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Preparing to Import Your Contact Data


View the Import tutorial

CiviCRM provides an Import Wizard so you can easily migrate contact records from other sources into CiviCRM. For example, if your organization has contacts in Outlook, MS Access© or Excel©, and you want to start using CiviCRM to manage your relationships and interactions with these "constituents", you can easily import them using the Import Contacts option.


  • Name, address, phone and email info (including multiple location addresses if needed)
  • Custom data values that your organization has collected (e.g. voting precinct,, volunteer skills, interest areas, etc.)
  • Information about related contacts (e.g. Spouse info, Employer info, etc.)
    titleBefore Importing Your Data...

    In order to effectively migrate your constituent data to CiviCRM, you need to evaluate your data structure and content, and probably customize CiviCRM for your requirements. You should:

      • Review the contact fields available 'out of the box' (you can browse to the New Individual and New Organization input forms) and compare this to the columns (fields) which you currently use. Create Custom Data fields for any additional needed fields. When importing to custom data fields with multiple choice options, your import file should use the option LABELS. More info...
      • Review the options used for address locations (e.g. Home, Work, School...), Individual Name Prefixes (Ms., Mrs., Mr...) and Suffixes (Jr., Sr.,...). Then customize / add options for these values as needed. More info...
      • Review the types of relationship data you are (or want to) track (e.g. Parent, Spouse, Employer, Head of Household, etc.). Add relationship type definitions to CiviCRM as needed. More info...
    titleImporting Organization and/or Household Records

    In addition to Individual contacts, you can also import Organization or Household records. If your data contains records about people and (separately) records about Organizations, the best approach is to sort and export these two types of contact records separately. Then, import your Organization data first, followed by the Individual contacts.
    This is particularly useful if your Individual contact data includes information about relationships to Organizations in your database (e.g. Jane Espinoza is a Board Member of The Oceans Institute, Tamara Stanley is an Employee of Global Media Corp.). When you import the 'people records', you can map the related Organization column(s) and CiviCRM will create the relationships for you automatically.

    Data to be imported must be in the comma-separated-values format (CSV). Most applications will allow you to export records in this format. Consult the documentation for your application if you're not sure how to do this. Save this exported CSV file to your local hard drive (or an accessible drive on your network) - and you are now ready to run the import wizard.


  • CiviCRM >> Import Contacts
  • Click the Browse button, and navigate to the exported CSV file which contains your contact data.
  • Often, the first row of an exported data file will contain the names of the fields in each column. Click First row contains columns headers if your file looks like this. If you're not sure, you can usually open the file in Excel©l or a text editor and look at the first row.
  • Click on the radio button for the primary type of contact record in your data file. Select 'Individual' if each record in your file represents and individual person - even if the file also contains related Organization data (e.g. Employer Name, Employer Address, etc.). Select 'Organization' or 'Household' if each record in your file represents a contact of that type.
  • Determine how you want the import to handle incoming records which appear to be duplicates of existing CiviCRM contacts.
  • Click Continue
    titleHow are Duplicate Contacts Identified?

    You can control which combination of contact fields is used to identify duplicate records by setting up CiviCRM Profile fields and enabling the Key to Match Contacts? field. For example, if you create a Profile with First, Middle, and Last Names plus Email Address - and check this property for all four - then duplicates are detected when all four values in your import row match an existing contact record. More info...

    titleWhich Duplicate Handling Option Should I Choose?

    Generally, the safest option is Skip. This option ensures that no existing contact data is over-written - and you will have an opportunity to review the 'suspected' duplicates and re-import any which are actually unique new contacts.
    However, if you are maintaining or updating contact data in the source application and then regularly synchronizing it to CiviCRM - you should consider either the Update or Fill options which give you the ability to update existing contact info in CiviCRM.


  • Click Continue when you have finished mapping all the fields. You will have a chance to review your choices on the next screen before actually importing the data.
    titleLoad a Saved Field Mapping

    If you have saved a field mapping during a prior Import, you will see a link to Load Saved Mapping. Clicking this link gives you a drop-down with the names of existing mapping(s). Select a mapping and click Load to reuse one of them.
    If the structure of your import data has changed a bit since you last saved the import mapping. Make the appropriate changes. You can then either update the existing mapping, or save it as a new one.


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