CiviCRM without a CMS? Welcome back Standalone!

2023-07-17 08:05
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It’s tough not to go down memory lane and talk about the fact that CiviCRM used to support a version that didn’t require a content management system. Alas, it was an idea that was ahead of its time! For whatever reason CiviCRM Standalone faded away, but not quite into oblivion. Over the years there were folks that tried to keep it going and for good reason; it lacks the baggage of any of the CMS’s.

Ok, ok, those may be fighting words for some, but the truth is that there is now, more than ever, several good reasons to not just revive CiviCRM Standalone but to view it as a potential driving force behind that market growth that we’ve oh so wanted for oh so many years.

What’s different now?

For starters, CiviCRM is not what it used to be and no longer depends on the functionality of a CMS. With the evolution of SearchKit and FormBuilder (among other features, extensions, enhancements, etc.) CiviCRM has chipped away at areas for which it has historically relied on a CMS. By bringing this sort of functionality in-house, so to speak, CiviCRM finds itself in a position where it simply doesn’t need a CMS any longer.

Likewise, the market for SaaS-based offerings has grown exponentially. While this sort of offering is entirely possible with a CMS, and there are a handful out there, a standalone version of CiviCRM is easier to support and maintain in a SaaS offering. Providers will be better positioned to create such a product and introduce it to market.

Finally, the CMS landscape has changed. While the big open source CMS’s such as WordPress, Drupal, Backdrop and Joomla all continue to exist and improve, new systems have emerged that have chipped away at their market share, offering users new ways to build and interact with websites. As a standalone system, CiviCRM could be adopted by users outside of the traditional open source CMS communities, thereby serving nonprofits that are not using any of these systems.

Why should you support this effort?

Here’s where I make the pitch for you to support CiviCRM Standalone. I could list out several reasons, in fact. But, really, it boils down to one main reason, regardless of whether you and your organization would adopt CiviCRM Standalone; community growth.

What do I mean? In short, because CiviCRM Standalone could be more broadly adopted, it could attract a larger, more diverse user and developer base. In both cases, this sort of community growth offers opportunities in that it presents CiviCRM with more potential resources (read that as both talent and funding) with which it can accelerate developments such as SearchKit and FormBuilder.

While I tend to focus on SearchKit and FormBuilder most since they’ve largely been driven by the Core Team, there are many other initiatives, both big and small, that could benefit from a larger community. I’m thinking of technical feature sets around payment processing, of extensions such as Mosaico and CiviRules, as well as of efforts such as retheming CiviCRM and creating a community-driven marketing team.

What’s happening with the integration with the CMS’s?

Nothing at all! They’re not going away in any way, shape or form. For many organizations, integration with a CMS is a must-have. The development and support of CiviCRM Standalone has no impact on any of the CMS integrations.

Let’s make it happen!

CiviCRM Standalone has become an important objective in the Core Team’s roadmap for the reasons above as well as others. While we tend to focus heavily on the technical aspects of things in CiviLand, our fundamental objective is, consistent with other initiatives such as CiviCRM Spark, to grow both the CiviCRM community as well as the software’s rate of adoption.

We view these as key to CiviCRM’s overall health as well as its ability to sustain its mission and deliver a world class, open source CRM to any organization, regardless of size, budget or focus. In the nonprofit sector, CiviCRM is about the only game in town that is competitive against large, proprietary systems. A standalone version increases CiviCRM’s overall competitiveness and further positions it to grow. 

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Could the MIH have a 'pay later' option or is that not an option?