The Great Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA) is an organization dedicated to supporting planetarium professionals. Prior to 2011, our solution for membership management utilized a Microsoft Access database. This proved to be difficult when transitioning from one Membership Chairperson to another, and provided no remote access for other individuals in the organization that needed to know who the current members were. Conference management solutions were reinvented by a new conference host each year. Needless to say, this form of conference management was inefficient and inconsistent. Switching to CiviCRM greatly streamlined both the membership management and conference management workflows.
Management of these two areas continues to be streamlined and refined each year. Almost two years ago, we created a Conference Registrar volunteer position. The registrar interfaces with the conference hosts each year, and supports the members as they register. This has reduced the work load on the conference hosts, made the transition from one host to the next more smooth, and made the registration experience for our members more consistent.
As we continued to polish the registration process, we noticed a couple of functions which would be helpful to have in the CiviCRM software. One was the ability to edit registrations. Our conference registration is very complex. To quote one CiviCRM developer, we are “really exercising the price set functionality to the max.” So it’s not surprising that a conference participant might make a mistake, or want to make a change in his or her registration choices.
The second feature that we were looking for was the ability to make partial payments. Many planetaria today are publicly funded and have little or no conference travel money. The advantage of being able to make partial payments allows some of our members to pay from multiple sources, such as from their institution and their personal funds.
We searched the current Make It Happen (MIH) campaigns and the CiviCRM Community Forums for other people who had solved these problems or were looking for these same features. I found an old 2010 post to the Using CiviEvent forum related to editing event registrations, and posted a reply. Donald Lobo, a member of the Core Team, responded and pointed to an MIH campaign that was slightly related. GLPA offered to provide funding for that MIH.
Since the MIH didn’t go nearly as far as we were hoping for, I asked if he could give me an estimate for how much it would cost to hire someone to do all of the work we were looking for to add these two functions. Donald provided an estimate and we expressed interest in funding it. Since these were features the Core Team felt would be good to add to the core, GLPA worked with Donald and another Core Team member, Dave Greenberg, to put together a plan, a budget, and a Consulting Services Agreement with CiviCRM. The agreement was for GLPA to fund up to $12,000 toward the development of the event registration edit function and the multiple payments ability.
Since we feel that we are still new to the CiviCRM community, and can’t yet contribute on the development side of our shared endeavor, we are happy to be able to support the project financially and through testing. It has been very interesting, and the CiviCRM Core Team has been great to work with.
As we prepare for our fall conference, members of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association are already benefiting from the improvements built into CiviCRM 4.5. We look forward to future developments, and are confident that we will find more ways to contribute to this excellent software and community in the future.