Thoughts on Open Source Software for non-profits and businesses

CiviCRM Activities in Outlook and Google Calendar

It's great to be able to schedule meetings and phone calls as activities in CiviCRM. A staff member can schedule activities for himself, for co-workers, or both, and the assigned activities will show up on the CiviCRM Contact Dashboard. Wonderful! At Emphanos, we've found that this works well for some users, but that many people already have another software package that they rely on to schedule meetings and tasks. For these users, it's an additional step, often cumbersome, to remember to sign in to the CRM and check on their scheduled activities. What they really want is to see these activities in their preferred calendar software.
If you've ever wished you could see your CiviCRM activities in your Google Calendar, then you might enjoy the CiviCRM activities iCalendar feed module. CiviCRM activities iCalendar feed is a Drupal module that will help you get your CiviCRM activities into Google Calendar, Outlook, or any other calendaring software that supports the iCalendar feed format. Check out the video at left (starting at around 2:15) for a quick demo of the module in action. Set up is pretty simple:
You can get the Drupal 6 and 7 module here:
  • Install it just as you would any Drupal module (see's Installing contributed modules).
  • Decide which user roles should be able to access their own CiviCRM Activity iCalendar Feed. Then visit /admin/people/permissions, and enable the permission "Access CiviCRM activity iCalendar feed" for these roles.
NOTE: The ical feed links will only display if CiviCRM is configured to display assigned activities on the dashboard. To adjust this configuration, visit the CiviCRM Display Preferences page at /civicrm/admin/setting/preferences/display?reset=1, and ensure the option "Assigned Activities" is checked, in the section labeled "Contact Dashboard."
  • Provide navigation to guide users to their feed information page. This is available at /civicrm_activity_ical/settings/user. Note that the link to the feed information page is displayed at the top of the CiviCRM Contact Dashboard (/civicrm/user?reset=1)
  • Take a look at the settings page for the module at admin/config/civicrm_activity_ical. The one configurable setting is "Cache Interval," which defines the length of time to cache each feed. This helps to limit any negative performance impact from software that checks the feeds too often. The default of 30 minutes will work fine for most installations, but you may want to adjust it to fit your needs.

CiviCRM Training for User and Administrators

2-day CiviCRM Training in Chicago

Emphanos is proud to present Chicago's second official CiviCRM User and Administrator training on November 2nd and 3rd, 2011. This comprehensive two-day training will cover all aspects of CiviCRM from the powerful day-to-day tasks that will directly benefit your non-profit cause to more advanced topics and features of CiviCRM applicable to your organization. We will cover the following aspects of CiviCRM:
Seating is limited to 24 participants, register now! Spots will given out on a first come first serve basis.
  • Overview of CiviCRM's capabilities and new features
  • Event setup and management using CiviCRM
  • Membership management using CiviCRM
  • Donor and Donation management using CiviCRM
  • Case management using CiviCRM
  • Website and CiviCRM integration
  • Getting the most of our current CiviCRM installation
We expect to reach capacity for this event, so reserve your spot Sign Up

CiviCRM Tutorial: All Options Lists

Configuring CiviCRM Option Groups

Most configurable options and settings for CiviCRM can be found under the "Administer" tab on the CiviCRM navigation menu, but there are a few particular options which are inaccessible from this menu, including the pages for editing and creating Activity Statuses and Contribution Statuses. You can still find these options buried within CiviCRM, simply visit the following address (be sure to substitute in your organization’s domain name, or use the official demo site



While most of the options in this list can be found elsewhere within CiviCRM or require custom code to be useful, a few particular option settings stand out and are worth mentioning:
The CiviCRM default list for Activity Status includes Cancelled, Completed, Left Message, Not Required, Scheduled, and Unreachable.  This page allows you to edit these existing statuses or create new ones to better suit your organization’s work flow. One of our clients needed a way to track the status of incoming applications using activities. The application process was simple enough to warrant the adoption of activities and avoid the more complex CiviCase, so we added a new Activity Status, “Needs Review” for them to track the process.

