Managing a 8,000+ list of contacts

I’ve got a client who’s been using the stock Contacts apps for managing contacts for his retreat center. He’s got around 8,000 contacts gathered over the past 20+ years. A year or two ago he started getting spinning beachball delays when editing, not to surprising to me given the number of contacts. I’m guessing that the stock contacts app isn’t really designed for this kind of thing. I’ve taken a look at other CRM type apps and nothing seems to really fit his needs. In previous times I would have suggested we do a FileMaker Pro database but that’s a bit out of his budget.

Much of what he actually needs to do with the vast majority of those contacts relate to sending postcards and emails for the retreats spring and fall events. I’ve taken over managing his lists for now and it’s working really well in conjunction with Google forms we’ve been using on his website.

My actions thus far:

  1. Get it exported to a spreadsheet. Numbers has been great to consolidate, reduce/remove unneeded fields and get everything updated. Going forward all of the business contacts/clients will just be in the spreadsheet.
  2. I’ve suggested he export the full contacts list to a local only Contacts list on one of his Macs (I’m guessing much of the slowdown has to do with making updates with iCloud). He probably only actively uses 100 or so of those many thousands of contacts.
  3. Once we’ve verified he’s got a functioning local list in Contacts (and a back-up of that list) he’s going to start from scratch, just adding the essential contacts back as he needs them, probably just via AirDrop to one of his various iCloud connected devices.

Anyone out there dealing with this kind of scenario have any advice? Am I missing any obvious choices for managing this kind of list in something other than a spreadsheet/FileMaker database?

Airtable comes to mind.
I know it’s in the same vein of the Spreadsheet/Database solution you have, but has a few upsides:

  • It’s has many interface options: Grid, Kanban, Calendar, Custom interface designer
  • Can handle many entries (the Free plan is limited to 1,200 records/Base though)
  • Real time collaboration is excellent
  • Changes made in the views propagate instantaneously

That’s what I can think of from the top of my head. Hope it helps.

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Another solution would be to let his email provider host his contacts. He could export his list from Contacts to a single vcard, upload that to the server, then add that account to

At that point he could use Contacts to drag & drop the contacts he want to keep separate from the server account to his iCloud account.

If he only uses iCloud, he can create an account on,, etc. and use it only for his contacts.


I’ve been managing a large contact list for a non-profit using an Excel spreadsheet, and it’s worked fine so far. The hard part is keeping the information up-to-date, and that’s going to be a chore no matter what you use.

I toyed with the idea of using the free tier of an online CRM service like HubSpot so that we could build out the contact details with other information that’s too cumbersome for a spreadsheet, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with storing other people’s contact information in the cloud and the spreadsheet works well enough.

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This is interesting. I do wonder what the threshold is for bogging down contacts. I have 5,700+ and haven’t had a problem yet

Well, in his case, apparently that number is somewhere around 7,500. Although I suspect other variables might come in to play such as quality of Internet. Also, I know that he adds a lot of text to the notes field of his contacts, probably far too much.

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It doesn’t mention performance.

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