I had an email exchange recently with someone from a group that uses CiviCRM and she mentioned that she wished she didn't have to go to hire a consultant every time she had a question -- she is more of a "DIY" person. My response was that CiviCRM allows you to be as DIY as you want, or are able (and the CiviCRM community really wants you to grow your skills so that you are able to do more and more of what you need to do). We are a nonprofit that serves other nonprofits, but our mission has an educational and empowering thrust. We are here to support as needed but we want you and your team to build skills and have the appropriate technology in place to do your work. In that vein, here are a few important resources for CiviCRM DIYers:
- CiviCRM user guide
This is a collaborative user guide created and edited by a spectrum of people. You are welcome to contribute to it, too!
- CiviCRM StackExchange Q&A
This site allows you to ask/answer questions with other CiviCRM users (both end users and developers). It is a way to share knowledge, ask for help, and help provide another avenue for authoritative and accepted answers to CiviCRM questions. Each question and each answer can be voted up by other users as an indicator of their strength and usefulness, and the person who asked the question can also mark which answer solved the problem.
I'm also adding a recording from the "CiviCRM 101" series which can give an introductory snapshot of some of the features available. It may also be worth posting here an excerpt from a recent CiviCRM post by Zak Rogoff of the Free Software Foundation to call out some of the reasons that can inform a decision about open source versus proprietary software:
Here are some messages...which I hope can be useful for nonprofits to explain why they use free software:
- Our organization is part of a community -- we give back by submitting bug reports and code, which helps other nonprofits.
- Our organization is thoughtful and ethical about how we operate, and this extends to the technology we use.
- Our organization is part of a political movement for technological empowerment, transparency and freedom.
- Our organization avoids spending money on proprietary software licenses so that we can focus on our mission.
- Our organization keeps your data safe in a system we can service ourselves instead of leaving it in a black box computer controlled by someone else (if you host your own CiviCRM instance).
Let me know if you have any questions for me directly, and if you're already a CiviCRM user: see you on the StackExchange Q&A support board!