Scheduled reminders

Scheduled reminders allow you to automatically send messages (through email or SMS) to contacts when certain criteria are met. For example: you can set up a reminder SMS to be automatically sent to participants the day before they attend a training course; or you can send a series of emails to contacts asking them to renew their membership as they approach their membership end date.

There are several components of CiviCRM that support scheduled reminders:

You can create scheduled reminders for all these components at Administer > Communications > Schedule Reminders.

Scheduled reminders for events can also be set up on the event configuration pages.

Tokens available to scheduled reminders

In addition to the standard tokens (see Tokens and mail merge in Common workflows for a full explanation of tokens) that are available in CiviMail, messages sent via scheduled reminders can also contain tokens representing information about events, activities, and memberships that the scheduled reminder pertains to.  This allows you to use one scheduled reminder template for various events, membership types, or activity types.

In event messages, tokens such as event location will be replaced with the specific location of the event.  In membership messages, you have access to each individuals expiry date, and so on.  Membership and event ID tokens are also available and can be used to create links to specific pages (such as the membership renewal page).

Note that you also have access to the checksum token which allows you to authenticate people to specific pages without them needing to log in, and show forms with details already filled in.

Creating and managing scheduled reminders

Scheduled reminders can be created from the administration page at Administer > Communications > Schedule Reminders or during the creation of an event.

From the administration page:

  1. Click on Add Reminder.
  2. Give your reminder a name that will help you identify it if you need to edit it in the future.
  3. Select an entity for your scheduled reminder. This will bring up a further set of options relevant to that entity: activities have activity types and statuses; membership gives membership types and statuses, and so on. These secondary options are (usually) multi-select fields, so you can choose to include more than one option in each field.
  4. Choose when to send the reminder. This can be a set date or an amount of time before or after the start or end of your chosen entity. 
  5. If you want to send more than one reminder, check the Repeat box. This gives you choices about the interval of repetition and when the repetition should end.
  6. Check Record activity for automated email if you want a record of the  contacts who received this reminder.
  7. Fill in From Name and/or From Email if you don't want this reminder to come from the default name and email address for your site.
  8. Refine or add to your recipient list. For more about your choices, see Limiting or adding to your recipient list in this chapter. 
  9. Choose to send your reminder as an email, an SMS or either depending on the preferred method(s) of communications for the contact.
  10. Compose your message. You can use Message Templates or write the message from scratch. Note that you cannot save your message as a new template or modify an existing template from this screen, so if you are writing a reminder for the first time and you think you will want to re-use it, consider creating it as a Message Template instead.
  11. Click Save when you are are done.

Reminders can be edited, disabled, or deleted from Administer > Communications > Schedule Reminders.

IMPORTANT: Your system administrator will need to ensure that the Send Scheduled Reminders scheduled job is enabled and runs at least once a day. Refer to the Scheduled Jobs chapter for configuration details.  

Using scheduled reminders for Contacts

Contact reminders are ideal for sending greetings for dates that may be significant to a contact such as Birthdays or dates when qualifications expire.

By default, reminders created from this screen apply to all contacts with dates set for the specified field.  If you don't want everyone to receive the reminder (eg. send birthday greetings to children but not to adults), you will need to limit the recipients. (See Limiting or adding to your recipient list in this chapter.)

Configuration options for Contact reminders:

Using scheduled reminders for Events

Event reminders can be set up via the Scheduled Reminders administration screen (as detailed above) or from the Schedule Reminders screen in the event configuration workflow. (To get there, either click the Schedule Reminders tab when setting up an Event, or Configure > Schedule Reminders next to your event on the Manage Events screen.) The steps to configure the reminder are the same as from the administration screen (see above).

Any reminder set up from the event configuration screen applies only to that specific event. If you would like to send out reminders for all events of a certain type (for example, evaluation forms after workshops), you should use the Scheduled Reminders administration screen.

The configuration options specifically for Event reminders consist of:

Since you have so many configuration options, you could set up an event reminder for almost any purpose you can think of. Here are a few examples:

Using scheduled reminders for Activities

All scheduled reminders for Activities must be set up at Administer > Communications > Schedule Reminders.

The configuration options specifically for Activity reminders consist of:

Here are some ways you might want to use reminders for Activities:

Using scheduled reminders for memberships

You can set up messages to be sent out to members based on various characteristics of their membership, including the membership type and status.  For example, you can send an renewal reminder emails based on membership expiry date for current members 1 month before their membership end date or 'sorry you are leaving' emails 1 week after their membership end date.  You could also send membership engagement letters 2 weeks after the membership start date to remind them of the benefits of their membership.  Note that as well as sending emails based on membership, you can also send emails based on the membership related activities like Membership Signup (which is what we use in the 'Chasing members who have not sent membership payments' example below).

Below are a couple of examples of ways you can use scheduled reminders for memberships.

Renewal reminders

To send a renewal reminder email to members 5 days before their membership expires:

  1. Select Entity Type = Membership
  2. Select one or more Membership Types
  3. If the selected membership types allow auto-renewal, you may want to only send this reminder to memberships that do NOT renew automatically.
  4. Set 'When' to be 5 days before Membership End Date 
  5. Check 'Send Email' and choose the Template (or create and save one).

What information you should include in a renewal email will be discussed in Renewals in the CiviMember section.

Chasing members who have not sent membership payments

To send scheduled reminders to contacts who have memberships that are pending because payment has not been received:

  1. Create a smart group for contacts with a membership status of pending.
  2. In scheduled reminders set Entity Type = Activity, Membership Signup, Completed. Note that we are using the Activity entity, not the membership entity.
  3. Restrict Recipients to the membership pending smart group. This is important as if we don't set this, all members (even those that have already paid) will receive the message.

Limiting or adding to your recipient list.

As already outlined you can limit the recipients of your scheduled reminders based on entity specific characteristics such as event type and participant status, membership type and auto-renew options, activity type and status.  In addition, for all scheduled reminders you can limit recipient to members of a group or a list of contacts you have manually selected.  This is done by setting Recipients to Limit to and choosing either Select a group or Choose recipient(s) from the adjacent option list.  You could use this feature to, say, only send birthday greetings to your members who are less than 12 years old.

It is important to remember that groups or manual recipients selected with the Limit to option will only receive the scheduled reminder if they meet the all other criteria for that reminder.

If you want to send a scheduled reminder to contact(s) who do not meet the general criteria for that reminder you should set Recipients to Also include. You can then select a group of contacts or an individual who will receive the reminder even if they don't meet the other criteria.

For example if you send an event reminder to registrants 2 days before an event, you can also send it to Bob Adams, your office manager, so that he will remember to check that the event room is set up in the appropriate configuration with any equipment required.

Scheduled reminders and privacy options

Scheduled reminders are still sent to contacts who have opted out of bulk emails and those who have selected the privacy option Do not email. In some cases this is appropriate as these contacts will still want to be reminded when an event they have registered for is approaching or when their membership is due to be renewed. In other situations it is not appropriate. 

If you want to exclude contacts who have opted out of bulk emails from a scheduled reminder you should:

  1. Find all contacts who have not selected the privacy options Do not email or NO BULK EMAIL. (You can do this using the Search Builder found at Search > Search Builder and updating the settings as indicated in the example below)
  2. Create a smart group from the search results.
  3. Select this smart group as the Recipients of the scheduled reminder.

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