We had the opportunity to install and deploy a CiviCRM system for a local membership organization. For those of you unfamiliar with CiviCRM, it is an open source CRM platform designed for use in non-profits, membership organizations, and other various fundraising projects. In fact, I’ve even read of CiviCRM being used in some fairly large political campaigns.
Before we get started, let’s clarify a few things.
- First, the whole project is OPEN SOURCE. This means there aren’t really true support desks like there are with many software platforms. If you have an organization full of non-technical folks, you should probably not even consider managing the software in house.
- As a subpoint, it’s important to note that open source doesn’t equal free. There is still a significant time investment to get everything setup properly. And since it’s hosted locally, you’ll have to do you own maintenance.
- Second, the installation is slightly more complicated than a simple WordPress automatic install. It requires creating a whole other database, uploading the files via FTP, and some other hoops to jump through. So I’d put installation at an intermediate level.
- Third, CiviCRM is POWERFUL!!! It is truly a full featured program. If you have access to someone with some moderate coding background, you can make it do almost anything you could imagine with regard to non-profit maintenance and management.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started with the installation. Before we get started, there are a few things you’ll need:
- An internet connection (or you could install it locally, but we’ll be doing the install live for simplicity’s sake)
- An active WordPress install (you can use Drupal or Joomla as well, but this particular post is focused on WP)
- FTP Access to the server
- Access to create and edit databases on the server
We’ll also try and avoid using the command line in this tutorial. Chances are if you’re fluent in the command line, you’ll just want to look at the slightly more complicated official documentation.
Alright, let’s get started:
Step 1: Download CiviCRM
- Go to https://civicrm.org/download.
- Download the latest CiviCRM version for WordPress
- Unzip the Contents
Step 2: FTP into the Server
- Use an FTP client such as FileZilla (Free) or Transmit (Paid) to FTP into your server.
- Find the directory of your WordPress install.
- Go to wp-content>plugins
Step 3: FTP into the Server
- Once you’re in the wp-content>plugins folder, find the CiviCRM files on your local computer
- Now upload the entire (unzipped) CiviCRM folder. Be sure it has the name civicrm (no caps)
- Because FTP only uploads one file at a time, this may take a little while
Step 4: Setup and Configuration
Once you get the files into the plugins folder, you’ll want to actually login using Administrator level credentials to the backend of your WordPress site. Usually the login screen can be found at http://example.com/wp-admin.
After you login, you should see a notification that says “CiviCRM is almost ready. You must configure CiviCRM for it to work.”
If you don’t see that notification, click on your Settings tab. Under Settings you should see the CiviCRM Installer listed. If you still don’t see it listed, you’ve likely uploaded the files into the wrong directory or uploaded the wrong type of files (i.e. the Drupal version or Joomla version for your WordPress Site). So check those things first.
Once you select CiviCRM, you’ll see a screen that looks something like this:
CiviCRM needs a database to function properly. You can either use the same database that your main WordPress site users, or you can create another database to use.
We recommend creating an entirely separate database to use. Here’s why:
- Should anything go wrong with the database, you won’t risk messing up your whole site, just the CiviCRM portion.
- Should you ever decide to retire or delete CiviCRM, it’s simpler to try and delete an entirely separate database than sort through tables in your main database.
If you decide to use the same database make sure you make a backup of your site (honestly, you should be making at least weekly backups anyway). Then just enter the credentials for your database in the screen provided.
If you decide you create a separate database (as we recommend), you’ll need to login to your cpanel or hosting provider. Then you’ll go to your database tools section and create a unique database and user. You’ll also want to make sure to ADD your user to the new database with full privileges.
Once you’ve added the database and credentials into the CiviCRM installer, hit “Re-check requirements”.
If everything is working, there should be one more step on the setup.
You need to manually create a folder within your wp-content>plugins folder called “files”, then set permissions to writeable for users. It does not need to be writable to the rest of the world. Suggested permissions are 755 for those of you who enter permissions manually.
Step 5: Install
Once you get the “all clear” from the CiviCRM installer, click the “Check Requirements and Install CivicCRM” button. It will take a few minutes for CiviCRM to be fully installed.
Once you get the confirmation, go back to the main WordPress dashboard. You should now see CiviCRM listed as a tab on the left menu in WordPress.
Step 6: High Five!
Congratulations on installing CiviCRM. You now have one of the most powerful CRM systems available right at your fingertips. There is a slight learning curve, so I recommend taking a look at the Official Documentation here.
I hope this was helpful. If you have more advanced questions, see the official install guide. However, as I first time installer, I found it slightly challenging to make sense of. So we wrote this guide to help.
Special thanks to the CiviCRM core team who build this piece of software we love so much. We love CiviCRM and open source code!
If you want to give feedback, please find me on Twitter @tyler_brooks.