A smart group is a result of a search. The contacts in the group change dynamically depending on the criteria.

Though, I have several use cases where i want to be able to force some contacts in the group even if they don't meet the criteria in the search. For example, i want to send a newsletter to people that subscribe but also automatically to members.

It seems to be possible to manually add some people to a smart group like if it were a standard group. But is it a good practice ? Is there any known caveat ?


4 Answers 4


You should think of a smart group as two parts:

  • A static group (and all the tables it involves)
  • A query and its associated tables

The final list of contacts is the union of the above two (minus the contacts who have been explicitly removed from the static group)

I think the above design allows a lot of flexibility and power. I think the main issue with smart groups is being smart about when and how to cache the results. Civi does a fairly basic job of this right now and can be improved considerably (IMO)


You can also create a smart group based on other regular groups and other smart groups. This works well unless the smart group criteria is edited.

In general you can go about 4 levels before nesting causes performance issues.

I agree, I avoid adding users directly to smart groups.


I think manually adding contacts to a smart group is confusing, and this is what we experience with some of our customers.

  • Do you mean : oh, i thought the contact was a member because he is in the smart group i created to find the members ? What could be good practice to avoid such a confusion ?
    – samuelsov
    Apr 14, 2015 at 12:53
  • 1
    Well, I would imagine the best practise would be to let the Smart Group definition do its work? I mean the confusiion: the smart groups only shows active employees of such and such but this one was added manually. Will it now disappear automatically when I end the relationship? Apr 14, 2015 at 13:14
  • I agree - while the functionality works, our staff get very confused by this. We've tried to keep smart groups and 'regular' groups entirely separate. Apr 14, 2015 at 13:29
  • In fact, we once had a customer who requested a change to make it impossible to manually add contacts to a smart group Apr 15, 2015 at 16:36

Not sure if it's a good practice but here what i did to avoid manually adding contacts to a smart group.

I have 2 groups :

  • one standard group followers to manually add contact to the list. This group is a mailing list.
  • one smart group member followers that contains all active members. This group is a child of the standard followers group.

This way, the followers group inherit from contacts in the group member followers.

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