In full swing with CiviCRM

The mission of the First Tee Colorado Rocky Mountains is to educate and inspire youth academically, socially and physically through the game of golf. The First Tee offers group lessons where students learn not only golf, but core values that are incorporated throughout the program, such as honesty and responsibility. Cividesk recently spoke with Dan Reeves, Director of Operations for The First Tee of Colorado Rocky Mountains about their transition to CiviCRM.

Tell us more about “life before CiviCRM”
We were using several different systems to complete various tasks, so data was not in a centralized location. Our previous website was in Joomla, and we were using an extension to the website for class registration, but we also used a cloud-based service for donor management and Excel spreadsheets to track other information.
Why CiviCRM and why Cividesk?
We chose CiviCRM so we could better track our students, parents, classes and programs (from three different First Tee locations) and all of our donors and fundraising efforts. I discovered CiviCRM a few years earlier and knew it was beyond my capabilities to manage on our own, so I put the decision on hold for a while. Our national organization chose to use SalesForce to manage their class registration, but we decided CiviCRM was a better fit since it is open-source, customizable and integrates with Drupal. So when we reached the point where we needed to replace our event registration system, we began investigating CiviCRM service providers.
We received proposals from different companies to help us with implementing CiviCRM and ultimately chose Cividesk. We liked the custom integration and SaaS subscription model that Cividesk offered and we wanted an ongoing relationship to receive customer support, hosting and maintenance of the database. Cividesk’s monthly subscription rate was comparable to others and we wanted to work with a local company here in Colorado. It’s important to us to have a provider who can help us grow and build on our use of CiviCRM and Cividesk does just that.

How was the implementation and training provided by Cividesk?
The implementation took longer than we were anticipating since there was some custom development that needed to be done. The training was good, but it was a complicated time because we were in the middle of moving offices. All of the customized features weren’t in place at the time of the training, so Cividesk spent additional time with me in an online training format to cover specific features about the customization. Customer service is great – very responsive and helpful.
Could you describe a challenge you faced that CiviCRM helped resolve?
We needed a system that could record class registration for our golf lessons, and have the classes assigned to the kids and the payment assigned to the parents who register them. Cividesk did some custom development in CiviCRM and in Drupal to create a customized registration portal. When a parent registers a child, separate contact records are created for both the parent and children. These contact records are linked together, and the pertinent payment and registration data is recorded with the corresponding contact. For the parents who have multiple kids in the program and want to register them to multiple classes, Cividesk customized the forms to make it possible. Since the launch of the new portal parents coming to the website have commented that it is a lot easier than previous registration systems we have used. It’s worked well on the back-end too for our staff to keep track of the registrants and payment information.
Cividesk also set up the multi-site feature of CiviCRM and of Drupal since we have three separate websites representing The First Tee of the Front Range, The First Tee of Denver and The First Tee of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. We have one unique instance of CiviCRM accessible from the three different Drupal websites, all the contacts are visible globally to the First Tee of Denver staff but staff from the other chapters can access only their own contacts. Class registration is also unique to a particular site as registration is possible only for the classes from the specific region, whereas payments collected are recorded at the global level.

What are some of the main features you use in CiviCRM?
Event Management: Parents use the class registration portal to search for classes and register one or several children to several classes at the same time. They are required to login in first and once they are logged in if they have already registered their children for previous classes the registration form is automatically populated with their children information.
Parents also have the ability to see the maximum capacity for a class and how many are currently registered thanks to a custom development created by Cividesk. We use CiviEvent for all of our class registrations, since each class is created as an event, and also to manage registration for our fundraisers, golf tournaments, luncheons, and other gatherings.
We are also using CiviDiscount to create discount codes to be used during the registration.
Mass Emailing: We use Mosaico (the new template builder extension for CiviMail) to send monthly newsletters and other bulk email messages and traditional CiviMail to send out emails about our golf classes and the schedule reminders feature (automated emails) for event reminders.
Donor Management: We have created some new contribution pages to solicit donations around an event. Our board members usually solicit donations as well, and they can send out this link to their contacts who aren’t able to attend an event, but want to donate. We also use activities to record conversations with donors from our fundraising events.

What are the benefits of using CiviCRM?
Having everything centralized: registrations, donations, bulk emailing lists, etc. and having all the history in one place, especially from past events and contributions. It’s great to be able to track sent emails . . . especially when someone says they didn’t receive it. It wouldn’t be possible for our organization to use CiviCRM for our class registration without the customizations done by Cividesk, but now we have a registration system that fits perfectly our needs.
One of the benefits of the integration of CiviCRM into Drupal is to allow the parents to register in our website and to access data that is stored into CiviCRM database. Once they are logged in parents can view the history of their children’s previous classes and update their contact information such as school, age, address, etc …

If you had some advice to give other organizations who are considering CiviCRM, what would you tell them?
CiviCRM is so robust and has many options, so it can be difficult to manage without someone who knows what they are doing. Dan explains: “I’m a tech savvy person, but CiviCRM has a little bit more of a learning curve when it comes to maximizing the system to its full potential. I recommend working with a service provider to help fill in those gaps.”