CiviCamp: a Learning Experience for All

By Marley Berk | March 11, 2024

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In today’s interconnected world, effective organization and network engagement are crucial for the success of any organization. Managing relationships, contacts, events, and other stakeholders requires a robust and comprehensive solution. This is where CiviCRM comes into play. Civi, a contact relationship management platform, has the ability to store, track, and segment large volumes of contact data and use it to take actions such as sending messages through SMS and email, creating surveys and forms, and even managing events. DemTech hosts CiviCRM (Civi for short) for many of our partners through the DemCloud cloud-hosting service, and when we heard that CiviCore was hosting an administrators training in Montreal, I jumped at the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the platform at CiviCamp

For nearly 10 years, NDI has supported partners who use Civi to create surveys and calls to action, as well as craft effective communication and outreach. We have helped partners mobilize supporters and raise funds and supported government actors in communicating and connecting with their constituents through CiviCase. Civi has been translated into dozens of languages and can be easily localized to any context. For example, a group of organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) used Civi to survey target groups about their policy priorities as they prepared to launch broad advocacy campaigns in the run-up to the 2023 election. 

Before my trip north, I had mixed feelings about Civi’s efficacy. While some of its features were useful for tasks such as sending out our newsletters and tracking the engagements, I would often find myself wondering why we couldn’t streamline processes like adding and grouping new contacts. Little did I know that my answers were closer than I thought. The three features I learned about at CiviCamp that I was most excited to bring back to the team were SearchKitForm Builder, and the capabilities of CiviMobile

SearchKit is a relatively new feature to Civi that allows users to find data and create a layout that best fits their specific needs. For example, a user can search for someone who may have the same name listed for both their first and last name to root out scammers, or they could develop a list of different tiers or groupings such as age that can further be categorized as “baby,” “child,” “teen,” and “adult.” SearchKit can even create charts or tables that simplify reporting for users. For example, if a user wants to group data by region, language, or area, rather than showing that data in a table, SearchKit can display the outputs on a map. Users can create customized groups or searches by building exactly what they want, or they can search for data using existing entities such as contacts and mailings. Due to the open-source nature of Civi, SearchKit will continue to evolve and be further developed. 

Next, CiviCRM’s Form Builder is a powerful tool that expands on the existing Profiles feature. Form Builder allows users to create and customize forms effortlessly within the platform. It enables users to design forms tailored to their specific needs, collecting relevant information efficiently and effectively. With the integration of the drag-and-drop feature, various customizations are available for a streamlined process of creating forms for events, creating contacts, and more. With this feature users can adjust the layout of their forms in ways that were previously unavailable. For example, a user can create a form that asks for the usual information needed to add a new contact, then once an entry is submitted, not only would that contact be automatically added to a designated mailing list (if the user chooses), but the system will automatically check if there are any duplicates and, based on rules the users outline, would update the existing contact. Form Builder’s benefits include improved data collection accuracy, enhanced user experience, and increased efficiency in managing interactions. 

Often, NDI partners operate in contexts in which the physical infrastructure that is necessary for Civi (a computer, reliable internet, and a reliable power source) is a barrier, which is why I was eager to learn about CiviMobile. Since smartphones have become ubiquitous, with CiviMobile, the benefits of Civi will no longer be inhibited by the lack of a computer. CiviMobile allows users to carry out contact management, data management, event management, and organization of activities. Furthermore, the app can be used to a limited degree by users who do not need access to the backend to add contacts. CiviMobile allows users to instantly access all information in CiviCRM, and they can add information right from their mobile phones. They can generate, organize, and update contact profiles; look up activity, calendar, and contact details, and carry out event coordination such as registration and planning at any time from anywhere. For example, the Time Tracker extension enables mobile users to keep track of numerous projects and create tasks that are trackable, shareable, and assignable. Users can track whether they are active, assigned, in progress, or completed. Depending on the customizable settings, users can create their own projects or tasks or the power to do so can be limited to project managers. 

NDI can create new Civi sites in a matter of minutes for NDI partners. DemTech also provides tailored training and implementation support to ensure our partner's success. We continue to stay as up to date with Civi as possible, and learning these new developments will only allow us to better cater to our partners’ wants and needs. While Civi may not be the right tool for every partner or context, it has been an important contributor in enabling more organizations and political leaders to build and maintain their networks, and improve outreach with their constituents.