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Accidental Techie

Someone who has inherited the role of IT technical support but whose primary role maybe something else; often has little or no formal IT training (which is not always a bad thing!).


A javascript-based effect on a web page that allows additional content to be revealed or hidden (often referred to as collapsed or uncollapsed) without the user leaving the web page.

ACL (Access Control List)

ACLs define permissions for a group of contacts to perform an operation (e.g. edit, view, delete) on a set of data or a type of record. For example, you could set up a group called "Administrators" that allows people to view and edit all contact records, and a group called "Volunteers" that can view contact records but not edit them.


An activity in CiviCRM is a record of any scheduled or completed interaction with one or more contacts. Examples include meetings, phone calls, emails, event attendances and contributions. You can define additional types of activities as needed.

Admin / Administrator

The person or persons that maintain a server or web-based software like CiviCRM. Administration includes maintenance, configuration, backup, security, creating and deleting user accounts and so on.

AGM (Annual General Meeting)

An AGM is a meeting held every year by an organisation to inform its members of previous and future activities. Certain types of organisations are required by law to hold an AGM.

AGPL (Affero General Public License)

A license for open source software. CiviCRM uses the AGPL version 3.0 license, which gives you the right to do with the software as you like and guarantees that the source code will always protect your rights in this way.

Alpha Version

A software version that contains very new source code with new functionality and bug fixes. An alpha version is released for testing purposes, and for people who want to follow its development, but it is not considered to be anywhere near ready for general release or use.


The most popular web server software. Apache is free and open source (see also FLOSS).

API (Application Programming Interface)

An interface employed by a software application to enable interaction between itself and other software.


Protecting your data by regularly making copies and storing them independently of the original files so they can be restored if necessary.


The speed at which you can transfer information through a network or internet connection. If a connection can transfer a lot of information it is said to be "high bandwidth" or "high speed."

Beta Version

A software version that is in good condition but still needs testing to make sure it functions as intended before general release. Testing beta versions is a helpful way to participate in the CiviCRM community.


Short for web-log. A website which is regularly updated with news and views from one or more individuals.


An error that prevents software from behaving as the user would expect.

Bug Reporting / Bug Fixing

The process of reporting bugs to the software developer(s), and then fixing the bugs so the software operates as intended.

Bug Tracker

An official repository for recording bugs. The CiviCRM bug trackers can be found here: with the main core tracker at


A recent copy of frequently used data that can be quickly and easily accessed. This is especially useful if the data is complicated or takes a large effort to generate. The disadvantage of caching is that data can become out of date, but this normally isn't a problem. Even caching data for 5 minutes might be useful in certain circumstances. If a page is accessed 1,000 times in 5 minutes, having a cached version means the data will only need to be generated once.

A web cache holds copies of recently visited web page files. Sometimes a user may need to clear their web cache in order to see updated information on a web page.


Is the systematic initiation of direct contact with a target group of individuals commonly used during political campaigns. A campaign team (and during elections a candidate) will knock on doors of private residences within a particular geographic area, engaging in face-to-face personal interaction with voters. Canvassing may also be performed by telephone, where it is referred to as telephone canvassing.


A spam prevention tool. See reCaptcha.


The case management component of CiviCRM. CiviCase provides service organisations with tools for structuring, scheduling and recording case activities.


CiviContribute is an online fundraising and donor management component which enables you to track and manage contributions to your organisation.


What this whole manual is about! CiviCRM is web-based, open source software that allows you to record and manage information about your various constituents including volunteers, activists, donors, employees, clients, vendors, etc.


See Scout.


CiviEngage is a Drupal module that enhances CiviCRM's core functions for non-profits focused on community organizing groups and civic engagement work. CiviEngage provides a package of custom fields, reports and features to track the history of engagement, involvement, and activities of constituents over time. This package also integrates Campaigns and Surveys to provide WalkLists and PhoneBank Lists.


CiviEvent provides integrated online event registration and management for paid and free events.


CiviMail is a mass-mailing component which allows you to engage constituents with personalised email blasts and newsletters.


CiviPledge is a component that allows the flexibility to create various types of fundraisers. Allows to individuals to donate daily, weekly, monthly or yearly.


A term used sometimes instead of constituent or contact, more often in a context involving a financial transaction.

Client is also a term for a system (computer) or application that accesses a remote computer such as a web server to receive information; examples include a personal computer that is connected to the internet, or an email application that downloads email from a server.

Closed Software

Software that does not allow users to access its source code, as opposed to open source software. See also proprietary software.

CMS (Content Management System)

An application used to create, edit, manage, search and publish various kinds of digital content (text and other media such as images and videos). Web-based CMS allow organisations to add and manage content on their website without requiring advanced technical skills. Every instance of CiviCRM must be integrated with a CMS (currently WordPress, Drupal, Backdrop or Joomla!) which helps to facilitate client interaction.


