Thursday, August 6, 2009

CiviCRM's 3.0 Review: Where are the weaknesses?

I wrote a post in 2006 about CiviCRM's weaknesses. With the upcoming CiviCRM 3.0 release (try it out), I thought I would revist those weaknesses and see if I could add some more.

1. Ecology. The ecology is now mature enough to support virtually any size customer. (support the active contributors!)

2. Documentation. Online docs done by the esteemed John Kenyon and just released a CiviCRM book! I think the documentation is certainly on par with anything out there.

3. Donor Management. Pledges, soft credits and user configurable LYBUNT reports, what more can anyone want? (there are some things, but the basic functionality in now all present)

According to my criteria, CiviCRM has long surpassed the sustainability tipping point:
So what are the weaknesses now? Since the CiviCRM team moves very rapidly, many of the key weaknesses are getting addressed in the 3.0 release... I probably should do this post yearly.
  1. Usability. This was a recent bug-a-boo that the CiviCRM team took a big swing at in the 3.0 release. The new navigation bar is pretty much to die for. The configuration checklist that makes setting up a new site a snap is underadvertised and perhaps underappreciated. Oh, and the recent items list is a basic but import feature. There is still room for improvement, but CiviCRM is certainly now on par with any competitive piece of software.
  2. Reporting. The new CiviReport framework addresses the basic reporting gaps and allows the community to fill most remaining reporting gaps.
  3. Donor management gaps. Things like postal mail merge are not tightly integrated into the application or into the CRM history. Prospecting and proposals have yet to be addressed directly.
  4. Accounting integration. This need to be smoothed out and improved. And the community is already on it.
  5. Volunteer management. Not sure this is a weakness, per se, it just hasn't been a priority.
And other things people can add to the comments.

Overall, the 3.0 release represents the end of fundimental gaps in the utility of CiviCRM for most nonprofits.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Read this and be ashamed

Every once in awhile I read something that just makes me sad.

Reading the Northern California Grantmakers blog, I came across this statement from a Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) publication.
Grantmakers, for instance, often are not aware of what it actually costs nonprofits to deliver services.
Something is seriously wrong with an industry that doesn't understand its customers. How on earth can grantmakers be OK with this situation?

Well, a gem from my experience with private foundations. In almost all cases grantees are not customers, the trustees are the customers. Foundations understand their trustees *very* well and generally (not always) the trustees don't require their organizations to understand grantees. And even if staff understands grantees, that isn't enough to change policy or trustee behavior.

In the egregious cases, the value of a grantees to a trustee derives from their ability to support the trustees ego. Does the grantee make me feel good? Does the grantee support my religious construct of "giving back." Does the grantee connect me with other powerful people? Can I chat about what the grantee does on my private plane with my social and business associates?

And finally, since the grantmakers are basically running the White House Social Innovation Fund, are we OK with people who are often unaware of what it actually costs a nonprofit to deliver services making the decisions about what the most innovative, scalable and effective programs are?

Nice little nugget to chew on there.