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Our CiviC[RM] duty

by Stephen Mahood Contributions Published on Jul 08, 2015 05:54 PM

This spring, I attended CiviCon, an annual conference focused on the free software (AGPL) program CiviCRM, in the mile high city of Denver, Colorado. If you are not familiar, CiviCRM is an amazing tool, focusing on membership management, but expanding beyond that to events, registrations, email and postal mailings, and non-member contacts. It has many applications -- no pun intended -- for many types of organizations, and it has a great community at its heart.

When organizing for a social movement, as the FSF does, keeping track of your constituents, supporters, and members is crucial. With CiviCRM, organizations can get to know their community by creating events and tracking responses to petitions or surveys. I have implemented CiviCRM instances for various organizations, so when I began working at the FSF, I was delighted to see that CiviCRM is used here, too! The FSF uses CiviCRM to manage member, donor, and supporter data, to send emails, for event registration, and to manage donations -- it is at the core of our work.

I had two goals for CiviCON: to build a stronger relationship between the FSF and the CiviCRM community, and to bring back ideas for improving the FSF's CiviCRM instance.

This was my first time meeting the CiviCRM community in person. Prior to CiviCon, most of my communication with CiviCRM people was via IRC, so an in-person meeting in meat (or tofu) space was a great opportunity to strengthen relationships. When I was not in a session, I was getting to know many of CiviCRM's core developers and figuring out ways to further connect with the community.

A few sessions shared some great ideas in progress, such as Leukemia and Lymphoma Research of the UK's work on an extension that expands a fundraising feature called Personal Campaigns from individual fundraising pages into Team Campaigns, where multiple Personal Campaigns connect to a Team Goal. This is being developed into a CiviCRM extension to expand CiviCRM's core functionality.

Another great extension I discovered is CiviVolunteer. This extension expands CiviCRM's events capability, adding an "Interested in Volunteering" option for event-specific or general volunteering. In addition to recording volunteer interest, it lets organizations record data about volunteers: whether they arrived on time, stayed beyond their scheduled time slot or left early, and even a review of the volunteer. That data is associated with the volunteer's contact record, allowing the organization to better track volunteering within their community. I want to explore using CiviVolunteer for LibrePlanet 2016. Extension development is a great way to expand CiviCRM's features without modifying the core code directly, and can be added to https://www.civicrm.org/extensions for others to use or contribute to.

Along with the excitement of CiviCon itself, I did some community organizing in the form of an FSF member and supporter gathering held after the conference. I was expecting around twenty people, but after the CiviCon folks promoted the event, nearly eighty people showed up. I met some great FSF members and some folks became members for the first time.

All in all, I did my CiviC[RM] duty and I look forward to representing the FSF at another conference. If you happen to be in the Boston area and want to learn more about CiviCRM, every month on the third Tuesday the FSF hosts the Boston CiviCRM meetup in our office. Contact me at mv@fsf.org for more information, and check out the FSF's CiviCRM instance.

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