CiviCRM

What You Need To Know

This chapter provides information that you need to know before configuring and using CiviContribute. CiviContribute allows you to create online contribution pages that enable your organisation to:

  • accept donations and other financial contributions
  • process membership signups and renewals
  • run specific fundraising campaigns.

Throughout CiviCRM, the term contribution refers to any financial transaction or payment taking place in the system such as a donation, event fee payment or membership fee payment. 

Start by listing the types of contributions your organisation receives (or wants to receive) and identify which of those you want to track using CiviCRM. Then consider the following concepts and answer the key questions listed below before you begin to work with CiviContribute.

Key Concepts 

Data needs and fields

CiviContribute has a set of predefined fields to track contribution information. If you need to track more information about contributions, you can define and use custom data fields. Custom data might be useful to further categorize your contributions or track additional information.

Write down all the information you want to track about your contributions, including reports (described later in this chapter), then compare your data needs to CiviCRM's predefined fields - an easy way to do this is is to look at the screen for adding a new contribution. A lot of useful functionality is built in to the core contribution fields so there's no point in duplicating them with custom fields, but your organisation may have specific needs that require custom fields.

If you do need to create custom fields to meet your needs, see the chapter Creating Custom Fields in the Understanding Your Data section.

Types and accounting codes

CiviContribute categorises contributions by type; examples of contribution types include event fees, membership fees, donations and grants.

To aid integration with your accounting software, you can assign an accounting code to each contribution type. This code is included when you export contributions for import into your accounting package.

Key Questions

Before creating a general contribution page, answer the following questions:

  • What contribution type will be used to categorize contributions received via this page?
  • Do you want to allow people to donate in honor or in memory of someone?
  • What data do you want to capture from your donors and contributors? The only field required by CiviCRM to process a contribution is an email address, but typically you will want to collect additional contact information for the contributor. This could be collected in predefined CiviCRM fields or custom fields that you have created previously, which can be added using a profile. A contribution page can include up to two profiles. Build the profile before you create the contribution page (although you can also complete the page and return at a later time to add a profile). 
  • Can individuals contribute on behalf of an organization? This is most commonly used for membership sign-up pages (discussed later).
  • Do you want to allow people to pledge a certain amount as they contribute? A pledge is a commitment to give a certain amount over a certain period of time - for instance, a fixed amount deducted from a credit card every month. Pledges are a great way to allow your supporters to provide long-term support to your organization.
  • What are the amounts you want people to choose from? Some organizations call these "donation levels" and they're important because they give a potential donor a range and suggestions of what to give. You may also allow donors to complete an "other amount" field and ignore your predefined giving levels.
  • What text do you want to appear in the following:
    • the introduction of the contribution page
    • the footer of the contribution page
    • the text for the thank-you page
    • the automatic email receipt sent to the contributor (optional).
  • Do you want to enable the Tell a Friend feature? This encourages donors to forward the page to friends, which can help to spread your message through their social networks.
  • Do you provide premiums such as T-shirts or tote-bags to donors who give over a certain amount? If you do, set up your premiums within the CiviCRM administration pages first.

Once you have resolved all of these questions, you can create your contribution page. The options and settings you choose should map clearly to the answers you gave.

Other Considerations

A contribution page is normally one element of a larger campaign or project, therefore it is important to consider its wider context.

Membership Sign-up / Donation Page

CiviContribute is closely integrated with CiviMember, the membership management component of CiviCRM. This means that your online contribution pages enable people to join your organization at predefined membership levels. When people do this, they create not only a membership record for themselves but a corresponding contribution record.

You must create all of your membership types and status settings within CiviMember before you build your online membership sign-up page.

Before building your membership sign-up page, you need to answer most of the questions listed in the previous section for the contribution page, and additional questions including:

  • Should this page be used only for membership sign-up purposes, or can people give general contributions as well? Membership-based organizations usually use their contribution page only for membership sign-up, which means they do not allow a variety of contribution amounts and membership sign-up is required.
  • Which membership types allow sign-ups? Some membership types in your organization may be for administrative use only.
If your organization allows organizations as well as individuals to become members, you will need to allow individuals to join on behalf of an organization. Depending on your membership structure, you may want to require this behavior.

Campaign Fundraising Page

As well as facilitating general contributions and membership fees, CiviContribute includes some exciting features for campaign fundraising purposes:

  • widget_1.jpgWidgets showing the progress of a campaign towards its goal can be created and embedded on your web site. 
  • Personal Campaign Pages (PCPs) allow your constituents to create their own fundraising page for your organization. For example, after donating to your organization a donor can elect to create a page with her own photo, text and personal message, then email a link to the page to her networks soliciting support for your organization. This is a powerful way to widely and quickly spread the message about your campaign. CiviContribute has a section that allows you to administer all of the PCPs for your organization as well as moderate PCPs you don't approve of.
  • When someone donates through a personal campaign page, a "soft credit" is given to the owner of the page to recognize the role she played in the contribution. 
  • Lastly, you can provide an "Honor Roll" for your contacts who build PCPs, highlighting the donations made through their pages (donors need to opt in to have their names displayed in the honor roll).

Reporting and evaluation

Reports can support targeted fundraising, reveal ways to improve fundraising methods, and help to measure the financial health of your organization.

As part of the planning process before setting up CiviContribute, consider the reports that would be useful for you to generate. CiviCRM comes with a number of report templates designed to give you information about your donors and fundraising campaigns. Identifying the data required for the reports will help to determine the data you need to collect, and whether you need to create new custom fields for this.