Activities are a key concept in CiviCRM. Activities track interactions between the organisation and its staff, volunteers, clients or other contacts at a specific point in time. All of CiviCRM's components make extensive use of activities, such as recording contributions, event attendances, membership subscriptions, and emails and for each of these an activity is automatically created.
Several activities are included by default but you can create additional activity types to define specific things that your organisation does and you can add custom fields to activity types to allow specific data to be collected around some these activity types. So you might create activity types: training and interview and set up a custom field set that includes information such as funder, project, etc. for each of these activities. This would enable you to produce reports of all the activities undertaken for a particular funder or as part of a particular project. You could also create a custom field for a particular activity type so that you could classify meetings as staff meeting, client meeting, other organisation's meeting etc. For more on creating custom fields refer to the Custom Fields chapter. For details on producing reports, see the Reporting section.
Activities have the following attributes by default:
- time: activities always happen at a certain point in time
- duration: so you can collect all the time spent on a series of activities
- status: is the activity scheduled, completed, cancelled, etc.
- added by: the person who added this activity, or the contact if they carried out the activity themselves via the website
- assigned to: the person (usually within your organisation) that carried out (or will carry out) the activity (this is often the same as the person who added the activity)
- with contact(s): the contacts in your database that are the subject of the activity.
Activities and groups. There can be some overlap between the use of these two. For example you could choose to record a membership packet being sent to a contact as an activity or simply add the contact to a group "received membership packet". It would probably be better to record this as an activity as then you can record when the membership pack was sent, who sent it, any notes about what the person requested, and so on. You could also use the activity to schedule sending membership packs by setting the status to scheduled.
Activities and eventsIt's also important to understand this distinction. For example should training be recorded as an activity or an event? That probably depends on whether the trainings are delivered to multiple people on a predetermined date or to individuals on a date that is negotiated. Also in contrast to a scheduled event that people attend, an activity can record something that happened in the past or is scheduled in the future. It's nearly always the right choice to record interaction between a staff person and someone contacting your organisation for service.
Creating new Activity Types
Go to the Activity Type Options page Administer -> Option Lists -> Activity and click on Add Activity Type. Fill in the name and select the component you want to use this activity with: simply for contacts or for use in Cases (for more about Cases refer to that section). Finally enable the activity. Changing the weight will make the activity appear higher up or lower down the list of activity types.
Setting up Custom Field Sets for Activities
When setting up custom fields for an activity, you can choose which activity types the custom field set should apply to.
Activity Status Options
The default set of status options is
- Left Message
- Not Required
If you need to add more options this is possible although there is no direct menu link to do so. The path to reach this page is /civicrm/admin/options/activity_type?group=activity_status&reset=1.
However, before you add too many status options, remember that all status options show up on all activity types so think carefully about what you need to add.