Marketing CiviCRM

2011-09-02 03:33
Written by

I’ve just come out of the Code and Book Sprint in Lincolnshire where we made good progress on lots of fronts and had a really good time. It was great to put faces to names and share food as well as ideas. A major breakthrough means D6 support should continue, while the main CiviCRM manual got a thorough overhaul and spawned a new Developer Manual, and some good thinking made serious improvements in CiviCase scalability. All good stuff and it all drives the project forward on one level or another. However, for me one of the most important things that happened was a much smaller conversation in the kitchen - missed by many - about Marketing.

We reviewed the marketing output of the last year, which didn’t take very long, and set to thinking what we can do to move things forward. Filled with the excitement of the moment (or perhaps with my workload radar impaired by the long days) I volunteered to get things going with a blog post, some ideas and organising a regular irc meeting for anyone interested in this aspect of the project.
One of the issues seems to be that the wonderful CiviCRM community provides an easy way for its more technical members to start contributing in simple stages:
  • take part in a forum discussion
  • answer a how to question on the forum
  • find a bug and report it
  • find your next bug and provide a patch
  • before you know it folks will be hassling you to write unit tests
However, for those folks with less technical skills, there isn’t such a clear structure and some may feel daunted by all the discussions of hooks, API calls, and Ajax. So this post is partly aimed at those potential members of the community: people who would like to contribute but are probably end users rather than programmers. It’s also aimed at commercial operations like ours who do have some in-house design and marketing resources. The message here is that if you’re making money out of consulting on and implementing Civi, then please contribute back with some input on this kind of initiative.
First of all I should point out that there is actually stuff happening. The website and indeed CiviCRM’s logo and identity are being reviewed. Rayogram has been working with the core team on a new ID and site architecture in a pretty major redesign project In the last few months a couple of us at Circle Interactive  have also produced an updated version of the Introduction to CiviCRM pdf. We printed this and gave it out at CiviCon and I think it’s a useful document but it could almost certainly be better. Michael McAndrew and I also put together a ppt for an event we did with LASA earlier in the year. This was a useful starting point but definitely needs loads more work. On the book sprint we started work on a booklet aimed at human rights organisations which is conceived as the first in a series aimed at specific sectors. For CiviCon we also produced banners, t-shirts and bags. In fact we spent several hundred pounds of sponsorship money on this kind of thing and it felt pretty good. I think the conference looked professional and made the community feel positive about itself. Pats on the back to all involved in the above.
But let’s just put this in perspective for a minute. The most recent figure I could find with a really cursory google was that SalesForce spent over $250m on marketing in 2007 Now that’s a lot of chocolate but then some further investigation dug up the last published annual report which revealed that this had increased to $534m in 2009
Wow - that’s quite a lot of catching up to do!
So if you think you can contribute to improving our marketing in any way whatsoever, please step up now – your community needs you! If you’re bit of a PR or marketing expert or a copywriter or a graphic designer and you’ve somehow got involved in CiviCRM, now is the time to comment on a blog and start the conversation. Of course you don’t have to be an expert to have an opinion and you don’t have to be a designer or a copywriter – you might just have access to one who would be prepared to help out.
CiviCRM is a wonderful tool – in the recent CRM Idol contest it has attracted high praise in the first round of comparisons: they called CiviCRM "an excellent, well thought out product" and say the interface is "one of the best we’ve seen for non-profit CRM applications anywhere". It also has an incredible community and I think we can take on the likes of Salesforce, Blackbaud and Convio because we have a great product and better model for non-profits that involves sharing, openness and collaboration. That’s not to say that there’s no room for people to make money from consultancy and other services: CiviCRM needs the commercial ecosystem as well.
But realistically we don’t have a marketing budget. So we have to act smart rather than spend money. Our conversation in the kitchen identified a few things that would help:
  • Case studies for the new website
  • More, better, sector-specific documentation
  • More webinars
  • Videos – how to’s and why to’s on YouTube and Vimeo
  • Presentations uploaded on the site and Slideshare
  • Blogs on and elsewhere
  • Tweets (use the #civicrm hashtag but also try #drupal #nptech etc.)
  • People promoting Civi on mailing lists and forums
  • Presence at conferences and exhibitions
  • Press coverage
Some of this is stuff that any of you can do - some needs more specialist skills. All of it needs some coordination and that’s why we need to identify a few people who can help oversee activity with a couple of hours here and there and a regular monthly online meetup.
We now have videos of CiviCon, a site template for next time, presentations and more. There are also some resources now available on this site. Lets use this stuff, add to it and point more people to it. Businesses that are going to be attending exhibitions or conferences can take the banner graphics and get these made up for under a hundred dollars.
I think CiviCon was a great boost to everyone and it was inspiring to see close to a hundred people from 15 countries on 5 continents making the journey to London to meet up and share stories. It was also inspiring to see someone who is an end user/administrator making the keynote speech and encouraging the community to be more active (thanks again Dominik). We should take this energy and channel it into more visibility and more awareness of CiviCRM.
We have an advantage over the big proprietary systems that we don’t want to take over the world and make a billion dollars: just supply better more appropriate solutions to organisations that are helping other people do good stuff.
If you’d rather offer your services in a less public way, send mail to but ideally start the discussion here. I think a monthly meeting on irc would help coordinate action and maintain some focus so it would be useful to know what kind of schedule would make sense for those who can help. The list above is not exhaustive and we need more input on some of these ideas as well as others. We also need to know what kind of resources we have as a group. Who knows, we might even be able to offer some chocolate at the next meetup…


