CiviCRM is a powerful and flexible tool which has a huge number of features to meet the needs of even the most complex of organisations. But being so flexible also means that some of the features can also be somewhat hidden, even for the most experienced “power” CiviCRM user!

Today we thought we’d spend a few minutes to share what we think are some of the most useful hidden ‘easter egg’ features that we think you should know about if you are using CiviCRM!

1. Headings in dropdown lists

Let’s say you’re creating a dropdown list in CiviCRM - what if you want to group some of the options under unselectable headers in that list? This is something you might well want for something such as diversity statistics or categories within long lists. Here we’ll take the example of grouping a list by cats and dogs.

You can group dropdown lists as you wish!

Did you know you can actually do this easily in CiviCRM! To do so, you’ll need to go to where you can edit your dropdown lists, which means (on the top bar) going to Administer -> Customize Data and Screens -> Dropdown options. From here you can create or edit an existing dropdown list.

The screen for adding new values.

The key part for adding your new dropdown ‘groups’ is replacing the ‘value’ field. Normally this should be a list of numbers that the CRM will keep track of separately to keep reporting accurate (they should not share values!). For these special option group titles instead of a number you want to change the ‘value’ to “crm_optgroup_(<your title>)”. In the screenshot above, we have ‘crm_optgroup_Cats” for instance. Enter all your values and group titles like this and your dropdown list will be ready for use!

For more information on creating option groups and lists see the CiviCRM manual section on custom fields.

2. Filtering the list of activity types on the contact actions menu

Fair warning 🚨, this one is slightly more technical to achieve, but we’re including it because it can be exceptionally useful (and keeps your CRM nice and tidy!). This feature relates to activity types that might be specific to your organisation and how you can make it easy to create a new one attached to a contact record.

When you go to a contact and click on the ‘actions’ menu you’ll see that you record a number of things such as meetings or phone calls. If you want to log different activities that you staff perform that perhaps are not present in that list you can easily add new activity types: (find out how here!).

But what about the other way around? For those who are more technical you may have activity types that you do not want users to record manually, but are created automatically due to some other process (perhaps by using CiviRules or Webform CiviCRM). Then you wouldn’t want them to clog up your nice clean actions menu for your users!

So how do you hide them?

Add custom activity types to your ‘actions’ menu!

Doing this is going to require direct access to your backend CiviCRM database (or using the API explorer). If you don’t know how to do that (or what that’s even referring to) we recommend getting in contact with whoever maintains your CiviCRM instance. Once you’re in there you want to search for the activity type you want to be added to the menu. Once you’ve found it, you need to edit a specific column - the ‘filter’ column.

By default this column will have a ‘0’ value meaning it is not filtered. If you change this to a “1” then it will be filtered, removing it from the actions menu! Voila, a much cleaner list! Your users can thank us later! 😉

3. Multi-value custom field importer

Our next feature might be easier for some to find… or might be completely hidden in other (and most older!) CiviCRM instances!

On contact records you can have custom fields where are either “inline” i.e. 1 set of custom data values for each contact, for example to store a contact’s interests or dietary requirements, or you can allow multiple sets of records against each contact i.e. a table of data for data like a contacts Education history or employment. For more details see here.

If your CiviCRM instance is very new, it may have an ‘import custom data’ menu link under Contacts to do this, but for older CiviCRM’s this menu link didn’t exist so you might not have it!

The hidden data importer you need is found at []/civicrm/import/custom?reset=1. This’ll load up a screen where you can import your csv of multi record data. You can add the importer link to your menu by these instructions.

The secret custom field importer!

It’s also worth mentioning the powerful API CSV importer extension that you can install in order to import any data into CiviCRM that you can think of! The extension has support for very large data sets and can import in the background.

4. Managing event breakout groups using price sets

Let’s say you’re looking to take advantage of CiviCRM’s great event functionality for an upcoming conference you’re running. If you’re running multiple sessions at once as part of a larger event, you might want people to pre-select which sessions they’ll be attending. And what if those sessions have limited capacity so you need to stop people booking into them once the spaces are gone!

CiviCRM has the answer! By using “price set” functionality you can setup a price set for participants to register to a breakout group! 

Set your new price set up to be used for events and then get to adding the price fields.

An example of how to set up your new price set.

For example purposes, we’ll just create a morning and afternoon session, though feel free to break up the day as you wish. I create a different field for both and after selecting the radio option under ‘Input Field Type’ I can then add different sessions. Be sure to turn off display amount if your sessions are free within the event and set any prices to 0.

Depending on whether you’re gauging interest or requiring numbers in advance, you might want to remember to tick the ‘required’ box on the price fields to force an answer.

How you might set up your price fields.

In your event make sure to enable this as a paid event in the fees section. If no fees are being taken, select ‘offline recurring contribution’ to prevent payment being taken. Otherwise be sure to pick the payment processor option. Once done select your price set from the dropdown box and voila, your session options should appear on your registration form!

The final result!

One thing to note about this method is that if you do want to charge for your event you’ll have to add those charges within the price set you’re using and you should definitely set the display amount to appear for that specific price field! Otherwise this is a nifty use of hidden functionality that works fantastically well to serve a real need in many events!

5. Case type categories

The case functionality within CiviCRM is absolutely fantastic and something we’ve done extensive work on over the years. Useful for sales pipelines, case management, grants/awards management and more, it’s an extremely flexible tool. 

By default, CiviCRM will only give you the one ‘instance’ of cases though. This means that if you have multiple teams that could use the module (e.g. you have one team that provides case management, but another fundraising team who would like to use it to prospect for donors), then you’d have to keep them all on the same screen and dashboard. This also means you can't give your teams different permissions.

So how can you have multiple cases instances with one for each team?

Thankfully, there’s an easy solution with Compuco’s CiviCase extension.

The three default case types in a Compuco CiviCRM setup

Once installed, Case Types will have a new field “Case Type Category”. Case type categories are “case instances” and will have their own menu link, dashboard and permissions.

To create a case instance, once the extension is installed, as a CiviCRM administrator navigate to Administer -> System Settings -> Option Groups. Search for the ‘case type category’ option group. Once in the menu, add a new case type category with the singular and plural names, choose the instance type (we recommend ‘case management’ in most cases, but check out the others for some additional functionality for grants and awards!) and then your icon. Make sure to click the ‘enabled?’ box if you wish this new option to appear on your topbar. If all goes to plan you’ll have a completely new “instance” of CiviCase for your team to use!

The menu with a new ‘legal’ case type category

It now appears in the top bar too!


We hope we’ve shared a few things within CiviCRM that will not only be useful but that you might not even have realised were possible! While some of these are fairly easy to use, others (such as the activity type feature) might require a little more technical knowledge.

If you’re struggling to take advantage of any of these features or have some general questions about CiviCRM, please get in touch. We’d be more than happy to help you out!