French Chamber in the Netherlands

Streamlining Membership and Event Management with CiviCRM

An interview with the French Chamber in the Netherlands

The French Chamber in the Netherlands provides services to approximately 200 members, from individuals to large corporations, hosts 20 events each year, including one major fundraiser and publishes a quarterly newsletter. The organization is run by a team of five staff members and a board of directors.

The chamber is part of a network of French Chambers of Commerce and Industry Abroad (UCCIFE) which includes 111 chambers in 81 countries. Many of the UCCIFE chambers are currently using CiviCRM to manage their activities and the French Chamber in the Netherlands joined that group of CiviCRM users in September 2012. Cividesk managed the implementation and customization, provided training and hosting and continues to provide mentoring and technical support for CiviCRM.
Leontine Van den Herik and Tjamke Van der Ven from the French Chamber recently spoke with Cividesk about their experiences.

What type of systems did you have in place before and why did you choose CiviCRM?
The chamber was using Sugar CRM, but it was mainly used as a database by our sales department to manage the services we provide to companies. We were also using Excel spreadsheets to manage our events and an emailing software program for member outreach. There was no comprehensive control of our operations and frequent inconsistencies due to multiple data entry. We were looking for a complete software solution to meet all our requirements, including membership and events. We chose CiviCRM because it is fully customizable, specifically designed for nonprofits, powerful and cost effective and it could handle all of our different activities.

Which functionalities do you find the most useful for your organization?
It’s so easy to add new contacts in the database and to link them through relationships. Another great advantage is that any modification made to a contact will be updated in every area.

We really make use of the automated systems for events and membership management such as event registration, and sending email messages before and after events. We create all of our event invitations in CiviCRM and save them as templates. It saves time since we are not creating a new invitation each time and it makes it easier to promote events.

Emailing is more efficient with Civimail, and we create our quarterly newsletter using that functionality. We created the template for the newsletter and found it was not that difficult to use the html editor. Of course, it still takes time to write the content, but it is much easier now with all of the photos. The tracking features (who has opened it, click-throughs, etc.) available in Civimail are great!

We create reports to keep track of membership dues, membership status and to track mass mailings. These statistics are readily available and easy to compile. Once a report is created, we often export the information to create an event attendee list or to export referral business cards (v cards) to individuals looking for services provided by our members. The activities reports on the dashboard are very useful as a reminder to follow-up with members.

Why did you choose Cividesk to help you in this process?
We liked the fact that Cividesk had experience with other Chambers of Commerce and we benefitted from their experience with the network of French chambers abroad. Cividesk encouraged us to think about our current and future needs regarding our development before implementing the software. We had to make choices to prepare for the customization of the software and the Cividesk staff mentored us through this process and made it easier for us to make those decisions.

How was the implementation and training provided by Cividesk?
The initial training and best practices provided by Cividesk were essential to getting the daily operations in place and have it all run smoothly. In the beginning Cividesk staff spent time with us each week to discuss problems and continue customizing the CRM to fit our needs. It took a few months to get everything adjusted to the way we wanted it. We needed many custom fields and we worked a lot with Cividesk staff to find good options to meet our needs.

What has been the impact of CiviCRM on your organization?
It’s much easier to track information, specifically with our events. Before using CiviCRM, we didn’t have as many event details so readily available. We have been able to increase the number of events we host each year since we are more efficient in this area. There is also improved communication with members since we know these details and can reference them in our contact with them.

I would say that the membership contacts have increased from 500 to 700 since we started using CiviCRM. We have more member contacts per company then before when we were using Excel spreadsheets since it’s much easier to add new contacts. This has also increased our event attendance since we are sending more invites to potential participants.

The online membership directory is now synchronized with the member database, eliminating the duplication of data entry. Another benefit with the synchronization is the simple process that takes place to create online access for a member. If we have a new member, we perform a few steps in the CRM and the member has online access to the secured member area on our website (through a user name and password) the next day.

Another benefit has been the ability to spend more time on recruiting new members and to retain existing members despite cutbacks that many companies have made during the past few years. We have seen our membership stabilize and that is directly linked to the use of CiviCRM.

CiviCRM changed our way of working for the better. We are saving a lot of time on our operations, can follow-up and track our operations better than before and most importantly, our database is always accurate and accessible.

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