Which Contact Management System is best for me?

CiviCRM vs The Others

At my job we have been looking for a fairly feature rich contact management system for some time now. Given that I work for a volunteer organisation this is not as simple as finding a package that has everything and opening the checkbook. This has meant that I have indulged somewhat in the open-source options.

Previously however, I have had a lot of experience with Goldmine, which is a fantastic CRM. The only problems I have encountered with it is that it is expensive to buy (for a organisation like the one I work for) and then to get it working with any 3rd party software or making some changes can require a lot of programming help from other companies which adds additional cost to the process.

One company I know of are moving from Goldmine to using the Microsoft Contact Management Server – the reason for this is that it’s integration with outlook (and therefore PDAs and smart phones) is second to none, especially in an organisation where you need to keep track of contacts and correspondance with these contacts for legal reasons.

I was looking online for the open-source variety and came accross 2 main contenters. SugarCRM and CiviCRM (which is built on Drupal)I had just begun looking at the merits of both when a close friend who had set up Civicrm for a charity showed me the simplicity of it to set up and implement (which not a lot of php knowledge) and that won me over.

Civicrm

CiviCRM is not difficult to set up, you are initally given a lot of default user information fields such as name, address, email, telephone (and you can have multiples of all of these), but the nice thing about it is that you can add sections and fields as you require them – very easily. It is all done through a GUI (graphical User Interface) so if you know how to log into online email or MySpace then you can make custom fields in this program!!
One of the strengths of this system is that you can create tags or groups that allows you to organise contacts so that if you need to send out different mailings or want to list the interests that the different contacts have in the organisation (i.e. are they donors, they like golfing days or they just want more info),you can easily do so.

There is also a very good search facility and the import and export features, although nothing fancy they do the job!!

other features of Civicrm

When given the correct details from an SMTP server, CiviCRM can then send out emails to contacts.
There is even an addition called iContribute which is more towards the donor management side but is great for tracking income from contacts!

Final Thought

Although CiviCRM has a long way to go to be as fully featured as Goldmine, for me a cost benefit analysis of CiviCRM vs Goldmine led to us using CivCRM because
a) It is free
b) PHP Programmers are easy to find and fairly inexpensive if changes need to be made
c) It costs nothing
d) It is simple to add custom fields and sections to the system.

Although you will never get the customer service that you can with products like Goldmine, if finances are an issue – CiviCRM may be work looking at!!

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