I'm setting up civi on a Wordpress site and after reading all that I could find I still have tons of questions with no-one to ask.

My NGO that has members, volunteers, people interested in NGO's activities but who don't fall into the first two categories. My problem is that I'm unsure in how to properly setup the data, ie. should I just enter individual contacts and then segment them by adding them into member, volunteer or similar groups or stick with Member or Volunteer contact type? The problem in the second option is that when a volunteer decides to become a member, change from one contact type to another deletes the data from the first and the only way to go about it is to merge the data but it seems like a clumsy way to work with it. Similarly, if a person decides to stop his membership he's still a member contact type but with that added info.

Also, if I want to use civiVolunteer for working with volunteers does the choice from the second paragraph affect it in any way?

Same thing with wanting to add contact data of other NGO's, public administration bodies and similar - are groups or contact types the way to go?

Also, is there a way of expanding the demographics field that doesn't rely on adding new custom data segments because the custom data I would add would fit nicely into demographics? And, can one remove the employer, job title, nickname and so on fields from contact details because, for the life of me, I haven't been able to find it?

Thanks a bunch.

2 Answers 2


Many of these questions are going to be specific to your organization's needs, and there are multiple legitimate ways to organize your data, depending on the mental model the users will have.

With that said, here's some info:

  • Using groups is more lightweight than contact subtypes.
  • It sounds like you're using custom field groups specific to certain contact subtypes, which is a good reason to consider contact subtypes. However, it sounds like maybe you're using the custom fields to capture data specific to membership, which likely belongs on the membership, not the contact itself.
  • A contact can have multiple contact subtypes.
  • If you could edit your question to say more about data that's "merged" when moving from volunteer to member you could get more specific help. If there's data that applies to both members and volunteers they shouldn't get separate sets of custom fields.
  • Since it sounds like memberships aren't permanent, it may be worth making a smart group of members based on a membership record in CiviMember.
  • It sounds like you want the Contact Layout Editor extension to customize your summary screen.
  • Thanks for your answers, I'll reply based on your order: [1] yeah, groups sound more 'wielding' as far as I've seen, [2] using memberships for certain parts does make more sense though since we also give each member a card with their membership ID I think it will have to go somewhere on custom fields [3][4][5] I tested a possibility of a person who's a volunteer but then decides to become a member but not a volunteer the change from one contact type to another causes the data that was collected for a volunteer to disappear if turned to a member and only merging of data..[con't']
    – slovojed
    Apr 23, 2021 at 9:44
  • [con't] kept both the old and the new data. My current way of thinking was to add new members just as an individual contact and then use membership rules and smart groups to fine tune what I need. Would that make sense and just forget about Member subtype? [6] yeah, contact layout editor is on my list of needed extensions so thanks for confiming it :)
    – slovojed
    Apr 23, 2021 at 9:48

Using contact subtypes will enable you to add new custom fields to that contact type - so you could add additional info for volunteers that isn’t applicable to donors. But be careful it’s not easy to change a contact subtype once assigned and what would happen if a person is both a donor and volunteer. It is possible to create smart groups based on virtually any search criteria so you could have both contact subtypes and a group that automatically updates based on this. In my experience I have found limiting use of subtypes has been the way to go. I use the tags feature to identify a type of person. You have to use groups if you want a mailing list but can still create a smart group based on the tags people have - keep the number of groups you have as low as you can

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