Contacts are the main building block of CiviCRM. There are three types of core contacts by default in a standard installation:
- Individuals: any person your organisation wants to keep a record of
- Organisations: this could be another non-profit, a company, a chapter of your organisation, or a committee. You will generally want to create at least one contact of the Organization type to represent your organisation. This is particularly useful when you are configuring memberships
- Households: a family or group of people who share a physical location
Each contact record holds contact information, including:
- name, nickname, greeting, title
- website, email addresses, phone numbers, IM account name
- communication preferences (which methods do they prefer being contacted by, and which methods do they not want to be contacted by).
All of the other building blocks of CiviCRM such as relationships, contributions and groups are connected to contacts in some way, so you can see events that a contact has attended, or what contributions they have made.
You can define further contact types to suit your needs, for example "students", "farms" or "churches". Each contact type you define is based on one of the three core contact types. For example, students would based on the individual contact type, and farms could be based on the organisation contact type, or perhaps on the household contact type, depending on your situation.
A contact can be only one contact type. For example, they can't be a student and a teacher (but contact types are not the only way to differentiate your contacts).
All users of your content management system are also stored in CiviCRM as individuals. Their contact record in CiviCRM is linked to their user record in the CMS (Drupal or Joomla!). Note that only individuals can be linked to user records in your CMS. Organisation and household records in CiviCRM cannot be directly linked to user records in your CMS.
Adding a contact
The simplest way to add a single contact to CiviCRM is to use the navigation menu at the top of any non-public page. To create a new Individual, go to: Contacts > New Individual:
Note that the Contacts menu item allows you to create every kind of contact and contact sub-type.
Clicking on New Individual will bring you to the New Individual form. All of the contact creation forms are similarly arranged, with basic information (name, email etc.) at the top of the form and more specific fields below grouped by type or subject in accordions (such as address fields, communications preferences and any custom fields that you have added for the contact type).
You can fill out as many of these fields as you like, however it's recommended that you have at least a name and email address (it is only required that you have first and last name OR email address). Remember that there is no difference between the contact add and edit screens, so you can always go back and make changes as needed.
Once you have filled out the form, you have the choice of three buttons to click:
- Save will save the contact record and take you to the contact screen.
- Save and New will save the contact and clear the form so that you can add another.
- Cancel will discard the entered information and return you to your CiviCRM dashboard.
The contact screen
The best way to understand contact management is to have a look at the different screens that are used to store and display information about contacts.
You can find a contact from your CiviCRM dashboard (or any other CiviCRM page) by entering part of their name or e-mail address into the Quick search box in the navigation menu. If you leave the search box blank and click the Search button, it will find all the contacts in your database.
Below is a search for "sa" that has returned Sam Jones, as well as other contacts with the letter combination "sa":
Contact Actions Ribbon
Across the top of all contact records is an Actions Ribbon with a variety of buttons that allow you to perform actions related to the current contact. Clicking the Actions button will produce a dropdown menu with a number of actions that can be performed on this contact. For example, you could add a note to this contact, or record a new contribution, meeting or other activity.
Some of the activities you can perform here are:
- To change any information about this contact, go to the editing screen by clicking the Edit button. There is also a button to Delete the contact.
- Click Print Summary to go to a print-friendly view of this contact's information, ready for printing.
- The vCard link will import the contact's details into your email client (don't do this if you want your emails to this person to be recorded in CiviCRM).
- Click Contact Dashboard to access the the screen that allows users to view and modify their own group subscriptions, and see the history of their own contributions, memberships and event registrations.
If you're using CiviCRM in conjunction with Drupal or Joomla, you may also see a link to View User Record. This link is shown when the contact is a registered user of your site. It links to a CMS-specific User Account screen.
A list of tabs underneath the Actions Ribbon break up the contact's information into related chunks. We will cover the contact summary tab here in some depth, and then look at other tabs that may be available to you depending on your configuration.
If you think that some of the tabs are not useful and will not be used in your deployment, you can disable or enable specific tabs from Administer > Global Settings > Site Preferences. If you don't see some of the tabs described below, you may need to enable them. The visibility of some tabs is dependent on which components are enabled in your installation. For example, the Contributions tab will be hidden if the CiviContribute component is disabled.
The summary tab gives you an overview of information about your contact. Here you will find names, addresses and contact details. The information on this page appears fairly straightforward, but take a closer look and you will find some pretty clever stuff is going on.
