Another bright and breezy day in Edinburgh for our 3rd meet up; a brilliant afternoon programme and we were a good mix of non-users, users and our expert developer Marcus.
Marcus gave us an overview of CiviCRM and demonstrated its powerful capabilities immediately available - ‘out of the box’. Marcus took us through each of the dashboard tabs and explained step by step how to build a meaningful system and customise it to our own preferences. He also took us through the various extensions, or plugins, available with which users can use to further customise and enhance their systems.
This was great value to users and non-users alike with Marcus answering questions along the way as we debated how we might use a function differently in our own environments.
After continuing discussions over a short coffee break Graham Smith took over the hot seat to show us how he had used CiviCRM to link Student Association elections to the College website working within the restraints of voting regulations and existing college IT systems.
The successful result being that candidates could nominate themselves and upload their own photographs and manifestos and the main student body could access this information using their existing college logins and vote for their preferred candidate.
Graham also wowed us with his work on a presentation on student transport– using CiviCRM to configure data on travel methods, postcodes, mapping tools and views to produce a series of charts showing travel by type and duration.
In our final presentation Graham Clarkson outlined how his work with CiviCRM has evolved over time and streamlined communication and data capture involving 20 separate charities and around 350 abseilers and volunteers. As well as improvements to the management of the event, tangible advantages to participating charities included greatly improved collection of gift aid, and the recent addition of the JustGiving api meant that charities now received donations immediately.
Graham demonstrated another practical example of how CiviCRM has removed the need for laborious spreadsheet manipulation through creating a webform gathering information already within the system to provide a schedule of abseilers’ descent times.
Graham described problems encountered with sending bulk emails to Hotmail accounts, a solution to which was found to be scheduling the system to send out batches of 50 emails every half hour.
There was general discussion about challenges of sending out emails from a 3rd party server and various free to use options were discussed. The CiviCRM community is growing and as extensions are developed they become available for everyone else to use free of charge.
Graham thanked Macmillan Cancer Support for hosting us and everyone for their input. He advised that he would be attending the next CiviCamp in Manchester. It was agreed the next meeting should take place after the event so that Graham can update the group on the latest developments. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 16th October, once again kindly hosted by MacMillan Cancer Support, at the later time of 3.30 which might hopefully be more convenient for those wishing to attend.