As the year draws to a close, EFF is looking back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2012 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.

A lot of work goes into running EFF. Besides defending civil liberties in the courts, mobilizing the Internet community to protect the world from laws like SOPA, and releasing ground-breaking security software like HTTPS Everywhere, we also have a supporter base to coordinate, fund-raising to do, and a non-profit to manage. A lot of this behind-the-scenes work is made possible by a piece of free software called CiviCRM. It helps us keep track of our supporters, raise money from generous donors, manage local events like the Pioneer Awards, and send out EFFector—our newsletter—as well as action alert emails.

We started using CiviCRM at the end of last year, and since then the developer community has been more than happy to help us with everything we've needed to build our online membership center, customize it to fit our needs, and become one of the largest organizations currently using CiviCRM.

We are excited to be a part of the larger CiviCRM community. It provides a compelling alternative to proprietary CRMs with exorbitant subscription fees and dictated limitations. CiviCRM allows nonprofits doing amazing work on shoestring budgets to take advantage of powerful tools for managing their community relationships.

During last year, the CiviCRM developer community fixed bugs for us that we'd discovered and reported, and EFF web developers submitted many patches back to the project in return. EFF made it possible for the CiviCRM project to develop new specific features that we needed, including making it more scalable for organizations with large databases and batch entry of contributions. These features were included in CiviCRM core, so that the whole community can benefit from them.

EFF has made vast improvements with our own donate pages throughout this year (if you haven't noticed, why not donate today?). During the UK and Netherlands CiviCRM code sprints that happened this past September, we took the many lessons we learned from how we accept donations and contributed it back to CiviCRM in the form of an overhaul of the look, feel, and default behavior of contribution pages. These new features will be released in the upcoming 4.3 release CiviCRM, and all CiviCRM users will have access to more elegant ways to raise funds.

We have hosted multiple CiviCRM meetup groups in our office in San Francisco where developers and users gathered to talk about and demonstrate things that we're all doing with CiviCRM. EFF employees have spoken at Drupal and CiviCRM conferences about how we use the software, and have befriended other CiviCRM developers participating in code and documentation sprints both close to home and in dreamy faraway lands. To get a behind the scenes look, check out our keynote from CiviCON San Francisco.

With input and support from the community, we also helped launch the CiviCRM Ambassador Program. CiviCRM Ambassadors are end-users who will gladly share their experiences with peers at other organizations. Over a dozen volunteers stepped forward to be a first point of contact for people considering whether to adopt CiviCRM and wondering how to adapt their practices to take full advantage of CiviCRM.

We are proud to be part of a vibrant open source software community that is not only vastly more affordable than its proprietary competitors, but is the only option for privacy organizations that wish to keep membership data self-hosted and private.