Similar to the activity_status options, the contribution_status option allows you to create new statuses for contributions.  While the built-in contribution statuses in CiviCRM cover the majority of possible financial statuses, you may find that creating a new status can offer a benefit for your organization.
The two built-in Group Types "Access Control" and "Mailing List" are important in determining whether a group is used for ACL or for CiviMail, and while there are many ways of organizing groups, you may find it useful to create a new type of group. When working with an organization that uses exceptionally large numbers of groups or offers a wide range of services the number of groups can get quite large.  Adding new group types allow you to find related groups more easily using the Search Filter on the “Manage Groups” page.

A good example of this are religious organizations that often have a religious school program like Sunday school, which in turn can then have related sub-groups such as teachers, students.  Adding the Group Type “School” creates a quick way to find these related "sub"-groups.
label_format and paper_size
When printing PDF letters or shipping labels CiviCRM comes with a very comprehensive set of prepackaged paper sizes and label formats. If you would like to create your own customized labels or use a unconventional paper size you can use the label_format and paper_size options to create the template that suits your purpose perfectly.

Chicago Drupal Meetup talk on CiviCRM

This past Wednesday I gave a presentation on CiviCRM at the March Chicago Drupal Meetup. Here are the slides from the presentation.

It turns out that the google presentation viewer doesn't seem to preserve the same formatting of the original slides, so some text will be cut off. But it's a very convenient way to browse through the slides. Everything looks fine when you pick the fullscreen mode.

Client Testimonial

Working with Emphanos has been a great relief to me and other leaders in our young nonprofit association of 900 scholars. Our fast growth put pressure on our Drupal/CiviCRM website, which was being hosted on a pro bono basis and only occasionally getting the sort of technical attention it needed. Emphanos figured out what wasn't working with our site and designed a strategy to address our immediate and long-term need. They know the challenges of nonprofits inside and out. Our site is now stable, and we have someone reliable to call when we need help. Getting our site in Emphanos' able hands finally gives me hope that we can achieve the web presence we need with the know-how to back it up.

Robert, NAISA
The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) approached Emphanos for assistance and advice when they experienced excessively slow CiviCRM performance and numerous warning and error messages during simple CiviCRM page loads, which brought their entire website and CRM to a standstill. Within a short time the developers and engineers at Emphanos were able to isolate the problem, put in optimization measures and smoothly transfer the site with all required patches to the Emphanos server infrastructure. Page load speeds improved drastically by a factor of 20 and CiviCRM errors are now a thing of the past. If you are experiencing sluggish page load times and CiviCRM error messages, please let us know. We'd be glad to assist you and have you join the ranks of our cheering customers.

Chicago area CiviCRM Meetup group launched

We had our first Greater Chicago area CiviCRM Meetup at 6 pm on Thursday February 10th at the offices of Emphanos at TechNexus and had 6 people in attendance.

Topics we covered:
  • Merits of CiviCRM versus and Microsoft Access for non-profits
  • Creative and uncommon uses of CiviCRM for different workflows
  • Overview of CiviCRM's capabilities (presentation by Mary Kay Bianchi)
  • Discussion about hosting a reception introducing Cloud computing and CiviCRM for non-profits in the Chicagoland area, planning and generating an invitation list
  • Discussion about promoting the upcoming Chicago CiviCon 2011 conference
  • Discussion on the CiviAccounts Make-it-happen campaign
  • Discussion about our next official meetup towards the end of March
We'd like to acknowledge SNtial Technologies for sponsoring the pizza and Emphanos for providing refreshments.

Hope to see you at the next meetup on March 25th, 2011!

Emphanos sponsors CiviCon 2011

Emphanos is proud to sponsor the upcoming CiviCRM Conference to be held on March 7th, 2011. Chicago CiviCon 2011 will to bring together implementers, developers, end users and CiviCRM enthusiasts from all over the United States and abroad. There are three events happening concurrently on the 5th and 6th: The main event is CiviCon Chicago 2011 which willl happen on Monday the 7th: To register for this event please visit the registration page. For a peek at the planned conference agenda and full day of sessions.