Self-service Portal 101

Self-service Portal 101
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Welcome to our self-service portal 101. Today we’ll be answering all your questions about what exactly a self-service portal is and why your organisation can really benefit from having one one.

From reducing administrative burden, to opening up new personalisation opportunities, portals provide up highly impactful opportunities for all types of nonprofits and can prove especially valuable to membership organisations.

Best of all, implementing one is easier than you think! So read on and find out more about the world of portals…

What is a self-service portal?

So let’s start with the obvious question. What is a self-service portal? And why are they different from ‘standard’ websites?

At its heart, a portal is an interactive online web interface for its intended users. That can be members, the general public, partners or another specific audience you interact with that you want to provide a curated experience. Unlike most conventional websites, portals require a login to access. This can be free or paid, but it requires an identifiable account to access the information, resources or benefits within. This means it comes with account management functionality and due to this gating and detail gathering can provide a more tailored personalised experience for the user and important data analytics for the organisation.

What really makes it different from a website is its purpose. The standard website is primarily designed to attract new supporters and supply the public with general news or information about your organisation. They are focused primarily on content and thus offer a much more limited scope. 

Portals on the other hand require a certain level of familiarity with your organisation and can offer much more functionality to your audience, serving as a hub for their personal connection to your organisation and as a result having a much more tailored experience. Here your users can self serve, which means they can update and access information and generally interact with your organisation without needing to speak to a member of staff,.Plus you can also help guide more specific  content towards these more engaged users. 

An example Membership Self Service Portal

So what can one do?

While we’ll break down all the individual features a little bit later, we’ll take you through some quick ideas of what the average user might find within one.

From landing on the portal homepage, your user will be able to see various information relevant to them and how they are connected to your organisation, such as announcements, notifications of overdue payments, possibly events or news. It’s all customisable by you what they see on this page! All of these actions then link to other areas within the portal, where your user can either interact with content or take actions related to managing their relationship with you and any services you might be offering.

Best of all, if your portal is connected to a CRM, all their account data will be loaded directly from it and update to reflect any changes the user might make (e.g. if they update their address!). This means their signups for events, their invoice history etc. will all be synced without you having to lift a finger.

So why do you need one?

Now we’re grounded in what a portal is, is it something that we need? We’d argue yes, it’s actually an enormous boost to your organisation if you have a well-equipped portal. And there are a variety of different reasons for this, including:

  1. Your supporters expect one! 88% of people expect the brands they interact with to have one.
  2. They empower your team. By letting your supporters self serve, you’re freeing up your team to do other things with their time.
  3. Your supporters are also empowered! They can get 24/7 access to a self service system and resolve their own issues quicker and more efficiently.
  4. It provides a first port of call for your supporters for any information they need about their connection to your organisation or information you might not want to make accessible to the general public on your website.
  5. You can make it easier for your supporters to access any resources you provide and make them more prominent for them to see.
  6. You can deliver a tailored experience for your supporters. By segmenting and understanding different user types, you can give them a different experience by highlighting relevant news topics, events and resources.

And we could list more! But suffice to say, having a dedicated area that can reflect the needs of your supporters while also saving both them and you time is a massive win and can help drive increased engagement with your cause.

Does CiviPlus offer one?

A great question! CiviPlus by default comes with a fully featured self service portal out of the box. A large part of the ‘Plus’ that distinguishes it from CiviCRM, the portal comes with a wide variety of features including:

  • Personal Profile - where users can update their own details to reflect any changes, including any custom data you might want to collect. All of this then updates your CRM directly.
  • My Invoices - full invoice history, with payment statuses and downloadable PDFs
  • My Memberships - where users can view details of any membership they hold or have held with you and arrange payment methods
  • Committees - where you can create special groups for committee members or volunteer groups which can share meeting dates and documents
  • News - all the latest relevant information, where what appears can be tailored to specific user types, such as specific membership tiers or by a specific interest area
  • Events - a dedicated filterable events section that shows events directly from the CRM. It includes the ability to show member only events and provide waitlists. 
  • My CPD - let your users log their CPD hours under customisable categories - more info here.
  • My Certificates - download auto-generated PDFs for memberships, courses, events and more
  • My Applications - manage any type of applications, including drafts, and see a full history of any applications previously submitted and the outcome.  Plus a dedicated reviewer area for external reviewers  - (webinar here)
  • Members Directory - let your users opt into a directory where they can be visible to one another and create a real sense of community
  • Resources (Coming soon!) - provide various files that your users can download and interact in an easy to upload interface. Different users may be able to access different files here, making it easy to provide different materials based on criteria like membership tier 

As you can see, the CiviPlus portal offers a very wide variety of different features and we’re always looking to add even more. If you’d like to find out more about the portal, we actually ran a webinar going into more detail with some video demos of the software in action. Be sure to check it out! 

In summary

A portal can provide your nonprofit with a game changing opportunity if backed with the right digital framework. And best of all, they’re actually pretty simple to get started with!

If you’re interested in finding out about what your own CiviPlus self service portal could look like, then get in touch with us today, we’d be happy to help advise you on the benefits it could bring your organisation!

Howdy y’all,

We are delighted to announce a new integration of CiviCRM with Open Social, a community engagement platform.

CiviCRM is the number one open source CRM for not-for profits, used by more than 11,000 organisations worldwide, and Open Social is a leading community engagement platform, used by over 1000 organisations in a range of different industries from Charities to member organisations and companies also.

It’s exciting news for organisations using CiviCRM, who will now be able to combine the power of CiviCRM with the collaboration and community building that the Open Social platform provides.
If you’ve not heard of community platforms before, a community platform is a tool that allows your organisation to create your own branded and tailored social network. Users of the platform (normally your members or supporters) can interact, join groups to share knowledge and exchange ideas, publish and promote events and collaborate within a safe online curated space. With a community platform you can expand your digital offer and strengthen your relationship with your supporters.

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Open Social is open source (much like CiviCRM) and as such has no user licences fees. This means it can be deployed affordably to scale to even the largest of communities. It’s also flexible with a huge range of different add-on modules that can be integrated to enhance the platform.

Our new two-way integration between Open Social and CiviCRM syncs data between the two platforms allowing information about the groups and committees that members have joined to be seamlessly synced to CiviCRM. You can even create Open Social groups and manage their membership directly from within CiviCRM, which would be useful for managing private groups in the case of committees or working groups.

By combining the data of a community platform with that in your CiviCRM your organisation can obtain deep insights into your members' interests and behaviours. You can see which groups are popular and engage with your members on topical issues, automating communications and tailoring their experience.

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A great example is a recent implementation for the UN’s PRI (Principles of Responsible Investment). Their user community includes over 2,900 organisations with over 40,000 individuals spread across 6 continents. Their Community Platform now supports discussions between 24,000 users with over 750 online collaboration spaces. The data is seamlessly synced to their CRM allowing for deep insight guiding their policy engagements.

As Open Social partners, we would be delighted to help you start your journey with Open Social and help you build your online community. We can help you through both the implementation and the CiviCRM integration (or other CRM integration such as Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM).

Please contact us through our website or by email at

Further information about Open Social can be found at their website:

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