose from a list of available languages after logging in. You can also create and store multi-language versions of text. Examples include custom field labels, an online contribution page, campaign information, and event descriptions.

Further reading:
Localization overview -

Domain Information

Use this screen to enter identifying information for the organization or entity which "owns" this CiviCRM installation. The organization name and address are used to identify your organization in CiviMail mailings when you include the and domain.address tokens.

You should also enter a valid email address belonging to your organization, which will be used as the From field in system-generated (automated) emails.

Site Preferences

This screen allows you to modify the screen and form elements for the following tasks:

  • Viewing Contacts - Controls the tabs displayed when viewing a contact record. EXAMPLE: If your organization does not keep track of Relationships, deselect this option to simplify the screen display. Tabs for Contributions, Pledges, Memberships, Events, Grants and Cases are also hidden if the corresponding component is not enabled.
  • Editing Contacts - Controls the sections included when adding or editing a contact record. EXAMPLE: If your organization does not record Gender and Birth Date for individuals, then simplify the form by deselecting Demographics.
  • Contact Search - Controls the sections included in the Advanced Search form. EXAMPLE: If you don't track Relationships, you will not search for that section. Simplify the form by deselecting this option.
  • Contact Dashboard - Allows your constituents to view the groups they are subscribed to, their contribution history, event registration information and more. You can control the sections that should be included in the dashboard here. EXAMPLE: If you don't want constituents to view their own contribution history, deselect that option.
  • WYSIWYG Editor - The editor provided to users to enter text in fields that allow HTML formatting (such as the introductory section for your online contribution pages). You can choose either CKEditor or TinyMCE. It's a good idea to try out both and see which is more comfortable for you and your users.
  • Individual Display Name - Display name format for individual contact display names.
  • Individual Sort Name - Sort Name format for individual contact sort names.

Address Settings

CiviCRM allows you to modify the default fields for adding and editing contact and event address data. You can also change the address field layout used for screen display and mailing labels. Review the out-of-the-box defaults by adding a new contact record and noting the address fields provided on the form. Save the record and note the order in which the fields are displayed on the Contact Summary screen. If you plan on generating mailing labels for contacts, review the label layout (select Mailing Labels from the -actions- drop-down after doing a search using the Find Contacts menu option).

After reviewing the default fields and layouts, review the Address Settings screen and make changes as needed.

  • Mailing Labels - Controls formatting of mailing labels here. The default format is:
    {}{, }{contact.state_province}{ }{contact.postal_code}{}

    You must include the {contact.addressee} token here in order to include the name of the addressee in your labels. Users will be able to select from a variety of label types corresponding to the label manufacturer code when they generate the labels from a list of contacts. It's a good idea to test your format with the type of label and printer you plan on using to verify spacing.
  • Address Display - Controls the layout of contact and event location addresses displayed on CiviCRM screens. The default format is:
    {}{, }{contact.state_province}{ }{contact.postal_code}{}

    This format applies to event locations, despite the use of the contact record type in the layout. The {contact.address_name} token is particularly useful for events where you need to include a location name (e.g. "Smithson Hall").

  • Address Editing Fields - Modify the available address editing fields here. You can hide fields that you don't plan on using in order to simplify the forms. EXAMPLE: If you don't plan on recording OpenIDs for contacts, you can deselect that field.
    • Street Address Parsing - CiviCRM uses the US Postal Service's (USPS) Postal Addressing Standards to parse an address into fields to hold the address elements: Street Number, Street Name, and Apt/Unit/Suite. It's best \to enter address information that conforms to the Postal Addressing Standards, not only for consistency in your data, but also to best take advantage of the the Street Address Parsing function. You can edit and or view the parsed address by clicking on Edit Address Elements next to the Street Address field of the Address Area of the Summary tab when viewing a contact record.  You can learn more about USPS' Postal Addressing Standards at
  • Address Standardization - CiviCRM includes an optional feature for interfacing to the United States Postal Services (USPS) Address Standardization web service. You must register to use the USPS service at If you are approved, they will provide you with a User ID and the URL for the service. The URL provided by USPS will not be prefixed with "http://". When entering this URL into the CiviCRM settings field, you must prefix it with "http://".

Mapping and Geocoding

CiviCRM includes support for both the Google and Yahoo mapping services. These services allow your users to display contact addresses and event locations on a map. To enable this feature, select your mapping provider and obtain a key for your site from that provider.

