Let's praise CiviCRM!

2019-05-06 07:44
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Josh nicely asked me to drop some words about the relationship Greenpeace in Central and Eastern Europe (GP) has with CiviCRM. I believe today is a good day to praise CiviCRM!

But let's start with where we came from:

Life before CiviCRM

The GP database department has a long-standing tradition of trying to find a proprietary CRM solution which serves all needs, offers perfect service and of course costs almost nothing. My mission was to find the "right" software vendor which sells the product of our dreams... but guess what? Exactly, we never found anything like that.

After the last failed prototype in 2015 with a Swiss company I remembered a colleague of mine saying to me back in 2011: "Marco, did you check out CiviCRM?". In 2011 I didn't know anything about CiviCRM, so I had to do some research. The moment I figured out that it is open-source I dumped that proposal - because it is not proprietary software, and only proprietary software is good, right?

But something substantial had to be changed after our experience with the Swiss vendor, we couldn't go on like we had before! That was the point when I re-evaluated CiviCRM just under the premise of our requirements and gave it a chance. And then it happened! Almost all the requirements we had were met or were implemented since we last looked at CiviCRM in 2011, with extensions like CiviSepa, CiviBanking and more in place. It seemed I had been wrong all along about open-source!

After this redemption though questions arose:

  1. How will we migrate, is there a partner who can help us?
  2. How much will it cost?
  3. How to get the missing features (contract engine, our take on memberships, and the segmentation extension)?
  4. Who will hold my hand when I am crying alone in the dark because everything fails and goes down the drain?

I have to admit these are tough questions. To find answers, I took a trip to Bonn, Germany, to visit SYSTOPIA, which later became our CiviCRM implementation partner. The night before our first meeting, which I spent couchsurfing, my host served more or less voluntarily as a sounding board for all my CiviCRM ideas – and became the first friend in a long line of friends I made with CiviCRM.

The journey begins

Together with Systopia things moved on like clockwork. We made plans to migrate to CiviCRM, we made plans to implement extensions which would give us the features we desired, and last but not least we made plans to find the coders needed for this endeavour.

This project was the first one I did with agile project-management, and it seems open-source projects also work well with agile software development methods. In the meantime I did a lot of project marketing inside Greenpeace, praising that "open-source" is now the stuff our dreams are made off!

The shift from proprietary software to open-source software also meant that GP needed another team setup. Even though you could use CiviCRM without writing a single line of code, you can get the most out of it by customizing it with your own code. It became clear that I didn't need just "users" or "administrators" who click buttons all day, I now had the chance to try something completely new!

Today I'm working together with one Senior Full Stack Web Developer, one Junior Full Stack Web Developer and also one SQL developer, who is soon transformed into a Full Stack Web Developer. I recently joined the programmers forces as well. From the "old" setup I just kept the database operator and the database manager. And even the manager is now learning to code SQL, because of our famous SQL-Task extension which allows her to manipulate the database and select whatever she wants and with this selected data executes every Civi API-call you can think of! That is like paradise! You are still not persuaded to join the crew? Okay, so devour that then:

CiviCRM as an open-source CRM:

  • Is cheaper than proprietary software!
  • Gives you way more freedom about the software itself, no more missing features! The code is yours to change!
  • Doesn't "disappear" over night because a company ceases to exist!
  • Let you reign over your own data! The data is yours, on your servers, if you want even in your bathtub (if you really need water-cooling)!


One point I didn't answer so far is who is holding my hand when everything fails? There the community kicks in! CiviCRM is a community project, so over 10.000 organisations worldwide are in the same boat. You can ask about your problems on Mattermost, they might even show you their setup and how they are handling things.

You have CiviCamps, where you can connect with other community members in real life and discuss your questions. If you are a coder you should visit the  Sprints where a bunch of freelance coders, coders from partners and coding forces from organisations like Greenpeace show up and try to change the world for a better future! All these are reasons why it is in our best interest to participate and support CiviCRM and keep the project going!

And yes, if nothing helps, Björn (SYSTOPIA) would have probably held my hand and cried together with me...Thank you friend!

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Thank you, Marco!
Greenpeace CEE has been a great project for us at SYSTOPIA as well! It was challenging to work through the large sets of requirements and the time pressure that comes with changing the heart* of an organisation like yours. But we thoroughly enjoyed the positive atmosphere throughout the project, along with the "let's do this" attitude of everyone involved.
For the community, this project produced a lot of great public extensions. And beyond the newly created ones like the Contract, SQL Tasks, FastActivities, and Segmentation, the projects also meant great leaps for the existing CiviSEPA, CiviBanking, XCM, and CampaignManager. Not to mention that working with your relatively big database helped to make the CiviCRM core to be more performant.
May you and GP CEE be happy with CiviCRM for a long time, you are a great contributor to the community!
*) well...one of the hearts, anyway :-)

Hello Marco,

It was great to hear your perspective and journey as an end user organisation.

Thanks for sharing.


Nice blog - however, you failed to point out that not only does Systopia have world class frisbee skills they provide a pre-teen frisbee training service at sprints....

Great blog, thank you?

SQL Yask editor extension sounds intriguing