Is CiviCRM Too Hard to Use?

So you've heard of CiviCRM.  Sounds intriguing - it has superfans and those who tried but didn't quite get there.   At Nubay we've seen both and are laser focused on what it takes for your organization to be successful.

As a CRM designed for nonprofits, CiviCRM has an amazing set of features.  And the integration across all of the components is nothing short of spectacular.    But, as with all sophisticated software systems, the right fit is crucial along with the right level of support.

Let's take a closer look and see if it's right for you.

First, if you think you might need a CRM (even if you are not really sure what a CRM does), then you really should consider CiviCRM.   Whether it is the right answer or not, it is uniquely capable and uniquely affordable.   Yes, the software has no licensing cost - it is open source.  But your time and your staff's time is valuable and will be an investment.  So, as they say, it's free, like kittens.

So, here's what we have found for nonprofits who are successful users of CivCRM on the Nubay platform:

1.   They will invest time over the first six to twelve months to learn (with Nubay's guidance) how the system can best meet their needs.   This covers initial core usage "out of the box" and then expanding into the broad range of possibilities for increased productivity and management effectiveness.

2.   There will be a point person who can spend 10 or more hours per week using the system and coaching others who will use the system.  The actual amount of time needed by the point person will depend on the size of your organization as well as the number and types of processes that utilize Civi.

3.   Their operations are non-trivial and will benefit from well-organized and tightly integrated data management.   Yes, donor management is essential and covered by Civi, but often the key difference is the ability to better manage the services that your organization provides and the range of constituencies that you need to understand.

4.  Last, but far from least, is the degree to which you want and need a data management solution (CRM) that is tightly integrated with your website.   CiviCRM with a content management system such as Drupal or Wordpress can provide the unique and spectacular integration referred to earlier.

But what about failure?   When it is too hard and it doesn't work out?

The biggest downside to Civi is a direct result of the breadth of capabilities.  Sometimes that exhibits itself in difficulty in figuring out how to do something - "I know there is a way to ...".   Sometimes, it results in what we call "sharp edges" - things that are ambitious and push the software into unique areas that can surface problems.   Yes, bugs are a reality and can be more frequent as the software grows and expands as a result of the on-going contributions from a wide and talented set of software developers.  Willingness to deal with work-arounds is important when necessary.

A final note on this topic - a clear benefit of open source solutions, particularly when they are part of a large and vibrant community, is the ability to help shape the direction and capabilties of the software.  Whether it be by contributing to "Make it Happen" campaigns or supporting Nubay development efforts, you can directly influence the direction of the project in ways large and small.

So, let's rephrase the question from "Is CiviCRM too hard to use?" to "Is CiviCRM worth the effort?"    The answer to that question is directly under your control.

If you'd like to have discuss these issues and pose your specific questions, we'd love to talk to you.