Firstly, thanks for the post. I went to Civicon and also to the implementor/developer training session earlier this week, where I had a brief conversation with Michael McAndrew about UK-specific marketing opportunities. I agree with much of what you have written above. Perhaps usefully, I come to Drupal/CiviCRM from a marketing and communications background rather than as a developer or tech person. I'm also involved in running not for profit organisations here in the UK, so I've got some understanding of the needs of these types of organisations.

My first question is to ask what research has been done, is being done or is planned, into what the target end user community needs? Is there any UK-specific research? What is understood as the target market for CiviCRM? If there's no research data that is relevant or reasonably current perhaps there is scope to do some work on this to gain a current understanding of the market, the potential for CRM (and in particular CiviCRM), and get some insight into key issues faced and benefits sought. Maybe we could do this in conjunction with one or more key organisations (people like NCVO, Social Enterprise Coalition, etc.?) Some good research information can be invaluable in helping to shape thinking  and developing an effective marketing campaign, as well as product development.

The news about the new website is very welcome. I would be keen to learn whether this is being done as a standalone development or as part of a wider strategy. If there is a wider strategy let's discuss that and work with it. I believe there is scope for a UK-specific site  - currently points to - (maybe beginning with a clone of the new site, and focussing on UK specific case studies, etc.?) I would certainly be happy to contribute to such a resource.

Perhaps this sort of localized approach with national marketing sites able to provide targeted information, backed with a strong global website, is the way to go?

I'm now seriously considering doing some work in my part of the world (Manchester/West Yorkshire-ish), maybe a  seminar/workshop/training event to promote CiviCRM as a platform to third sector organisations in my part of the world. Clearly this would be good for my business/profile, but it would also be beneficial to the wider profile of CiviCRM. I didn't do the user/admin training, but I'd like to get a chance to see what was covered there, and maybe build on that to be able to offer simialr sessions in my part of the world. I think that if potential user organisations see that the product is wel supported in their locality they will be much more likely to consider adopting it,

Anyone out there working in my georgraphical area with CiviCRM and interested in collaborating?

Hi Graham -

Regarding the new website - the new design is based on a comprehensive "identity discovery" process that rayogram folks did. We will definitely need some help writing content for it - so stay tuned for a "call to arms".

I'm not aware of any other research projects (besides the info we've been collecting under the "Register Your Site" profile). If you're up for leading the charge on this - that would be great.

You might want to contact Oliver Gibson at GMVCO to discuss collaborating in Manchester area.


Some user training resources:

Dave, Many thanks for the information. I'll read the Rayogram document with great interest.

I'll aim to do some thinking about developing some research that might be useful in helping to shape marketing strategy (and maybe even product development). I've just relinquished my paid subscription to Survey Monkey cos they've cranked up their fees and i only used it occasionally for my business and the projects I'm involved in. Is there a suitable survey tool/user account that might be made available for this work? Or a modest contribution would enable me to re-upgrade my current Survey Monkey account?

On the 'Register Your site' profile - I've looked at this a number of times with a view to filling it in. As a cosultant/implementor I would be happy to provide some information about the sites I've created for clients, but the form as it currently stands doesn't suit this approach, it's geared to being filled in by my client (something I think they generally won't be interested in doing). How about building an alternative profile that better meets my needs as a consultant and site builder. If you do it I promise I'll give you information on at least half a dozen implementations.