A part of a CMS or other application that can be enabled or disabled, according to the needs of the user. Examples include CiviEvent or CiviCase. See also module.

Community Advisory Group

A representative group of people from the CiviCRM community who work with the CiviCRM team on project development.

A file stored on your computer and used by a website to identify you on return visits. Some websites cannot be accessed unless you allow your computer to accept and store cookies.


A constituency is usually defined as a group of people bound by shared identity, goals, or loyalty. In CiviCRM, "constituents" is used to a describe all supporters, current or potential, of a given organisation. See also contact and client.


In CiviCRM a contact is either an individual, an organisation or a household about whom information is stored in the database. See also constituent and client.

Contact Summary Screen

A page that displays at a glance all the data about an individual, organisation or household that is stored in the CiviCRM database.

Core Code

The source code that constitutes the official code of CiviCRM. Also called core.

Core Data Field

A field that is included in a record structure "out-of-the-box". For example, the CiviCRM contact record includes First Name as a core field.

Core Team

The people most closely involved with CiviCRM development.


Acronym for Contact (or Constituent, Customer or Client) Relationship Management. CRM (or eCRM) software was originally developed from a sales perspective, to help companies track and organise their interactions with current and potential customers. CiviCRM is oriented specifically toward the needs of non-profits, advocacy and non-governmental organisations, so the term "customer" is replaced with "constituent". Outside the USA it is often referred to as Contact Relationship Management.


Cron is the time-based job scheduler in Unix-like computer operating systems. Cron enables users to schedule jobs (commands or shell scripts) to run periodically at certain times or dates. It is commonly used to automate system maintenance or administration. Cron is used to in CiviCRM to trigger specific tasks, such as sending membership renewal reminders or processing ongoing payments, or to run all jobs enabled under the Scheduled Jobs page at their configured frequency.


Create, Read, Update and Delete: the basic functions performed on databases.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

A way to control the style of a website by defining design and layout elements in a single file which is linked to all files in a website and applies the style across the site. An element, such as the formatting of a heading or a background colour, can be changed once in the CSS file to effect a change on all pages of the site.

CSV (Comma Separated Values)

A simple format for a spreadsheet. CSV files are text files where each cell is separated by a comma, and each row is separated with a return. This very simple format is understandable by many different programmes.

Custom Data Field

A field that is added to the data structure of a CiviCRM record by your organisation. Custom data fields extend the information that can be stored in that type of record. For example, your organisation might need a custom field to record each contacts' professional qualifications, or the food preferences of event participants.


A user's homepage, which displays when the user logs in to CiviCRM and which can be personalised with dashlets.


A report on some data in the CiviCRM database, configured to appear on a user's dashboard. For example, monthly figures in graph and/or numerical form, appointments for the day, or a list of new memberships.

Data Centralisation

Storing all your data in one place.


Is a collection of information that is organized so that it can easily be accessed, managed, and updated. In one view, databases can be classified according to types of content: bibliographic, full-text, numeric, and images.

Demo Site

A website that allows you to test and explore the functionality of a piece of software. CiviCRM maintains three demos sites: one integrated with Drupal, one integrated with Joomla! and one integrated with WordPress.


Refers to the task of finding and merging multiple entries for one contact.


Someone who develops software.


See DNS.


Someone who makes a donation, i.e. voluntarily gives money to an organisation.

DNS (Domain Name System)

The Domain Name System (DNS) converts domain names, which are made up of easy-to-remember combinations of letters (, to IP addresses (123.456.123.234) which are hard-to-remember strings of numbers. Every computer on the internet has an unique address (a little bit like an area code + telephone number).


An open source CMS that integrates with CiviCRM to provide a user-interface and additional website functionality (


A way of disguising data when it is being transferred from one computer to another so that it is unreadable by any other computer that it may pass through on the way.


The specific hardware and operating system on which you are running your software.

Event Listing Feed

A RSS feed containing the list of events defined in CiviEvent.


A popular free and open source web browser, developed by the Mozilla Foundation (

FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software)

Software that is licensed so as to guarantee the essential freedoms of users to its source code and reuse. A combination of "free software" and "open source software", with "libre" added in to emphasise that software freedom is essentially a matter of rights, not price.


Free and Open Source Software - see FLOSS.


A web-based online discussion tool (see

Free Software

Software that is licensed so that you can use and distribute it without restriction. CiviCRM is free software. See also FLOSS.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

The FTP protocol is used for file transfers from one computer to another over the internet. Many people use it for downloads, and it can also be used to upload files to web servers. A popular free and open source FTP client for Windows is FileZilla. There are also web-based FTP clients that you can use with a normal web browser like Firefox.


