An interview with the Organization for Transformative Works
Cividesk recently spoke with the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), a nonprofit run by and for fans to provide access to and preserve the history of fan work and fan cultures. OTW is an all-volunteer organization that is based entirely online. Volunteers from around the world work together via e-mail, chat, and cloud-based project management software, in most cases without ever meeting in person. Kristen Murphy is the membership data specialist for OTW’s Development and Membership committee and shared her experience using CiviCRM.
What systems or programs were you using before CiviCRM?
OTW was founded in 2007, and at that time, we used a hand-coded PHP form to collect online donations. All our contact records were stored in eBase, an open source CRM, although it was not cloud based and ultimately, not a good long term solution for us. Without a physical office, we needed a cloud-based CRM that multiple volunteers could access from their own locations. At that time, we also had a very perfunctory website, and decided to develop a new site in Drupal. This change led us to find CiviCRM since we were looking for open source solutions that would integrate with the new Drupal site.
Why did you choose Cividesk as your service provider?
When we first started using CiviCRM, it worked pretty well for several years to host it ourselves. However, CiviCRM is fairly specialized and since our technical staff are all volunteers, we were often stretched thin with other high-priority web projects and it was difficult to stay on top of the upgrades and bug fixes. We spent a fair amount of time on the CiviCRM community forums asking questions and trying to get help for different problems we encountered. When we started having an increasing number of database errors that we weren’t able to fix by ourselves, we decided to outsource to a specialist. By this point, we were well established and had the funds to do so. We researched CiviCRM service providers through the CiviCRM website. We were looking for a provider that offers hosting and ongoing customer support services. We chose Cividesk and started working with them in the spring of 2015.
How was the implementation and training provided by Cividesk?
Cividesk imported the data from our old installation of CiviCRM into the latest stable version that was configured to meet our needs. They also imported donations that had been recorded in Paypal. The training provided with the QuickStart plan is one of the major reasons that we chose Cividesk. As the main user for OTW, I felt that this was a good source of training for other staff members. Since I’ve worked with CiviCRM a long time, I already had experience with all the basics of the various modules, but I found the training sessions were well designed for new users and Cividesk staff did a good job in breaking the materials down into sections that focused on the different modules.
It’s also great having someone to help with the upgrades and the support. I like having the help resource to ask questions if there’s a problem, rather than having to research it on the forums. There are phases when I have lots of questions, especially during our fundraising drive.
Which functionalities do you find most helpful and how has your organization benefited from using CiviCRM?
Our ability to send mass emails has greatly improved since we made the transition to Cividesk as our service provider. We have a week long membership drive twice a year and during those times we are actively soliciting members through email. These drives are the big fundraising appeals for OTW. When we were self-hosting CiviCRM, these emails took a long time to go out and were a heavy burden on our mail server. Now, with the help from Cividesk including the increased server speed and the integration of a professional email delivery service used with CiviMail the emails complete very quickly and it’s been a big improvement.
We also collect donations through online contribution pages that we have in many different languages all created in CiviCRM. We have an active translation community within our group of volunteers who worked on these translations. We recently added a second payment processor option for credit cards, since we used to have all transactions through Paypal. This has helped with receiving contributions from certain parts of the world where they are not allowed to use Paypal to send money to the US. It’s been good to be able to serve both groups of people, those who prefer Paypal and those who want to pay with a credit card.
Could you provide some advice to other organizations who are considering CiviCRM?
CiviCRM is a complex program that functions in many different ways and consequently, it has a big learning curve. I would recommend using what works for your specific organization’s needs and having a plan for how you are going to use it. Make sure to test the various features such as the online payment before you go live with your online pages and take advantage of the online training and of the forums available through the CiviCRM community. I would also highly recommend using a service provider and having CiviCRM hosted with experts if you don’t have in-house technical resources for the job. Cividesk’s technical support takes a big burden of time and effort off of our volunteers and allows them to focus on accomplishing the goals of our organization.