Use Groups to Power Up Your Searches in CiviCRM

One of the most common questions we get about CiviCRM is: how do I search effectively?  While the advanced search in Civi provides robust and flexible options, sometimes you need more complexity than it supports - but fear not: using groups creatively in conjunction with searches can often be a solution to this conundrum.

Let’s walk through two use cases and see how groups - both “regular” and “smart” - can improve your ability to search effectively in CiviCRM.  Before we start, there is one extension referenced in the use cases below that can provide you with useful data for searching, particularly around donor engagement.  If you do not already have the Summary Fields extension (which you would see as a tab on contact records in Civi), please ask us about it!  It provides calculated fields that roll up donation totals (lifetime, this year, last year), memberships, and event registrations.

Use Case 1: Donors Who Are Not Current Members

You’ve been asked to provide a list of donors at a certain level who are not also current members.  Because none of Civi’s contact searches allow you to search based on aggregated giving, this can be a tough task - but groups, especially when paired with fields from the Summary Fields extension, can be your friend here.

Recipe: two groups (can be regular or smart) - one of donors, one of current members

If you do not have the summary fields extension, you can still create a group of donors at a certain level by using the Contribution Aggregate search (Search > Custom Searches, select Contribution Aggregate) to identify and create your group.  If you do have Summary Fields, you can perform that search right in the Advanced Search using those calculated fields.  You can also create a group of current members using the Advanced Search.

Once you have those groups in place, use the Include / Exclude search (Search > Custom Searches, select Include / Exclude) to find contacts who are in the Donors group but who are not in the Active Members group, as shown here:

CiviCRM Search Criteria

Use Case 2: Donors Who Donated at a Certain Level Last Year, but Have Not Given at the Same or Higher Level This Year

CiviCRM provides standard LYBUNT and SYBUNT reports but sometimes it’s important to understand how regular givers may vary their giving over time.  You might be asked to provide a list of donors who haven’t maintained the same (or higher) level of giving this year from a previous year.

Recipe: multiple groups (can be regular or smart) - one of donors who gave at a certain level last year, one each for the giving levels at or higher than the comparison level

You can create the donation level groups in the same way you did in the previous use case.  In the interests of simplicity, we’ve only created two current year groups here, but the functionality should work regardless of the number of groups involved.  Here again, the Include / Exclude search is your friend:

Include / Exclude Search CiviCRM


Hopefully you can see how this technique can be used in a variety of searches - event participants who have not donated (or donors who have never attended events), members who have never attended an event or haven’t attended one in the last X number of years, and so forth.

If you have questions or would like to explore this topic in more depth with us, don’t hesitate to reach out to your support email!

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