CiviCRM includes a complete set of fields "out-of-the-box" to store basic contact information. These are usually referred to as built-in fields and include:
- Name fields
- Job title and employer
- Phone numbers, email address(es) and instant messenger screen names
- One or more mailing addresses. If Map this Address appears above an address, you can bring up a map (either using Google Maps or Yahoo Maps, depending on your system's configuration) showing where this person lives. If it doesn't show on your screen, this feature hasn't yet been configured for your site. You can add map support from Administer CiviCRM > Global Settings > Mapping and Geocoding.
- Basic demographics (gender and birth date).
Note one small but important feature of the summary screen: if you have a number of long sets of fields, it may become useful to collapse some of them. In the example below, Communication Details has been collapsed, while Constituent Info - Individuals is expanded. Some field sets can be set to be expanded or collapsed by default. This happens for example when a contact has more than one location entered. The first one is shown by default, the rest of them will be collapsed. Clicking on the header will toggle the status of the field set.
Each contact's name can include the following fields: Prefix, First, Middle and Last Names, Suffix and Nickname. You don't have to use all of them, but they are available in case you want to store all of this information.
If you wish to record a prefix such as Mr., Ms. or Dr. for your contact you can do so using the dropdown menu on the edit screen. If you require other prefixes such as Sir or Father, you can add these to the dropdown menu from Administer CiviCRM > Option Lists > Individual Prefixes (Ms., Mr...). The same applies to name suffixes.
A location is a group of address-related fields consisting of phone, email and postal address field groups.
CiviCRM can hold more than one location for a contact. For example, if a person has a home address, a billing address and a work address, these can be recorded as separate locations. One of these locations will be marked as Primary. It will be used for any postal mailings that you do. You can explicitly choose which location will be primary for a particular person, or let it default to the first one entered. If a person pays you by credit card, the details used for Billing Address in credit card payments will be stored in the Billing location for the contact.
You can share addresses between contacts. For example, you may need to keep information about individual contacts and the organizations where they work. When creating or editing the "work" address for an individual, check the "Share Address With" box. If their employer already exists in your database, you can select them from the quick search box that appears. Otherwise, you can create the employer's organization record on the fly by selecting "New Organization" from the "create new contact" dropdown..
You can also store multiple phone numbers and email addresses for each location. One of these email addresses can be explicitly marked as the address which receives all bulk mailings (e.g. emails your organisation sends using the CiviMail component).
Relationships are connections between contact records in your database. Each connection can be named to describe the nature of the connection, and a contact may have many relationships to other contacts in the database. In the example below you can see a list of Current Relationships as well as a list of Inactive relationships. Contacts can have relationships with set start and end dates. For example, a contact could have a relationship "Committee Chair" to an organisation for a one year period. In order to track past Committee Chairs, you can keep a record of the contact having an inactive Committee Chair relationship.
Another example of a relationship that might be tracked in CiviCRM is the Employee-Employer relationship. Richard is an employee of the organisation Acme Org, and to store this information in the database you can set Richard to be an "Employee of" Acme Org. You do this by creating a relationship between Richard and his employer. Once you do this, you will be able to see this connection from both Richard's and Acme Org's records.
The Employee/Employer relationship is a special one. If you look at the Summary tab again you can see that the Current Employer field shows the name of the employer. This name is a link to the ABC Org contact record. Entering in an Employer in this field is a shortcut way to define an employment relationship. Whenever you fill in the Current Employer field, a record with a matching name will be looked up and the appropriate relationship will be created. If no record for this organisation exists, one will be automatically created before creating the relationship.
The Household Member relationship is used for connecting individuals with households. When editing a contact, you can opt to "Share Address With" a household. You can either select an existing household, or create a new one by selecting "New Household" from the "create new contact" dropdown. When you have opted to use a household address for a contact, a link to the Household's contact record will be displayed along with the usual address information in the contact Summary tab. Using a household address for a contact also automatically creates the Household Member relationship between the contact and household.
Apart from the two special relationship types, you can create and register any other type of relationship. The Relationships tab shows all of a contact's existing relationships with other contacts (individuals, households or organisations in the database).
To create a new type of relationship, go to Administer CiviCRM > Option Lists > Relationship Types. Relationships can be also extended with custom fields if you need to store additional information for them.
Additional powerful characteristics of relationships include the ability to set a start and end date, or disable them manually if they are not valid anymore. This means that you can store the history of relationships in your contact records.
The Activities tab does two things. First, it displays all your interactions with the contact over time; this includes all CiviCRM's built-in activities like event attendance, contributions, membership sign-up and renewal, phone calls, emails and user-defined activities. Second, it allows you to record activities with contacts. Clicking on the icons at the top of the screen (Send an Email, Meeting, Phone call) will bring up a screen where you can enter those details.
