What is CRM


  • Understand what CRM is
  • Learn about different CRM programs
  • Understand the difference between CiviCRM and conventional CRMs
  • Understand how CiviCRM have helped organizations and companies

What is CRM, and what does it do?

Before we dig into CiviCRM, we need to know what CRM is, and what it does. CRM stands for customer relationship management which includes multiple aspects of the interactions between a company and its customers. According to Scott Nesbitt from Opensource.com, “A CRM system is a web application that businesses use to organize information about their customers and leads. But a CRM system isn’t just a list of contacts. It contains customers’ details and history of their transactions with an organization, along with information about those customers’ place or status in the sales process.” That being said, CRM systems help organizations to keepo close documentation of customers’ behaviors and history. Some companies even use CRM to predict customer wants and provide better customer services. Of course, businesses and companies have different sizes and needs, and it is important to find the right CRM system for your organization.

Some existing open-source CRMs


According to Nesbitt, SugarCRM ” is arguably the most well-known and most popular open source CRM system”. It was found in 2004 and its open source code has become the basis for other CRM systems such as Vtiger and SuiteCRM. Now, SugarCRM offers two editions: community edition and hosted edition. The community edition is free for download and only requres PHP, a webserver, and a database. On the other hand, the hosted edition ranges from $40-$150 per user per month, and provides a wide range of detailed features in its hosted edition. Besides the essential monitoring and management of sales, marketing and customer support, SugarCRM also offers Social CRM, Mobile CRM, Global CRM, project management and more, and is sufficient for business use. However, for smaller business or advocate groups who can’t afford the hosted edition, the community edition only offers limited but essential features of SugarCRM.

You can read about some case studies of their customers here


vTiger, as briefly mentioned earlier, is based on SugarCRM, but doesn’t keep all of the features SugarCRM offers. According to Nesbitt, vTiger “has all of the core functions found in SugarCRM, but is missing some collaboration, task management, and third-party integration features out of the box,” because unlike SugarCRM, vTiger is designed for small to medium-size business uses. vTiger offers hosted version pricing from $12 to $29 per user per month, which is more affordable. You can also download the open source version and install on your own server for free.

You can read about some case studies of their customers here

Fat Free CRM

Fat Free CRM is designed for smaller business with its minimal features. Fat Free CRM is not as complex as SugarCRM or vTiger hence is easier to use and navigate, and add-ons are available if more features are needed. As its website states, Fat Free CRM features group collaboration, campaign and lead management, contact lists, and opportunity tracking out of the box, and more features are available as plug-ins. Fat Free CRM doesn’t provide any hosted or paid version, so users have to download and install on server manually.

Try out Fat Free CRM’s demo site with the demo user name: aaron, and password: aaron.

resource and other CRM systems:

12 Open Source CRM Options

Top 5 open source customer relationship management tools

What is CiviCRM and why civiCRM?

According to CiviCRM’s website, CiviCRM is “web-based, open source, Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software geared toward meeting the needs of non-profit and other civic-sector organizations.” The CRM software we introduced earlier are more for business or companies models, but because in the non-profit sector, organizations have different structures and needs, they are not the best to work with when running a non-profit. For instance, unlike business that only keeps track on sales, most non-profits host fundraisers or workshops regularly; instead of dealing with customers, non-profits devote a lot of time working with volunteers, sponsors, and other organizations; and for non-profits, the major financial income is from pledges and contributions instead of business transactions. The CRM software designed for business aren’t able to accommodate to these characteristics of non-profits, yet it is equally important for non-profits to manage its interaction with individuals and groups they work with, and that’s why CiviCRM has its unique stand in the world of CRM systems.

CiviCRM is specifically built to fit the way non-profits function, according to the CiviCRM user book, “CiviCRM emphasizes communicating with individuals, community engagement, activism, outreach, managing contributions, and managing memberships”. And CiviCRM can be highly customized for organizations of different sizes, purposes, and advocacy. Moreover, CiviCRM is a free online open-source and is designed to work with content management systems such as Joomla!, Drupal, or WordPress which allows non-profits to integrate it with their existing websites and can be accessed by multiple users from different locations. CiviCRM empowers non-profit organizations by increasing their efficiency in management and expanding their capacity.

Examples of real uses of CiviCRM

All of that writing about CiviCRM is pretty general and you probably still don’t know or are not sure about exactly how CiviCRM will help you and your organization. Well, I believe some real world examples will help you visualize that, so click here and let’s take a look at how organizations are using CiviCRM!


  • Pick one real world use of CiviCRM that inspires you or relate to your needs, and explain why.
    • Ex: Schoolhouse Supplies relates to the needs of my org because my org can really use CiviCRM to unify the management as well….etc, etc. (you get the idea.)
    • Save it as a Word document or PDF, and name it: Lastname_Need. Ex: Yang_Need
  • Briefly describe what your partner organization does (advocacy, interest…etc), what it offers (workshops? open mics? resources?) and what’s the challenges they are facing (not enough fund, low on human resource…etc)
    • I know we did this in class, but I’d like a brief documentation of it.
    • If you don’t have a partner organization, pick one that you’re familiar with, or have been doing research on.
    • Save it as a Word document or PDF, and name it: Lastname_Org. Ex: Yang_Org

Both writings should be about 150-250 words each.

Email your homework to civicrm@labs.everettprogram.org