Importing Contacts, Contributions, Event Participants and Activities

There are several ways contacts and their data get added to your database. You might add them one at a time, they might add themselves through a form on your website, or you might import your legacy data in bulk from an external source such as an MSAccess database, an Excel spreadsheet or a third-party volunteer or donor management service using CiviCRM's import functionality.

All imported data must be in either .csv (or SQL query - advanced users) format and have been mapped to CiviCRM's data headers--i.e., the "Firstname" field header in the .csv file exported from your Access database must be changed to "First Name" to match CiviCRM and any fields not found in CiviCRM must be built as custom data for CiviCRM to accept it.

You can download (zip file) and use our GingerFeet import templates to assist in mapping your current data to CiviCRM. There are four templates including a Contact Import Template (you must have one .csv file for Individuals, one for Households and one for Organizations), a Contribution Import Template, an Activities Import Template, and an Event Participant Import Template.

These templates contain only the fields needed for their particular import. Make sure you always include the email address as this is the primary means for CiviCRM to match the contact to the contribution, activity or event.(If you are using Memberships, a Membership Import Template is available upon request - email info at

Once you have mapped your current data to CiviCRM and created any necessary custom data fields, you can import your data. The process is essentially identical for all imports. For our purposes, we will detail importing contacts only.

Importing Contacts

When importing contacts you must import each main type: individuals, households, organizations, separately. For our purposes we will cover importing from a .csv file.

Have your .csv file prepared:

  1. Navigate Contacts → Import Contacts.
  2. Select your data source from the Data Source field.
  3. In the Upload CSV File click the Browse button.
  4. Navigate to the file on your local machine, select the file and click the Open button.
  5. If the first row of your .csv file contains headers, check First row contains column headers. (If you utilize the templates provided by GingerFeet, headers will be contained in the first row.)
  6. Select the appropriate radio button in the Contact Type field.
  7. Select the appropriate action to take in the For Duplicate Contacts field. (For an explanation, click the balloon icon next to the field.)
  8. Select the appropriate date format for your data.
  9. Click the Continue button.
  10. Review the mapping and adjust any fields accordingly. NOTE: When you are importing individuals you will not have access to map data that is appropriate for organizations or households.
  11. Import Mapping

  12. To save this mapping, check the Save this field mapping checkbox.
  13. Once you've verified the mapping, click the Continue button.
  14. CiviCRM will return you to a Preview page indicating how many rows total and how many rows are valid and will be imported.
    NOTE: If there are errors, download the errors to review where CiviCRM is not matching with your data. It may be as simple as your .csv file is formatting the birth date field as 01/01/01 rather than the appropriate date formatting of 01/01/2001.
  15. Scroll to the bottom of the preview to add the contacts to a new or existing group or assign them to a new or existing tag.
  16. Click the Import Now button. CiviCRM will prompt you to make sure you want to import.
  17. Click the OK button to complete the import. CiviCRM will return a summary of your results.
  18. If the import was successful, click the Done button. If the import was not, fix any issues and re-import.


TWO IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER: You MUST import individual contacts separately from household contacts separately from organization contacts. You MUST import your contacts first, then contributions, activities and event participation.

Importing data into CiviCRM requires a certain level of comfort with technology. If you have data from several sources or have complex data, please contact us at info at to discuss the cost of our Data Import Services.