Once a mapping provider is enabled, your contact and event records will be automatically geocoded (the latitude and longitude for that address is inserted) as you add or edit address data.

Search Settings

These let you adjust search behaviors such as the use of wildcards and which data to include in quick search results. Adjusting search settings can improve performance for large datasets.

A wildcard character is a special character that can be used to substitute for any other character or characters in searches. CiviCRM allows you to use the percent (%) character to substitute for zero or more characters, and the underscore (_) character to substitute for any single character. Wildcards are useful for broadening your search results.

For example, typing 'Volunteer%' as your Activity Subject will match any record whose subject starts with "Volunteer" (e.g. "Volunteer for Open House" or "Volunteering Opportunities").

  • Automatic Wildcards - By default, when users search for contacts by Name, the Search interface treats the text as if it was surrounded by percent signes. EXAMPLE: Searching for 'ada' will return any contact whose name includes those letters - 'Adams, Janet', 'Nadal, Jorge', etc. Disabling this feature will speed up searches significantly for large databases, but will make users explicitly use wildcard characters ("%" or "_") for partial name searches.
  • Include Email - By default, when users search contacts by Name, the Search interface also searches for the text in email addresses. Disabling this feature will speed up searches significantly for large databases, but users will need to use the Email search fields (from Advanced Search, Search Builder, or Profiles) to find contacts by email address.
  • Include Nickname - By default, nicknames are automatically not included when users search by Name. Change this value to Yes if you want nicknames to be included.
  • Include Alphabetical Pager - If disabled, the alphabetical pager will not be displayed on the search screens. This will improve response time for search results on large datasets.
  • Include Order By Clause- If disabled, search results will not be ordered. This will improve response time for search results on large datasets significantly.
  • Default Contact Search Profile - You can select a Profile to override the columns displayed by default in Find Contacts search results.
  • Smart group cache timeout - Smart groups are basically saved searches. The list of contacts for each smart group is cached in the database in order to avoid running the saved search every time you access a smart group. This field determines the number of minutes to maintain the cache before refreshing it. The default value of 0 means the cache is emptied immediately when any contact is edited or a new one is added. If your contact data changes frequently, you may want to try setting this to a value of 5 minutes (or even longer) to reduce processing load on your server. The drawback of delaying the refreshing of the cache is that old data will still be served up to users for a few minutes after new data is added.
  • Autocomplete Contact Search - If enabled, selected fields will be displayed in auto-complete dropdown lists and the "Quick Search" box on the navigation menu. The contact name is always included.

Miscellaneous: Version Checking, reCAPTCHA, Use Trash, Logging

Use the Miscellaneous Settings screen to configure and control the following behaviors:

  • Dashboard Cache Timeout - The number of minutes to cache dashlet content on the dashboard.
  • Contact Trash and Undelete - If enabled, deleted contacts will be moved to the trash (instead of being destroyed). Users with the proper permission are able to search for the deleted contacts and restore them (or delete them permanently).
  • Logging - If enabled, all actions performed on non-cache tables will be logged (in the respective log_* tables). By default, these tables will be created in the same database. However you can configure CiviCRM to write logging tables to a different database by editing your site's civicrm.settings.php file. Specify the separate logging database in the CIVICRM_LOGGING_DSN setting. After enabling this feature you can review changes to contact records using the Contact Logging Report. Go to Reports > Reports Listing > Contact Logging Report (Summary).
  • Version Checking and Statistics Reporting - This feature automatically checks the availability of a newer stable version of CiviCRM. New version alerts are displayed on the main CiviCRM Administration page. Statistics about your CiviCRM installation are also reported anonymously to the CiviCRM team to assist in prioritizing ongoing development efforts. The following information is gathered: CiviCRM version, versions of PHP, MySQL and framework (Drupal/Joomla!/standalone), and default language. Record counts (but no actual data) are also reported. You can set this field to No if you are not comfortable with having this information reported for your site.
  • Attachments - You can increase or decrease the maximum number of files (documents, images, etc.) that can be attached to emails, activities, and grant records. The default value is 3.
  • File Size - Maximum size of a file (documents, images, etc.) which can attached to emails or activities. Note that your PHP configuration files, php.ini, should support at least as big a file size as the value specified here.
  • reCAPTCHA - reCAPTCHA is a free service that helps prevent automated abuse of your site by requiring users to read a random pair of words and type them into the form. To use reCAPTCHA on public-facing CiviCRM forms, sign up at, enter the provided public and private reCAPTCHA keys here, then enable reCAPTCHA under the Advanced Settings section in a Profile where you want it used.

