What I learned as an CiviCRM Ambassador in Mexico

As CiviCRM’s Ambassador in Mexico since 2010, I connect the different actors involved (IT providers, non-profit organizations and the local and global community of CiviCRM). Here are some lessons learned throughout this process for supporting nonprofits in their strategic decisions and on building a CiviCRM culture in within the organization.

Slowlly, CiviCRM is being used in Mexico. Very recently ­­I’m happy to report­­ I succeeded in convincing El Poder del Consumidor, Bicitekas and INSYDE to install CiviCRM.  I have been CiviCRM’s Ambassador in Mexico since 2010.  I love the term! In practice, I just talk, write and answer emails about CiviCRM, with an encouraging tone, but also realistic.  I prefer to see myself as a community-builder, where I connect all the different actors as needed (IT providers, non-profit organizations and the local and global community of CiviCRM). 

I would like to share some of the lessons I learned throughout this process as they might be useful for others.   

  1. Non-profit organizations need support in the process of taking on CiviCRM. More than IT support, they need strategic guidance: how to design their fields, what permissions to give their contacts and relationships and overall how to build an organizational culture around a CRM. 
  2. The role of the decision-maker is different from the implementor, the IT support/programmer or the end-user. It is the person who knows best the organization’s full range of audiences: members, beneficiaries, donors, prospect donors, media and opinion leaders, government officials and politicians to be advocated. It is someone who knows what type of information should be gathered from and for each of these audiences. It’s someone who understands and shapes the communications strategy: when to use massive mailings, petitions, ask for donations or a thank you notes from the last victory. The dialogue between the decision-maker and the rest of the actors (implementor, IT support and end-user) is crucial in aligning everyone and making them understand the who’s who and the whys. 
  3. The decision-maker is also the bridge between the organization and CiviCRM community. They should be visionaries, but also have a “foot-on-the ground” attitude.  This is key in running a smooth program and reaching the end goal.  At the end, they are responsible for recruiting a good and reliable IT support and implementer within the organization.
  4. Identify a good implementer within the organization. He or she should have good collaboration and buy-in skills from his/her other colleagues. If it’s someone that knows the different programs and needs from within, it’s much better. 
  5. Along with responsibility, give the implementer credit and recognition for their hard and often-invisible work. If you can, sponsor the implementer to attend a CiviCON for international exposure, and have them organize a CiviDay local meetup. This will link them to different members of the Civi international and local community.
  6. Build a CRM culture within the organization. My take-ons on this matter are: 
    • Excel for directories, events and invites within the organizations should prohibited as a policy (a bit radical, but totally worth it).
    • Whenever possible use the self-completion function, but also allow manual input. Never ever loose contact information from trainings, gatherings, event registrations, publications or those who want to subscribe to your emails and receive information. 
    • Use an annual excuse (annual event, report or even Christmas card) to update your key contacts.
    • Create institutional ownership of CiviCRM. It’s not a “communication and media” list, nor a “Development and Fundraising tool”. It should be owned and populated by everyone, if it’s designed and segmented correctly. 
    • It`s never too late to start a CRM, it’s never too late to change into CiviCRM.  But the early you start, the easier it gets.
  7. Make Civi end-user tasks “cool”. Have attractive collective sessions to train, update and populate (with ice-cream, beer or as a free ticket to a movie or party… to socialize and have fun, at least). Young volunteers or interns interested in technology are also good leader candidates, as this work helps them understand the whole organization and its outside relationships. 
  8. Train everyone as end-users: from your receptionists and volunteers to your CEO. And when any of them asks for a contact, use the same standardized answer: “have you looked it up in Civi?” and don’t give anything to anyone who hasn’t searched there before asking for it. Otherwise, they become ask-for-contacts-one-by-one dependent.
  9. Recommend your IT providers if they do a good job. Setting-up and installing CiviCRM might be high-cost for the first time for any tech provider, but if you recommend them to similar organizations and clients, they can scale-up and improve their first settings and that means lower costs for everyone. If your recommendations are successful, ask them to share their learnings and improvements back into your organization.
  10. As leadership transition takes place, CiviCRM will be put up to the test, like everything else in the organization. Contact information might not get lost, but relationships and their meanings might be lost in translation. Leave documentation and written description of the lists, categories and acronyms which might be very familiar for you, but completely meaningless for others. 


Aquí la Guía de Activismo Digital, escrita en 2013. Está viejita pero sigue siendo una buena estructura para entender los temas y estrategias de comunicación digital.


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