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I was pretty excited to read about CiviCRM until I saw the requirement for one of the big 3 CMS systems. Is is possible to use/build CiviCRM without a CMS? All three of those CMS systems are massive overkill for my current needs (a very small organization with a generated/static website).

If not, can anyone recommend an alternative open source CRM system?

thanks!

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No, CiviCRM must be installed within one of these CMS platforms: Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla, or Backdrop. But this doesn't mean you need to use that CMS for your organization's main website — you can install CiviCRM (within one of those CMS platforms) on a subdomain.

The CMS handles the part of the application which deals with users (i.e. "reset my password" and other such functionality). The fact that CiviCRM delegates this functionality to the CMS does make it a tiny bit more complicated — but tremendously more flexible! For example, perhaps in 10 years your very small organization will have grown to the point where it wants a CMS which can integrate with its CRM. CiviCRM leaves that possibility open.

Suggestions for you

  • Install CiviCRM with Wordpress (the simplest one)
  • Or, if the installation process feels daunting, consider hiring a hosting provider to set up and maintain a CiviCRM installation for you

Instead of viewing the CMS as "massive overkill" I would encourage you to think of it as only one small piece of CiviCRM itself. It just happens to be a modular piece. The size and complexity of an empty CMS actually pales in comparison to the size and complexity of CiviCRM itself.

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If you will not be using Drupal, Wordpress or Joomla for your main site, you can do what we did for over a year before we moved to Drupal 7 -- install Civi with your CMS of choice at a subdomain (cf: https://civicrm.stackexchange.com/a/12032/105). Your primary website can be as simple as you'd like it, while you still have Civi running in a separate space to manage your contacts, etc.

Any time you have an online signup or donation form, you can link to the subdomain from your main site. We chose Drupal integration at the subdomain so we could have complex webforms with Drupal's webforms module, and all of the data went straight into Civi. You only have to develop or fine tune the features of the CMS you would actually be using.

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Talk to the people at cividesk.com. They have a standalone solution and they will host it for you. If you're a coder, he will share it with you but it's not a simple implementation.

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