The set of tasks that a piece of software can perform.


The process of finding associated geographic coordinates (often expressed as latitude and longitude) from other geographic data, such as street addresses, or zip codes (postal codes).

GUI (Graphical User Interface)

User interface offering windows, icons, mouse control, multiple fonts, and so on - the normal way for non-programmers to communicate with their computers. The alternative to a GUI is a command line interface with text only.


Hooks are a common way to extend systems and a powerful way to extend CiviCRM's functionality, incorporate additional business logic, and even integrate CiviCRM with external systems.


Is a family or group of people who share a physical location.

Hosting Service

A service (usually commercial) that provides server space for your website. Hosting services also can provide physical space to put your own server in so that it is connected to the internet.


Acronym for Information and Communication Technology.

Internationalisation: i18n

The process of making software ready for adoption in different countries and different cultures, without the need to modify it technically. This is done by the developer (software engineer) when writing the software. See also Localisation.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)

A business that provides services such as internet access, email and website hosting.


A network of computers that are connected within a home or office but not accessible from outside the local network.


Acronym for Information Technology.


A scripting language primarily used in web pages to display dynamic content.


A CMS that can integrate with CiviCRM to provide a user interface and additional website functionality (


Is an acronym for a solution stack of free, open source software, originally coined from the first letters of Linux (operating system), Apache HTTP Server, MySQL (database software) andPerl/PHP/Python, principal components to build a viable general purpose web server.


A type of operating system (other common operating systems are Windows and Mac OS). Linux has been popular as a web server for a long time and is now gaining popularity on personal laptops and desktop computers. Linux is free software and open source.

Local Computer

A computer that runs CiviCRM but is not publicly available via the internet. This could be your personal or home computer, or it can be in your office. It can also be called a client computer in the context of receiving information from a server

Localisation: L10n

The process of translating a product into different languages or adapting a language for a specific country or region. This is done by translators with no need for technical wizardry.

Mail Server

A computer that transfers email from one computer to another.

Mapping Provider

A service provider that allows displaying contact locations on maps - Google Maps or Yahoo Maps in CiviCRM.


A part of a system, also called a component. CiviCRM includes a number of modules, each of which adds functionality to the basic contact management features. For example, the CiviEvent module provides event management functionality. Organisations using CiviCRM can turn modules on or off, according to their needs.


A popular database engine. CiviCRM uses MySQL to hold its data. MySQL is free software. (

NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation)

A legally constituted non-business organisation with no participation or representation from government. In the United States, this type of organisation is more often referred to as a Non-profit. They may be also called civil society organisations or not-for-profits.



Online Contribution Page

A function of CiviCRM which allows the creation of a page on the website where visitors can make online donations using credit cards.

Open ID

A convenient free system to use a single digital identity across the internet.

Open Source Software

Software with source code that is publicly available, as opposed to proprietary software; see also FLOSS. Open source software is based on the philosophy that sharing and collaborating on code leads to better software and greater benefit for everyone.

Payment Instrument

Medium or method that is used for online payments.

Payment Processor

A company (usually a third party) appointed by a merchant to handle credit card transactions for merchant banks. A payment processor is required to handle online transactions through a system such as CiviCRM.


Allow you to limit access for different users to different parts of the system.

Personal Campaign Pages

A feature of CiviCRM that can be enable to allow constituents to create their own fundraising pages.


The programming language in which the majority of CiviCRM is written.


Sending and receiving small amounts of data to and from a server; often used to measure the response time across the network.

Point Person

Someone given the responsibility to keep their eye on a certain issue.

PhoneBank List

A list created using CiviReport to make it easy for volunteers to call constituents en masse. This is often done to invite them to vote, request that they volunteer, take action, or donate.


A gift that can be offered to contributor in exchange for donation. CiviCRM allows offering premiums as a part of the donation gathering process.

Price Sets

A way of storing and re-using complicated price structures for events. For example, you can charge for different elements of an event.

Primary Location

The information that a constitutent wants to be used as their main point of contact for mailings etc.


A set of fields used for collecting, modifying, and sharing data. See Profles for more information.

Proprietary software

Also called closed software or closed source software. Software licensed so that you cannot access the source code and modify it without first coming to an agreement with the authors. See also open source software.


An agreed-upon method of doing something. HTTP and SMTP are two examples, one being an agreement on how to transfer website data across the web, the other an agreement on how email will be transferred across the web.

Radio Button

An element of a web-based application user interface that allows the user to choose only one of a predefined set of options. Usually indicated by a white circle that can be filled with a click.


A common tool for testing whether a user is a human or a computer, used to prevent spam.


The things that you require a particular software application to do.

Rich Text Editor

A text editor that allows you to add formatting, such as bold, italic and underline, to text (as opposed to just plain text).

