One of the best parts about CiviCRM is its flexibility and the vast amount of extra functionality the community has created for it over the years. While the core CiviCRM software contains many fantastic features, many of the additions have been bundled into extensions.
With literally hundreds of different extensions available for download, one common question is where do I start? Today we’ll be sharing our thoughts on which 5 extensions will make the most impact on your CiviCRM experience!
There’s a reason this is the number one most downloaded CiviCRM extension. The CiviCRM Mosaico extension enhances your mail building experience by adding an intuitive drag and drop interface for creating your mailings. Those of you familiar with mailing platforms such as MailChimp understand how effective these tools can be in creating high quality looking emails with minimal design experience.
The traditional CiviCRM mailing functionality is functional and will certainly help you to send out bulk mailings, but if you’re interested in mailing out custom designed emails then you’ll need someone familiar with html and responsive design. Understandably, this is something many smaller nonprofits do not have access to.
The Mosaico integration incorporates the Mosaico library into CiviCRM, meaning not only can you design your emails more easily, but you also don’t need to worry about the usual data complexity external email platforms can bring. If you’re looking to send email campaigns from CiviCRM, Mosaico is an essential first install!
CiviCRM is a passion project built by a global community with an endless variety of powerful features tailored for nonprofits. While this functionality is undeniable, its default user interface is perhaps a little sparse at times. Here at Compuco we wanted to create a more attractive theme to modernise CiviCRMs look and feel.
This led to us developing the Shoreditch "theme" extension, so named because of the place (in East London) where it was designed and built. This provides a complete overhaul of the CiviCRM experience with a sleeker and more modern look. Primarily designed for the Drupal 7 version of CiviCRM, there is some limited unoffical support for Wordpress and Drupal 9 versions.
If you’re looking for a more aesthetically pleasing CiviCRM experience, we strongly recommend installing Shoreditch.
Our next extension is an essential time-saving feature that lets you build powerful workflows. The CiviRules extension is a must have for eliminating tedious repetitive tasks from your CRM.
It adds a logic based system where you can decide on the triggers, conditions and actions that are taken as a result. To give an example; perhaps you run a fundraising organisation. You also have an online donation form. You might want to be notified if you’ve received a particularly large donation over a specific amount so that you can make contact with that individual personally. Using CiviRules you could set up the system to recognise when this happens via the form and for it to then automatically send you an email notification. In fact you could even setup a personalised thank you to the donor, put them into a special mailing group and set a tag on the record for you to be able to easily find them again
This is just one example of countless uses for the system, with the documentation giving a few more ideas. You can even seek development help to add your own triggers or actions. This extension is a fantastic way to make CiviCRM do all the hard work, so you don’t have to!
If you’re an organisation that deals with case management in any way then out of the box CiviCRM functionality contained within it to help you manage your needs. As noted above base Civi can look visually outdated at times and the case module may well be one of the most evident examples of this.
This is why we worked on a CiviCase overhaul extension. The idea was to bring the whole Case module much more in line with the streamlined work environment we developed when working on Shoreditch. There are also a range of new functionalities contained within this overhaul, including better activity logging, easier bulk options and the ever useful drag and drop capability for file uploads.
If cases are something that are going to be vital to your org, this is a top priority install. One interesting side note about this new framework is that it also led to the development of CiviProspect, another extension worth a look. This uses many of the same features to specifically manage fundraising or other monetary opportunities.
Last on our list of 5 is the Membership Extras extension. Another extension created and maintained by our team., Because of the diverse business models of membership organisations, CiviCRM’s vanilla version can overlook some common requirements or doesn’t quite accomplish what organisations would ideally like.
We’ve talked about the numerous improvements on various occasions, but fundamentally some very necessary features such as instalments (with different durations), better offline payment options, and handling of members in “arrears” are implemented in the extension.
If you are a membership organisation onboarding CiviCRM, then you will almost certainly benefit from Membership Extras. It takes a solid foundation and truly makes a best in class digital platform for membership management.
These two features are a bonus because technically both are there by default! They exist as ‘core’ extensions however, they are not “enabled” by default..
CiviCRM has a range of search tools, with Search Kit being the newest and most powerful iteration. Without getting bogged down in the details, Search Kit provides a solution that gives a high degree of search flexibility while also serving as a unified reporting feature. From here you can take numerous actions on the data gathered.
On the other hand, building all manner of webforms is something that has long been a strong functionality of CiviCRM. Form Builder is a project that aims to make that simpler than ever before. By adding a simple one stop interface with drag and drop functionality, it ensures that anyone can deploy a form in minutes. If you want to make use of forms, definitely take a look.
Making sure you take full advantage of extensions is essential to ensuring you are getting the most out of the CiviCRM ecosystem’s innovations. We strongly recommend the above 5 as a good starting point, though there are countless others that offer excellent functionality, such as a favourite of ours CiviDiscount, which we’ve highlighted before. You can find many more on the Compuco Github, in the CiviCRM extensions directory and in CiviCRM community development “gitlab”.
It is well worth noting that you need to consider compatibility issues when installing and maintaining extensions so please read Civi’s guide before attempting to do so on your own. If you would like help setting up any extensions or training on how to use them or the other features we covered in this post, please get in touch.