I'll certainly make contact with Oliver and add him to my steadily growing group of Civi people in the northern bit of the UK.

Oh, and thanks also for the links. Realy helpful.

Best wishes


Two options with a nice open source CRM:


- Create a "petition" (well actually more a survey) with custom fields and the profile containing it

- Use the webform civicrm module


No matter what, you got the additionnal benefit of getting the answers stored in civi, with the contact details and other info (donations they made, events they attended...) Usual pitch about how Civi is good for you...


And yes, the UI to create that is not as good as the one from survey monkey...

Thanks Xavier

It's ironic that i hadn't considered Civic as a potential platofmr to do a survey. Survey Monkey works well for me primarily in terms of the reporting end of the process. It offers effortless analysis of the survey data, which in many cases, although not all, is really helpful. I'll take a look at the petition/survey feature, which I'vebot used before, and see what it can do.

It's probably quite a oversized for your need, but I'm using R when I have to do analysis. Not effortless (at all) to learn, but really powerful. You can in a few lines do things like or

I'll be posting a separate blog shortly asking for folks to post case studies for the new site. The input format should be amenable to either consultants or end-user organizations (although I expect that it will mostly be completed by consultants).


Hi Graham

The discussion about country-specific websites has been held before and the decision was to create local groups within where it made sense. See for a list. The UK also has its own board on the forum,34.0.html. I think to do more dilutes the main website and while we want to encourage more local meetups in Manchester, Mannheim and Massachusetts we also want everyone to be together in one space and aware of what else is going on in the community.

Compiling a list of organisations in various countries that we should be working with to promote Civi is definitely part of the activity that we want to discuss. I think local efforts need to be lead by consultants and users, organising meetups, trainings, etc. perhaps even coordinating on press coverage, presentations at conferences and other events. I think the UK group or forum is the place to continue that discussion for us.

Also, we definitely need localised versions of marketing materials: the intro ppt/pdf are currently in British English because I typed a lot of the text. Someone needs to throw some Z’s at them and drop in a few US based logos in place of the UK ones to make this stuff more approachable on that side of the pond. Hopefully someone will translate the presentation into French or German etc. for a particular need they have and submit this back so we have a document and several local versions all in one place.




Dave, many thanks for the response and the pointers. I think it is telling that in the time I've been working with CiviCRM I've never before been aware of the UK group on this site (I've now joined it), and judging by the very limited content I'm not alone. Perhaps it will gain traction over time. Some better visibility wouldn't go amiss - maybe the new site will help to address this. Likewise the UK forum.

These might be useful tools for UK users to talk to each other, but in my view they do nothing to address the broader marketing needs of building awareness and a market presence in the UK (i.e. the work that needs to happen long before anyone gets to the point where they might consider looking at a group or forum, let alone registering to post a comment or question), hence my point about a UK-focussed site. I'm happy to reserve judgement until the new website is launched and I've had a chance to look at it in some detail (I just caught a few screenshots at Civicon), but my current view is that a site which focusses on the UK market with the objective of presenting CiviCRM to potential UK user organisations has a lot to offer, and could act as a driver of traffic into the main site, which is essentially US-centric (at least currently it is). I'll aim to pitch in to the UK specific group/forum on the other bits you mention, on which I'm in broad agreement.

Lindsey M (not verified)
2011-09-05 - 10:16

Dave, I agree! There is huge potential when it comes to marketing Civi and quite a lot of that is sector-specific meaning that we can all play our part within our different sectors. Having a wide range of case studies on the website would certainly help to whet the appetite of those people checking Civi out for the first time, enabling them to see the possibilities it offers.

Within my own sector - churches - the market is a large and expanding one when it comes to databases. I am part of various networks and forums and attend a couple of conferences a year and databases are very much on the agenda for both small and large churches (of which there are increasing numbers), with seminars on this topic being offered.

As in many sectors, there are several sector-specific database solutions available for churches but they tend to incur significant monthly costs and, while they are tailored to the needs of churches in general, very specific tailoring is not always possible with these off-the-shelf solutions. It's exciting that several of the UK's larger churches and Christian organisations are now using CiviCRM. Civi has the potential to get on the radar!

Having said that, there are some limitations to overcome before it can start making significant in-roads into this market. The first is that many churches (and non-profit organisations generally) don't have the technical expertise in-house to set Civi up as we have done. Developments like are important as they open Civi up to smaller organisations who could not contemplate using Civi otherwise.

