How did you get involved with the Civi community?
Ninety percent of my customers are non-profits, with needs that go beyond a standard website like events management, fund-raising and registration forms. Some of them are looking for an affordable but sufficiently strong CRM solution. We looked at professional ones like Salesforce, and worked with Sugar CRM for a while, which looked easy to configure.
For a long time Civi had two drawbacks: it was mostly focused on Drupal, and it was not easy to configure. It came as a pleasant surprise when the budget and specs of one customer made me look at it again. I found that now it's available for Joomla and Wordpress. It's a CRM that lives in the backend with fairly standardized workflows and variations between organizations. It is rich in configuration options.
But I wanted to make sure that the Joomla programming wasn't just an afterthought, and test their commitment to Joomla. I went on the forum and started asking questions. The Civi core team is on IRC 20 hours a day. I was amazed to see this kind of direct access to the core developers. Live support is responsive and the idea is that even if they can't answer your qeustion they will point you in the right direction. They are eager to answer questions, and don't just tell you to search the forums. It gives a homey feeling.
So I asked them if they have a serious longterm view for Joomla. They were short on people in the core team from Joomla, but invited me to help them out and suggest changes and point them to people from the Joomla community who can help. They launch for all the platforms without any particular bias, and are aware that they should be testing more, but they are short on manpower. It is an interesting community to observe.
One of the things they are doing is they have a strong release cycle. They put out a minor release every 6 months, and a maintenance release every 4 weeks. They use an extensive wiki, and tools such as Atlasian, Jura, and Confluence, which are free for Open Source projects. You can find a lot of information easily.
CiviCRM has funding figured out, by tapping into the community. There are customers who will pay for people to code specific things like a European direct payment process for donations. Mobile UI was funded - 25 people worked on it. If you think something needs to be added and you are willing to put you time into getting people to build it, Civi promotes it and people can contribute online.
I will be giving a talk on CiviCRM at JandBeyond. I hope to see you there!
Paul Delbar lives in Belgium and is an Online Commmunication and Fundraising Evangelist