If you want to use reCAPTCHA protection for online contribution, membership signup or event registration forms, you'll need to configure a Profile with reCAPTCHA enabled, and then include it in those forms.

Contact Types

Here you can modify the names of the built-in contact types (Individual, Household, Organizations), and create or modify "contact subtypes" for more specific uses (e.g. Student, Parent, Team, etc.).

Sending Emails

CiviCRM will use the default From address defined here when sending automated emails. If you've already entered an email address in the Domain Information screen, that address will be listed here (as illustrated on the leftmost field of the following screenshot).


When users send an email using CiviCRM, their primary email address is used as the From address by default. However, they can also select one of the general email addresses defined here as an alternative.

Outbound email

If you are sending emails to contacts using CiviCRM, you need to enter settings which allow CiviCRM to connect to your mail server. Such emails include sending receipts to contributors, sending confirmations to people registering for events, and using CiviMail to send bulk mailings.

CiviCRM supports three different methods of connecting to a mail server: mail (the built-in PHP mail function); SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol); and Sendmail. Each method requires that you enter specific settings. If you're unfamiliar with these terms, or unsure of the correct values for these settings, check with your system administrator, ISP or hosting provider.

You should always send a test email after you enter or modify the settings. Simply click "Save and Send Test Email"(shown in the following screenshot). An email will be sent to the email address associated with your user login account. The From email address will be the default From address you've configured in the previous section.


If CiviCRM is unable to send the test email, you will see a message on your screen with the specific error and some suggestions for trouble-shooting the problem.

Disabling outbound email

If you do not want users to send outbound emails from CiviCRM at all, select "Disable Outbound Email". However, if you disable outbound email, and you are using Online Contribution pages or online Event Registration, you will need to turn off the automated receipting and registration confirmation features (these are enabled by default). Otherwise your constituents will see error messages after they've completed a contribution or registration.

See Email System Configuration for more details.

Payment Processors

Payment processors are companies that handle credit card transactions for merchants and non-profit organizations and that transfer funds to the organization's bank account. If you plan on using CiviCRM to accept online contributions, online membership signup and renewal or online event registration, you will need to select and configure a payment processor for your site.

CiviCRM includes support for several different processors, and provides a way for third-party developers to add support for additional processors based on their clients' needs. Each processor has their own pricing structure and features, and you will want to investigate each available option to determine the best fit for your organization. Refer to the "Contributions" section for a list of factors to consider in selecting a processor.

The actual steps involved in configuring and testing your payment processor connection are different for each processor. For more information, visit: 

Permissions for anonymous users

Note: This section applies to Drupal sites only.

If you are using CiviCRM with Drupal, you will need to review Drupal's user permissions to ensure that people can get to your signup forms, contribution pages, membership pages and event registration pages.

You must be an administrator for your Drupal site to review and modify user permissions. Log in to your Drupal site, and navigate to Administer > User Management > Permissions.The following screen is displayed.



Review each of the permissions listed. You should enable them for the anonymous user role if you want these features to be accessible to people who visit your site without logging in--outsiders registering for membership or events, for instance:

  • Make online contributions:
    If you plan to use CiviContribute and want to allow online contributions, enable this permission by checking the box.
  • View event info and Register for events:
    If you plan to use CiviEvent and want to allow online event registration, enable both of these permissions.
  • Profile listings and forms:
    If you want to collect contact information from constituents or expose a searchable directory using a profile, you must enable this permission.
  • Access all custom data:
    You must enable this permission for any role which you want to view or for which you want to edit custom data fields. This permission sounds like one that should be given out with care, but in reality most sites give this permission to anonymous users because it is required for simple tasks like filling in information about themselves in the data fields you include in the event registration process. If your site uses Profiles that include custom fields, make sure the roles that need to access these Profiles have this permission.

Now that you have reviewed all the basic configuration tasks, you're ready to begin exploring the ways in which you can record and use contact data.

System Workflow Templates

Review and modify the templates used for system-generated emails, including contribution receipts and event registration confirmations.