Using CiviCRM on Joomla
Most technical professionals end up doing website technical support for one or more community organizations. Most organizations need operational systems for managing members, handling dues payments and event registration fees and calender management, but these organizations frequently do not have the money to pay for a commercial services to support these needs. Many non-profits have adopted CiviCRM to handle these organizational capabilities. Although CiviCRM runs on Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal, most CiviCRM installations are on Drupal which is beyond the technical capability of many small organizations.
Although Wordpress is a popular CMS for small organizations, it does not have the robust permissions system that both Drupal and Joomla have and is not well-suited to CiviCRM installations; in Wordpress, controlling access to sensitive information would be difficult, unreliable, or impossible. Because of the migration issues between Drupal 7 and Drupal 8, Joomla may actually be a good alternative for Drupal 7 installations that do not want to make or cannot make the conversion to Drupal 8.
The article that follows describes the basic features of CiviCRM, how you can use the Joomla permissions system to control sensitive information, and how you can use Joomla menu options to present CiviCRM capabilities to end users.
CiviCRM is a Non-profit Oriented Customer Relationship Management System
CiviCRM provides both backend administrative tools that are accessible through the Joomla backend to users with administrative privileges, and frontend information and registration tools that are accessible through the Joomla frontend either publicly or to users with front-end privileges. For many non-profit community organizations these two capabilities are critical. There are several vendors that host CiviCRM installations, so if your organization loses the technical person who manages the CiviCRM installation, there is a fall-back alternative that is competitively priced compared to commercial membership management solutions.
Administering a CiviCRM installation is not a trivial undertaking; there are many decisions to be made for member types, document types, case types and numerous other things, so an organization must have a good technical succession plan in place before making the decision to implement a CiviCRM system. This is true of any membership management system.
Perhaps the biggest consideration in hosting a CiviCRM system for membership management will depend upon the risk of private data compromises and whether or not the organization can protect itself technically and legally from the risk of compromise.
The CiviCRM Administrative Backend Has Many Useful Capabilities
For membership management, the most important area of CiviCRM is the administrative backend that will be used by organization officers and employees to run the organization. The CiviCRM dashboard has a wide range of tools available for running and organization, ranging from contacts/members, contributions, donors, events, marketing mailings, payments, and cases for service delivery.
The next series of figures show screenshots of some of the menu options available for CiviCRM backend users.
CiviCRM Exploits the Joomla Permissions System
Membership information is always sensitive information within a non-profit. This information becomes more difficult to manage when an organization has a development division that tracks and communicates with high-dollar donors. This requires the ability to prevent some users from accessing donor information while getting to other membership and event information. In CiviCRM, this is largely handled through the native CRM permissions system. Wordpress does not have a built-in permissions system and is a problematic choice for a CiviCRM installation.
Joomla has a robust permissions system and is well suited for CiviCRM installations. The section that follows shows an example of configuring Joomla permissions to segregate access to the donor management portions of CiviCRM. The example is taken from a prototype for a small arts group that needed a donor management system accessible by some but not all officers.
In this example, the donor management functions were completely separated from the event management functions.
The CiviCRM Frontend Integrates with Joomla’s Menu System
The final component of a CiviCRM installation is the options that are presented to members and public in the front-end of the web site. In this case, the example is showing the dues payment capability for a club where only logged-in members can access the dues-payment dialog. The Joomla menu system provides the means to define menu options that are visible to the public or only to certain user groups. This provides the means to expose the payment dialog only to logged-in users, who in this case are part of the CiviCRM-Officers user group.
CiviCRM provides the organization management capabilities that many nonprofits need and Joomla provides a technically manageable platform with robust permissions. This is a combination that many small nonprofits should evaluate.