Root Domain

The 'raw' URL of a website without 'www' or any other subdomain. For example, is the root domain while is not.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feed

RSS feeds are a way to publish frequently updated information, either for inclusion on a website or to be read by an RSS reader.


"Répondez s'il vous plaît", a French phrase that translates to "please respond". Commonly used to request confirmation (or declining) of attendance at an event.


A script is a short programme that does one specific task. Many web pages include scripts to manage user interaction, so that the server does not have to send a new page for each change.


The CiviCRM Book Sprint official dog. Scout likes dog biscuits, rolling on the ground, eating snow and proof-reading.


Sendmail is one of the most popular mail transfer agents (MTA) used for handling email on a server. Sendmail is free and open source software.


  1. Software that "serves" content to a client. See Apache, or Mail Server for two examples.

  2. A computer that is used primarily to serve content. Any computer can be set up this way, but the term traditionally refers to those that deliver web content. See also client computer.

Shared Hosting

A website hosting service, where multiple websites reside on single server.

Smart Group

A group in CiviCRM to which contacts are automatically assigned. Smart groups are created by running and then saving a search. They are useful for groups that might change frequently, for example "donations over $1000 in the last month".


Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. A standard or protocol used by email software to transfer (send) email.

Soft Credit

Allows you to credit a contact for a donation made by someone, for example the person who inspired the actual donor to make a donation. See Personal Campaign Pages.


Applications (also called programs or programmes) that enable specific functionality on your computer. There are many broad categories of software such as web browsers, word processors and email clients. Within each category there are many available softwares that perform the functions you require. For example, Firefox and Internet Explorer are two commonly-used web browsers.

Software License

The terms you must accept before using a piece of software.

Source Code

Software is created by writing instructions that a computer understands. These lines of instructions are known as code or source code.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)

One way of making internet communication secure. You can easily see if you are using SSL by looking at the URL in your browser: if it starts with https instead of http, your connection is using SSL.

SSL Certificate

Provided by the server to prove its identity, in the same way that a person carries a passport or driving license. See also SSL (Secure Sockets Layer).

Stable Version

A version of software that has been tested and is considered to be ready for general use.


Tokens are used in CiviCRM to insert elements such as a contact's name or a standard greeting into emails being sent from the system. In an email sent to a group of people, the token {} will be replaced with actual name of each message recipient, in the email that each individual receives.


The process of replacing software with a newer version of the same software. An upgrade may fix bugs, improve security, enable the software to continue to work with upgraded operating systems, or provide new features and other enhancements.


Acronym for Unique Resource Locator, sometimes referred to as a Universal Resource Indicator, or URI. The technical convention that identifies the location of a resource on a network. The resource might be a web page, in which case the URL refers to the location of that web page on the internet, for example is the URL for CiviCRM.

Use Case

Use case is a central concept in software development. A use case is a story or scenario that documents the experience of performing a specific task with the application. Generally, a use case should avoid technical or database-specific language, such as 'fields' or 'record', and concentrate on real world objects and scenarios in order to communicate the idea clearly to people who may not be familiar with technical terms.


Updates to software are released periodically, and these releases are referred to as a version of the software. There are different types of version, for example the most recent release of a software which has been tested and is intended for general use is referred to as the stable version, while a very new untested version is the alpha version.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A method of sharing information between members of an organisation over encrypted connections.

Walk List

Is a list created using CiviReport to make it easy for volunteers to go door-to-door. This is often done for voter engagement.

Web Application

A software application that provides a website with additional functionality. CiviCRM is a web application.


Webmail is email service through a website. The service sends and receives email messages for users in the usual way, but provides a web interface for reading and managing messages, as an alternative to running a mail client like Outlook Express or Thunderbird on the user's computer. For example a popular and free webmail service is


A Web server is a computer that is set up with software and networking capabilities to deliver Web pages on the Internet or an Intranet. Web servers use programs such asApache or IIS to deliver Web pages over the http protocol.


A web-based software that enables anyone to edit content via a web browser. Wikipedia is the best known example of a wiki.


A character that can match an any number and collection of characters, normally represented by *. For example, when used in searches, ab* finds ab, abba and abracadabra but not fabulous; *ab* finds fabulous.


The most popular CMS in use on the internet today, WordPress integrates as of CiviCRM version 4.1 and WordPress version 3.3.1. Prior to these versions, CiviCRM didn't work directly with WordPress, although a Drupal/CiviCRM installation could be installed in parallel on the same server as WordPress.

Work Station

A computer used for working; often in a situation such as an office where there are other computers that may include servers.

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)

An application that provides a visual tool for editing web content, so that the user can see how the page will look in the browser as they are editing, instead of working in the HTML code. See also rich text editor.