CiviCRM Review: Open Source Nonprofit CRM

By Partho, Gaea News Network
Monday, April 6, 2009

civicrmWhile I was dealing with review, I came across a lot of experts comparing it with another open source (customer) relationship management solution, CiviCRM. I had CiviCRM on my list of Top 10 CRM software. It is a web-based CRM tool basically designed to meet the needs of advocacy, non-profit and non-governmental groups. CiviCRM allows organizations to use a for-profit sales tool on nonprofit CRM purposes. The CiviCRM is also used by many NGOs including Amnesty International , Creative Commons and the Wikimedia Foundation.  Let’s get into the CiviCRM to delve more into it.

Here are some of the important features that should be considered before evaluating CIviCRM

Easy customization

CiviCRM forms allows the organizations flexibility to choose the information they gather from the constituents. The user can configure custom forms using data fields according to the configuration they require.

Custom fields

The users can set up their own custom data fields apart from the fields provided in standard constituent record.

Custom code

With CIviCRM the users can create their custom code that will initiate actions, calculations etc within the fields.

CRM integration

CiviCRM can be deployed on Drupal and Joomla! content management systems. This allows integration with other CRM systems.

Task Management

The organization using CiviCRM can chalk out new tasks and get them completed. Specific tasks can be assigned to each staff members. The task will appear on the dashboard of the employee.


CiviCRM offers a native integration for Google or Yahoo! It Maps API to geocode for all the contacts as they are created.


CiviCRM is one the perfect set ups when it comes to non-profit organizations. It is really intuitive to provide out of the box service for such organizations. CiviCRM offers in-built donation pages as well as event registration. It shows better opportunities for extending relationships. It is easy to create groups and smart groups easily in CiviCRM.


CiviCRM is not too adept with data management. This can be a hindrance for organization looking for extensive data management requirements.  Reporting is a concern with CiviCRM. It doesn’t integrate membership and payment information with Quickbooks. It also lacks use an external report-writing package that allows easy creation of custom reports.

Competitors is one of core competitors. CiviCRM is no comparison to the much more sleek and polished, thrives with huge ecosystem add-on that are missing in CiviCRM. Mot significant difference between the two software seems the member management out of the box. But, for a nonprofit set up that has a different approach to data management, CiviCRM could be a better selection.


Despites it’s shortcomings CiviCRM has a core nonprofit design that makes it perfect for nonprofit organizations. If you have something more to provide, give in. .

May 17, 2010: 1:52 pm

I’m at the beginning of the process of looking for a CRM system that will integrate with a Drupal-based Web site that a client is building, so this is a useful article.

Others have mentioned SugarCRM and Salesforce, but I’m not sure I would like to try and integrate those two with a MySQL-based Drupal installation (thoughts to the contrary welcome).

One point - The section headed “CRM integration” - surely that should be “CMS integration”, no?

December 2, 2009: 5:22 am

It is true that salesforce is not open source, it does however allow up to 10 free users for charity organisations and 80% off all further seats. This is a strong consideration for any NFP.

Another contender would have to be SugarCRM in its Community incarnation. It is a strong contender to salesforce and has useful features such as a GUI for building custom modules and strong developer resources.

Extending CiviCRM out is an uphill challenge, largely due to the lack of clear documentation. We are at the planning phase of our CRM and would love to use CiviCRM, largely for its community focus… but with some bespoke areas the learning curve and cost might just be too high.

Peter Davis
October 5, 2009: 6:13 pm

It would also be worth noting that the Reporting functionality of CiviCRM had a serious upgrade with 2.2.8 and is a central element of the recently released 3.0
It may be worth your re-reviewing CiviCRM ;-)

April 10, 2009: 3:17 am

> with the exception of salesforce being open source
You are right, that was a mistake. Salesforce is not open source. It has been corrected. Thanks for finding it.

April 8, 2009: 8:49 pm

As a developer and integrator of Drupal/CiviCRM for other non-profits, we agree with everything you said… with the exception of salesforce being open source. We were not aware of this and couldn’t find any mention of it on their website.

Reporting is a huge pain point for CiviCRM but it is slowly being addressed. Huge improvements have been made recently with respect to custom searches.

Another weakness we’ve seen is the lack of Quickbooks integration. It’s on our roadmap and something we want to tackle and contribute back.

With that being said, we feel that CiviCRM has a strong community of developers and users that help foster a steady stream of iterative improvements and features. This is largely due to the commitment from the core CiviCRM developers and the very nature of open source software.

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