Friday, August 2, 2013 - 04:08
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As a CiviCRM implementer, I’m always looking for solutions that are sustainable, cost-effective and easy for the client to use day to day. As someone who isn’t a coder – I’m always looking for a solution that can be achieved through the user interface (UI)!

Working as a part of GMCVO Databases I implement CiviCRM and support local organisations with their installs. The diverse range of clients we have is a testament to how adaptable and flexible the system is to meet the needs of so many organisations.

A lot of our clients are small grass-roots organisations that run entirely on volunteers. They often don’t have the budgets to pay for bespoke alterations or custom solutions so I rely completely on the UI to make all their customisations and find solutions.

There are also some real benefits to working with the UI as much as possible...

  • No programming skills needed
  • Upgrades are much simpler
  • Reports - can tweak criteria yourself at any point
  • Can’t break it!

If you’re ever unsure about a change you’re making just sit back and read the instructions on the screen - trust it! It’s actually really intuitive. Or if you’re really nervous – try it on the demo site first. It’s a great place for testing out new versions or how something might work live in your system.

We recently developed a CiviCRM install using Drupal for client who needed to manage over 100 volunteers. They wanted to track their applications, what they are approved to do, DBS status, information to match them as an appropriate mentor and more! They also wanted an online space where volunteers could login which allowed them to view documents, sign up as volunteers at an event, update their contact details and submit expense claims. Through a combination of permissions and Drupal modules, this was easily achieved using out-of-the-box tools and they now have a much better handle on the skills their volunteers already have and volunteers feel more empowered to get involved in other areas they may not have known about.

But importantly, it’s really easy for them to manage day to day. Just looking at someone’s CiviCRM record they know just where things are up to and what a volunteer is involved in. They have a really bespoke solution that was created using just the UI.

So get out there and have a look around and what other people are doing. You’ll often be inspired by what other have already done or find an extension or module that does just what you need already!

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Could you share the list of modules and extensions you used for your volunteer project?

Thanks Coleman!

This project required no CiviCRM extensions - we just created a sub-type of Individual "Volunteer" and used custom fields to store their data and activities to monitor things like Expense Claims and Applications. 

It's your brilliant Durpal Module - CiviCRM Webform Integration that we used to expose these in a "Form" method to the Volunteers with their login. It handles everything perfectly! Notifying the appropriate staff and updating the database straightaway. 

Apart from that it was just creating a Drupal use roles and using the permission structure to ensure they had the right access. We created a Volunteer Login menu and links to handbooks, webforms and CiviCRM events (a simple Durpal view keeps Volunteer Events up to date and easy to register for).

Using the new SMS module and Bulk email means that Volunteers get personalised reminders and messages too!

How do the volunteers sign up for the events - using a webform or using the regular UI?

Thought you might be interested to know the Webform-CiviCRM allows people to sign up for multiple events at once and can keep its forms up-to-date with the current list of upcoming events. The trick is to expose the list of events as a "checkboxes" form widget and enable "live options". That lets you set-it-and-forget-it - you can keep using the same form for event sign-ups indefinitely. This method also has the bonus of allowing authenticated users to cancel their own registration (by un-checking the box and submitting the form again).

They are currently using the regular UI for event registration. For a number of their events volunteers sign up for shifts of when they would be available to help. This uses some additional custom data that is custom to that event only (shift times change constantly for different events). Would the webform enable us to ask those kind of questions too?

I didn't realise that they could cancel their registrations too using the Webform! That's really useful to know.

I really like the idea of one "master form" that handles all submissions. Really cool. Doesn't is handle payments as well? I know someone who has a bunch of "micro-events" that they charge £5 for. Would be great if someone could just check 4 events they want to attend and only have to pay once. 

Please consider contributing to the Webform Payments MIH to enable this exciting new feature!

That's great to hear this feature is getting developed.

I'll make sure to spread the word and see if anyone is able to contribute.