Importing Contact data is one of the most common initial activities required for a new CiviCRM site (if you’re still wondering what CiviCRM is, however, see our What is CiviCRM page). The process usually is either fairly easy, or quite complicated. In this post, we will review the basic ideas and if you’re lucky enough to have the “fairly easy” kind of import, then this will be sufficient. If you get stuck, then you will need to find more in-depth resources.

There are two steps to importing data. First is to export the data from wherever it is and then the second is to import it into CiviCRM.


This is a step that depends on what system or service you have your data in. The basic idea is that you must the data out in either CSV format or in Excel format. Most tools will have a feature that allows you to export your Contact data in one of those formats. If there is an option, you should choose to Yes show column headers in the first row.

If you have your export in Excel, then open that in Excel and then you can convert that to a text file via the Save As command. Click the File tab, and then click Save As. In the next window, choose the “CSV (Comma delimited)” format and then save.


Within CiviCRM, click the “Contacts” menu and then click the “Import Contacts” option. Leave the “Data Source” alone and click “Browse” and choose your CSV file.

The rest of this page is fairly straightforward — you must read each item and decide what selections are appropriate for your particular situation.

When you’re ready, click “Continue” — don’t worry, nothing “real” will happen yet.

On the next page, you need to match up each column in your CSV file to a field in CiviCRM. If one column doesn’t match up to anything, you can skip it.

When you’re done, click “Continue” again, but still don’t worry, no data will be imported yet.

Now you are on a page called “Preview (step 3 of 4)” and you can see what is going to happen in the last and final step. On this page, you may see errors or warnings. Take those seriously and try to fix them if you can, and then use the “Previous” buttons to get things right.

When it seems as good as it can, click “Import Now.” This is going to actually import your data now.

On the last page “Summary (step 4 of 4)” you will see a summary of how it went.

Hope it worked out. 🙂

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