SugarCRM, CiviCRM or something else?
December 12, 2013 7:14 AM   Subscribe

We’re a new and fast growing non-profit makerspace (community workshop & art studio) that’s looking for a free CRM. We’re currently considering SugarCRM Community and CivicCRM and we’d like you to help us choose one, or tell us about others we should be considering.

We get a lot of visits and inquiries from potential members, we have many supporters who are interested in teaching or volunteering, and we often talk with other organizations who are interested in partnering with us. It seems like all CRMs can help us organize that information, but I’d like to know if they can also help us keep track if members have paid their dues, if they’re paying for extra services like storage space, and if they’ve received the training they need to use certain tools.

We want something that will easily integrate with Wordpress and Facebook. We’d also like something that’s easy to learn and use because some of our volunteers don't have strong computer skills.
posted by 14580 to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Full disclosure: I work for a company that makes a CRM that competes with Sugar and Civi (ours is not free). I have no experience with Sugar, but I know we have a lot of clients who come to us from CiviCRM and find that it requires a lot of technical expertise. Because it's open source, it's very flexible, but it can be very frustrating to work with if you don't want to customize it to death, and it isn't very user-friendly.

Unfortunately I can't recommend a good free alternative. The challenge with free CRMs is that they come with little or no training or direction, and CRMs are fairly complex beasts that require some of that. If you're interested in learning more about my company's database, feel free to memail me.
posted by anotheraccount at 3:22 PM on December 12, 2013

First off, using ANY kind of CRM type software to manage things like you're talking about is going to take a significant amount of time and work from someone fairly technical to customize the installation, backend, workflow, and everything else you need to make it work exactly the way you need it to.

So don't get the idea that any of these 'free' software packages are really going to be free to set up, run, customize, and operate the way you want them to.

The only consolation there is, you can also pay a lot of money for CRM type software, and then you will still ALSO spend a lot of time and/or money customizing it and getting it to work the way you want.

We have pretty extensive experience with CiviCRM and I'm pretty sure it can do the things you want it to but I'm also completely sure it is going to take someone many, many hours to get it set up and running the way you want it. Then more hours monthly and annually to keep things up to date, do regular updates and testing to make sure everything is still working after upgrades and so on.

You're probably looking at $20K in setup and then $5-10K worth of time annually to keep the thing running. And those are MINIMUMS.

The one package the people on our sector seem to be pretty completely satisfied with is Salesforce.

But . . . don't fool yourself that Salesforce is going to be easy/simple/straightforward to set up, either. But it does seem to work and they even have nonprofit pricing. FWIW even the highest levels of Salesforce pricing are pretty insignificant in terms of the total cost of ownership of operating these type of things.
posted by flug at 7:13 PM on December 12, 2013

Thanks. We have a plenty of volunteers with the kind of computer expertise needed to install and configure a CRM. So I'm mainly concerned about how easy it is for the end users to use.

Unfortunately, we're not in a position yet to pay for a CRM.
posted by 14580 at 7:30 AM on December 13, 2013

Well, if you have a lot of volunteers with technical expertise, and if by chance either your or their interest is in contributing back to a major open source project, that would certainly be a strong reason to consider adopting CiviCRM and then contributing back to it.

CiviCRM is definitely able to do whatever you need it to *if* you have sufficient technical expertise available to make it do what you need. If your technical resources are also interested in and capable of contributing your improvements, bug fixes (there are bound to be a good number of those), and new features back to the project, then you're contributing not only to your own organization's success but also to the success of the many other organizations that use (or could use) CiviCRM.

I'm sure you understand that about open source projects. But honestly, that is exactly the reason to adopt CiviCRM over any other package.

It's not going to be easier to set up, it is probably going to have more bugs than commercial products, and it may or may not be able to do exactly what you want it to out of the box. But you can definitely get into the guts of it and set it up as you wish, fix all of the bugs you want, and make it do exactly what you want--if you have access to sufficient technical expertise and capacity.

And then you can contribute all of those fixes and updates back to the community so that they benefit everyone.

FWIW from the end-user side, and also the viewpoint of people doing data-entry etc., CiviCRM seems as user-friendly as any other package. And like any other features--if you'd like it to become even more user friendly, again you can get your technical folks on the job to improve the user interface and then contribute that back to the community as well.

From my perspective, that is the reason to adopt it. It's not better than other CRM packages, but it can be just as good--and you can contribute back your improvements for the benefit of everyone else who uses the software. The other thing in its favor is that CiviCRM definitely is improving very significantly with every release.
posted by flug at 10:00 AM on December 13, 2013

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