The other limiting factor is that there are currently some gaps in Civi's ability to meet all the needs of this sector - gaps which I know are relevant to other sectors too after various conversations at Civicon.

Recurring events - Many organisations, including churches, run courses. CiviEvent doesn't currently support the recording of attendance at recurring events like different sessions of the same course. I know that various people are trying to solve this for their own Civi-using organisations, but having the ability to record course attendance and to subsequently report on this easily would be significant. For example, reporting which shows who attended specific sessions could then facilitate targetted emails to encourage people who stopped attending to re-join at a later date or on a subsequent course. There seemed to be interest in this from a number of organisations at Civicon.

However, the key area which seems most ripe for development is groups. Whether it's a church, a network of community groups, local expressions of a political party or whatever, groups are the lifeblood of many different organisations. Many sectors need to manage these groups - either centrally or through group leaders having access to Civi in order to manage their own specific group - and reporting on growth and decline is key:

• which groups are growing and need additional investment?
• which are struggling and declining?
• what is their growth/decline over a certain time period?
• who is leaving/joining and why? (What might a particular trend be attributed to eg an (in)effective group leader, response to a campaign?)
• which groups are investing in development and have upcoming, assistant leaders in place as well as leaders?
• how often do the groups meet; where and when?
• which hierarchy is the group part of and how is that 'group of groups' doing as a whole? If particular hierarchies aren't thriving, is there a common pattern?
• who is engaged with the organisation, but doesn't currently link into a local group? How does this change after a particular campaign?

... and so the list goes on. This sort of monitoring would enable organisations to see important trends in groups and plan strategically in response, much as they do when monitoring financial information. As Civi is used by many community groups and national organisations with local groups, I suspect that many of these organisations are as interested in the growth and decline trends in their groups as they are in their financial trends!

The ability to monitor, track and report on groups in this way would allow a plethora of organisations to make even more use of Civi. The current reporting capabilities on finances provides something of a model in terms of the sort of tracking and monitoring over time periods which would be helpful.

I'd certainly be interested to hear from others in different sectors who can see the benefits this sort of reporting would have for their organisations. Such developments seem to link neatly with Civicampaign and Civiengage too, tailoring neatly with the encouragement at Civicon for us to monitor and measure outcomes in order to draw strategic conclusions about the effectiveness of our campaigns and activities.

In terms of Civi expansion, the church market is potentially a burgeoning one and, with some further developments and creative thinking there could be interesting possibilities ahead.

In terms of marketing, we all have a role to play, whether it's as simple as acknowledging Civi on our websites or marketing it effusively! When Civi's capability is even more able to meet the needs of the church sector (and indeed other sectors when it comes to group developments) I'd be happy to get involved in writing sector-specific documentation. With church conferences often attended by thousands of people, possibilities abound to man a Civi stand, mention Civi on blogs for church OperationsManagers/administrators and so on. I'm sure we all have sector-specific opportunities in which to get the word out about Civi.

alejandro (not verified)
2011-09-06 - 03:46

Hi Dave, first of all thanks for your initiative. We have a small consultancy company in Barcelona (Spain) and Buenos Aires (Argentina) and are actively looking for new CiviCRM projects in both reigions.
Unfortunaly we missed CiviCon / Trainings in London.
I want to contribute back to CiviCRM community in some way, but as I am not a developer I felt just like you've described in your post. I have good sales / functional / management skills but no code-writing.
I want to take part in this Marketing initiative, me and my company can actively contribute in some points mentioned.

  • We can build a really good succes story with one of our customer, a very well renamed NPO in Europe and America.
  • Help customizing new website or making a vertical Spanish website
  • Participate in irc meetings
  • We have licensed a webcast platform (much better than a vimeo / youtube video). We can produce webcasts
  • Participate at conferences and exhibitions in our geographies
  • Some press coverage through our PR

Hi Alejandro

Thanks for positive response. I think it would be good to get a regular irc chat going whether this is the first friday or third thursday or whatever of every month so we can get a few heads around this and think about what priorites are over the short and medium term, with an eye to future conferences.

Good times for these things are about 2-3pm GMT to allow for input from US, Europe and India. Wednesdays are already taken by regular meetings but perhaps we could try an initial meeting next Thursday 15 and try to recruit anyone else who may be interested by then.


I now can't make Thursday so I'm suggesting anyone interested in this conversation get on irc this Friday 16 September 3pm GMT (not BST!) that should be 11am US/Eastern, 8am US Pacific, 5pm Warsaw, 8:30pm IST.