CiviCRM Terminology

Introduction #

CiviCRM’s configuration makes the system very flexible. A large number of options are available. To help you understand options, this page gives an introduction to available alternatives and what they can do for you.

Contact Types #

CiviCRM starts with 3 basic contact types

  • Organisation
  • Household
  • Individual

Each record of one of those contact types has different options. An individual, for instance, has a birth date, whereas a household or organisation does not.

Each contact type can have “sub-types”. Creating a subtype would offer the option to show information on a subtype that you do not want to show on all of the main types. A volunteer record, for instance, in your database would probably show their specific skills or their availability for volunteer tasks whereas you wouldn’t want to show such fields on a non-volunteer’s record.

Contact types can therefore help you better segment your constituents, collect and save required data so that you can more effectively communicate with them.

Activity Types #

CiviCRM provides a number of activity types out of the box. An activity type could be a phone call, a meeting report, or sending email. Each activity that is saved in CiviCRM contains basic data, such as the date of the activity, details, who it was with or who carried out the activity.

Different activity types can collect different bits of information. A subscriber to your newsletter, should approve your privacy policy and you should be able to show they did that. Therefore, you could have a tickbox on the activity “newsletter subscription” that was ticked by the subscriber on the registration webform. An activity of the type phone call does not need such a tickbox.

Activity types help you distinguish between the type of activities that are carried out by your staff or your constituents and report on that. For instance with regards to the number of activities that were carried out and time spent for the purpose of a specific campaign that you ran.

Relationships #

Relationships in CiviCRM help you define how one contact relates to another in CiviCRM.

  • An individual can be the employee of an organisation. Therefore that organisation is the indivdiual’s employer.
  • An individual can be the parent of another individual, such as that is relevant information in schools.

In institutional fundraising, it is highly relevant to know what individual in a prospective donor organisation decides on grants.

A contact in CiviCRM can have any number of relationships with a start- and enddate (the latter making the relationship inactive). Relationships help you build a complete picture of your contacts.

(Smart) Groups #

Contacts can be added to any number of groups in CiviCRM. Groups provide a range of functionality:

  • to send bulkmail to contacts in one or more groups
  • to group people along interests, abilities or any other need
  • to enable permissioning of access to groups of contacts
  • search for contacts

Contacts can be manually added to groups or through automated processes. One example of such automation are smart groups – groups to which contacts are automatically added if they have specific characteristics. For instance contacts that have an address in a worldregion that speak a specific language and are younger than x can be automatically added to a group.

Tags #

Tags can be added to contacts. They can be easily ticked by the user and will show on the contact’s summary tab. Tabs can be used to search for contacts (segmentation) or to just provide basic information to the user.

Custom Fields #

Most entities in CiviCRM can have custom fields that are defined for your specific need. A volunteer contact type could have a custom field to document their specific availability. An activity type that documents questions that website visitors can ask, could also have an “Answer” field, to document the answer that was given.

All custom fields can be used to search. So all volunteers with a specific availability can be found on the basis of the custom field.