Monday, March 31, 2008

civiCRM for Schools

A few years ago I was at an educational conference in Montreal where the presenter asked the auditorium of 500 or so educators who the customer was in an higher ed environment. After a long pause, people started listing professors and researchers. I was shocked that no one listed students.

"CRM" stands for Customer Relation Management. Typically, this type of software is either used by hard-selling vendors or it's an expensive option for the corporate environment. Finding a CRM system that is inexpensive and oriented more towards "relationships" than it is "sales" had not been an easy task.

civiCRM appears to fit both bills. It's open source and thus low cost. I say "low cost" and not "free" is because even free software requires hardware to run and some level of installation and customization. While I'm not an expert in CRM software, civiCRM's list of features is certainly impressive for the needs of a single organization. The problems I see with it are when one wants to use this for multiple organizations or with an organization with many sub-organizations. Their site discusses installing these features, but until they are in the code, there is no telling what will happen.

While civiCRM can be used as a stand-alone system, it has been designed to work closely with Drupal.

I'm seriously considering using civiCRM for an sophisticated events management system. If anyone has had direct experience with civiCRM, please leave me a comment.