Identifying Your Needs

This chapter covers some basic strategies for identifying your organisational needs, and how they could be met by CiviCRM. It doesn't go into detail about CiviCRM functionality or how CiviCRM stores data (you will find that in other chapters). Instead, we encourage you to first take a step back and think about your organisation.

Your organisational goals and practices

For now, forget about technology and focus on your organisational goals and processes. Here's a list of questions to start you off:

  • What are the high level goals of your organisation?
  • What tasks are staff involved with on a day to day basis?
  • What activities do staff carry out with your contacts (members, constituents, clients)?
  • What different teams and roles exist within your organisation?
  • What services do you provide to your contacts?
  • How do you communicate with your contacts? (include information flows into and out of your organisation)
  • What happens when you receive someone's contact information?
  • In what ways does money flow in and out of your organisation?
  • Does your organisation have a membership structure?

Understand your "contact relations"

The CRM in CiviCRM stands for Contact Relationship Management. By contact, we mean an individual, household or organisation that your organisation has contact with (you may call them members, constituents, clients or some other term).

Many organisations make the mistake of not thinking about who their contacts actually are. Spend some time identifying all the people involved with your organisation. What different types of people do you interact with, and how do they differ from each other? The better you understand them and their interactions with your organisation, the better you can model them in CiviCRM. Anecdotal or systematic feedback from your contacts may be useful here.

Take advantage of institutional knowledge

In thinking about your contacts and their interactions with your organisation, talk to your co-workers, including those who have been around the longest and those who have just joined. Talk to as many people as possible to get a complete picture of their interactions with all kinds of contacts.

As well as talking to people, look at your organisation's data repositories: your databases, spreadsheets, file servers, address books, and any existing stored information you may have that can help you understand who your contacts are and how they interact with your organisation.

Map your needs to CiviCRM

CiviCRM has been designed to be flexible and adaptable, based on feedback from many different non-profits, but it may not map exactly to the ways that your organisation currently works. Doing things the CiviCRM way could mean adapting your workflow and adopting best practice in non-profit technology. Be pragmatic and flexible and consider whether your current working practices need to change.

It's worth remembering that CiviCRM offers many opportunities to interact with your contacts in ways that you have not previously had. Taking advantage of these new possibilities can lead to positive changes and improvements.