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After this session, participants should understand what CiviCRM is and be able to find their way around basic CiviCRM screens.


Specific objectives

  • Have a basic understanding of the history of CiviCRM, and what problems it set out to solve
  • Understand how the CiviCRM community works and where you can find further information and support
  • Be familiar with basic user interface elements, record types, and getting around CiviCRM

Learning points

You should aim to cover the following points in this session:

  • About the project
    • History of CiviCRM
    • The release cycle
  • The community
  • Problems
    • Getting help
  • User interface
    • Contacts
    • Finding contacts
    • Advanced search
    • Actions

Session plan

This session should last 60 minutes.

Depending on how advanced the class is, the getting around the user interface may last less time than noted.  In this case, there are plenty of more challenging / exploratory exercises that students can do in the handout.  Also, you might want to chat with students who have finished exercises about existing implementations / needs.


Get some slides up that illustrate various places that people can / should go to ask for help and find out more, e.g.


Outline that in this session, we'll talk about the following things

  • quick introduction to the CiviCRM project
  • some information about the CiviCRM community and where you can get help
  • an introduction to the user interface, basic record types, and some getting around

Mention that if you have used CiviCRM before, you might find this a bit slow, but actually, you should pay attention because you might have missed something 'obvious' until now.

About CiviCRM (5)

Some key points to get across and expand upon.

  • The CiviCRM project started in 2004 with the aim of creating a freely available CRM built from the ground up for non profits.
  • Today CiviCRM has a wealth of functionality that can be used 'out of the box' (and this training course aims to show you how to use that functionality).
  • CiviCRM is modular - consists of different components that can be turned on and off (outline the different components)
  • CiviCRM has a large and growing number of extensions that modify and extend its functionality
  • CiviCRM has around 2 new releases each year


The CiviCRM community (10)

Ask learners how they are getting support for their CiviCRM.  If the following examples don't come up, it is probably worth mentioning them.

  • working with outside consultants / agency for development and support
  • internal technical team who are supporting CiviCRM
  • using a turnkey CiviCRM provider for hosting
  • learning as you go and getting support on the forums

Show learners the CiviCRM website and StackExchange and encourage them to post questions online and make use of StackExchange.

Explain that CiviCRM is not like a lot of software that people might be used to, that you 'buy in a shop' - instead it is freely available to download.

Explain what open source means in the CiviCRM context.

  • Free to download, not free to write - lots of the code contributions (and other contributions like conferences, trainings, etc.) come from service providers who make the work freely available once written
  • Set up by people who saw an overlap between non profit aims and open source culture
  • a wide ecosystem of developers. co–ordinated but definitely not one company - choosing CiviCRM does not guarantee success in your project!
  • lots of people have full time paid jobs developing CiviCRM
  • lots of other day to day software is open source (firefox, android, Drupal, WordPress, etc.).

At this point it is also worthwhile mentioning any events that have been happening locally and any events that are coming up.

The user interface (5)

Point out the following parts of the user interface, and show them in action

LOG IN! <- this one is important. Log in and then show the relationship between a contact in CiviCRM and a user in Drupal.

  • Home page and dashboard
  • Quick search
  • Menu
  • Help bubbles (e.g. membership dashboard)
  • Messages
  • Search and actions (advanced search - search for student members)


CiviCRM basics (20 minutes)

Explain that you'll be covering some of the basics of CiviCRM. Good to write these on the board.

  • contacts. Contacts are the centre of CiviCRM
  • activities
  • relationships
  • tags and groups

Don't go into the details of how these can be configured or extended at the moment (we'll cover that in Organising data).  At the moment, we just want people to see that they exist.


Show a contact screen and talk through the summary tab.

Also show people how you can create a new

  • individual
  • household
  • organisation

It's important for people to realise that individuals, households and organistions are all grouped together into contacts.  i.e. contacts aren't just individuals.  You can illustrate this by brainstorming times that it would be useful to see them in the same list, i.e. get the emails of all contacts that we have in a particular city so we can email them (regardless of whether they are organisations or individuals), but some times when you want to see them separately, e.g., 'show me all the organisations that provide human rights advice'.


Show that from the contact screen, you can add an activity with this contact and that once you filled this in, it will appear on the activities tab.


Show the relationships tab and explain that relationships are a good way to join two contacts together in CiviCRM

Groups and tags

A good way to introduce groups and tags by comparing them to relationships: 'While relationships are good for connecting two contacts together, what about when you want to connect 200 contacts together'?

Explain that groups and tags are one of the main ways of segmenting contacts in CiviCRM and ask people why they might want to segment contacts.

People tend to get quite hung up on the difference between groups and tags.  Tell people that we'll go more into the differences between them in the 'Organising data' session.

Exercises (20)

Learners should now complete the exercises so they are familiar with getting around CiviCRM.


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