This tab can also be used to record any custom activities that you've defined for your CiviCRM installation (from Administer CiviCRM > Option Lists > Activity Types). The ability to define custom activity types, and extend them with custom fields provides a powerful tool for tracking a wide variety of organisation activities. For example, you could choose to track activities such as press releases, press conferences, site visits or voluntary work.
Activities are a great way to store interactions that happen at a specific time, or that link specific people. If it is important for you to know who at your organisation carried out a task, then record it as an activity. Another advantage of activities is that they record when something has happened, which is useful if you need to report on the volume of activities performed during a specific time period. You can record an activity between a given contact and multiple other contacts by adding as many contacts as you like in the With Contact field on the Add Activity form.
Activities usually have their status set to Completed or Scheduled, however you may add other types of activity status as appropriate for your organisation.
The Contributions tab shows any financial contributions made by the contact whose details you are viewing, as well as a summary of the contribution activity of the contact (total amount of contributions over time, total number of contributions, and average amount of contributions).
The Contributions tab also allows you to record off-line contributions using the Record Contribution button, or record a credit card transaction on behalf of the contact (useful if the contribution has been made by phone) using the Submit Credit Card Contribution button. Both of these buttons lead to forms that allow you to select the contribution type in addition to the normal contribution information collected from public contribution pages.
This tab displays the memberships a contact has signed up for. From this tab you are able to add memberships and submit credit card payments for memberships that require a fee. You can also renew or delete memberships from the "more" link on each membership in the contact's existing memberships.
The Events tab displays events related to this contact, whether they are events the contact has registered for, attended, volunteered at or is any other of the user-configurable event statuses.
From this page you can register the contact for an event, and use the Submit Credit Card Event Registration button if the event requires payment. The related payment will then appear up on the contact's Contributions tab in the first row.
You can also modify the event information as it relates to the contact by clicking the Edit link. For example, you can change the contact's event status from "registered" to "attended".
The Groups tab shows the groups that the contact is a member of. Groups can be used in a variety of ways including mailing lists and permissions (ACLs).
You can add and remove the contact from groups, and see a history of groups the contact has unsubscribed or been removed from.
The Status column displays who has added the contact to the group. Whether users can add themselves to a group is one of the settings you can configure when creating a group. When you set a group's visibility to "Public Listings" users can join via Profile forms. You may want to familiarise yourself with the discussion on using Profiles for mailing list sign-ups covered in a later section.
The Notes tab is a place where you can record random bits of information about a contact. Generally you would use custom fields for information you plan to collect about your contacts, but in some cases it may be useful to record additional, ad-hoc notes about a contact. Since this information is unstructured, you should be careful about using the Notes tab, unless you know that you or other people using your CiviCRM implementation will remember to look at that tab. When creating a Note both the subject and the content are free-text fields (i.e. the subject field does not have to be chosen from predefined options).
You can specify "Author Only" privacy for a note. This means that only the person who wrote the note, or someone with "view all notes" permission (Drupal only) can view or edit it.
Tags are one way of categorising contacts in your database (other methods are Custom Data and Groups). You can configure which tags you wish to use for your organisation. You can search on tags and create Smart Groups based on them.
The tags next to Keywords are part of the Keywords Tagset. A Tagset is a specific grouping of tags that you can create. Tagsets are non-hierarchical, and you can create a new tag in a tagset simply by typing a new tag into the field. Existing tags that match what you type will also show up as a list from which you can select.
Change Log tab
This tab gives limited information about changes made to a contact record. It shows the change date and who made the change, but not what was changed.
NOTE: Administrators can use the Contact Logging Report to get detailed information on changes to contact records (who, what and when).
Modifying the contact screens
After working with the contact editing and summary screens for a while, you may realise that there are sections and/or fields that aren't useful for your organisation. The good news is that you can easily hide some fields and sections. For example, if your organisation doesn't need to store demographics information, you can remove it by configuring the Site Preferences:
- Log in to CiviCRM using an account with Administer CiviCRM privileges.
- Go to: Administer CiviCRM > Global Settings > Site Preferences.
- Uncheck the Demographics box under Editing Contacts.
- Click Save.
Similarly, if you want to remove (or add) fields in the postal address section:
- Go to: Administer CiviCRM > Global Settings > Address Settings.
- Check or uncheck fields under Address Editing.
- Click Save.