Salesforce nonprofits

How to Get Started with Salesforce for Nonprofits

by | Apr 22, 2020

How to Get Started with Salesforce for Nonprofits

There is a reason why over 40,000 nonprofits are using Salesforce. It’s not only because nonprofits can get 10 free user licenses. It’s because Salesforce is an incredibly powerful platform — great for fundraising, advocacy, marketing, and program management.  It’s also because many digital tools that nonprofits already are using, like Constant Contact, MailChimp, Eventbrite, and Quickbooks, can be integrated — no new coding required!

Put all the benefits together and Salesforce is an organizational game changer, breaking the departmental and program silos that get in the way of doing good better. 

Sure, when you get started, Salesforce can be intimidating. Client support from Salesforce under the free licenses is virtually nonexistent to make matters more stressful.  Fear not.  There is a big community of folks available to help, both paid consultants and others through the online Power of Us portal.  You’ll also want to get started down the learning curve in an organized way.  Here are six tips for getting started with Salesforce for Nonprofits.


Tip One: Access Your Free Salesforce Licenses

If you are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Salesforce has a grant waiting for you. It’s 10 free user licenses. Don’t wait. Sign up for your trial and then apply for your nonprofit’s grant.  You’ll likely get this grant approved in a matter of days.

You don’t need a detailed plan to get this done. Get it. Open it. Start learning.

Tip Two: Learn the Language

For new users, Salesforce terms may sound foreign. That’s because Salesforce was initially created as a for-profit sales and marketing tool.

The Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack addresses this challenge.  NPSP now speaks fluent “nonprofit,” but it still comes with some of the old for-profit slang.

Take time to understand core terms like objects, fields, contacts, household accounts, organizational accounts, relationships, affiliations, opportunities, and campaigns.

A good way to learn these terms is to head over to the Salesforce e-learning platform. It’s known as Trailhead. Check out Understand the NPSP Data Model

(FYI: to access this online training, you’ll need your Salesforce login credentials, so make sure your nonprofit has received its free licenses).

Tip Three: Learning by Doing with Salesforce for Nonprofits

The best way to learn Salesforce is to use Salesforce! Don’t wait to upload your data to start learning

Login into Salesforce, and navigate through the steps below. NOTE: you might initially be frustrated because you can’t find the fields. Don’t fret. You are going through these steps so you learn where the fields are and more importantly how the fields connect and relate. All this will become second nature, but if you get stuck and can’t find the answer in Trailhead, just give us call at the iMission NP Salesforce hotline (203) 747 -8042 extension 3.

Learning Path 1:

  • Create a household account (tip:  think about a couple living together)
  • Create two contacts, one for each individual living in this household. You’ll be able to add them to the household as you create the contact. (Reminder:  a contact is one person! That means one person per contact. Split personalities don’t apply. Households is where the Mr. and Ms. (or Ms. and Ms, or Mr. and Mr.) will be connected.
  • Now, go back to the household account. Check to confirm that both people are listed in the household.
  • Next, you’ll want to define relationships.  We know your contacts live together, but how are they related?  Spouse? Parent/child?  Or may just a friend? In Salesforce, you define these through relationship settings.

Learning Path 2:  Great start.  Now it’s time to set up an organizational account.  Take a look at one of your contacts.  Where does he or she work? The employer will be the organizational account

  • Create an organizational account with the employer’s information
  • Now, go back to the contact record. Find affiliation and link your contact to their employer.

You got it now.  Accounts, Contacts, Relationships, and Affiliations.  You’re understanding the data and how they connect. Two more sets of fields that you want to understand. These are campaigns and opportunities. They both can be used in powerful ways. 


Tip Four: Manage the “Clean Data Quest”

Time and time again, we’ve seen organizations delay launching Salesforce (or other CRMs) for months (and even years) because they want to all their data cleaned-up first.

Of course, you don’t want to port over bad data, but in most cases, you can launch your transition to Salesforce by importing only the essential data – the information you really need to get work done more effectively.  Later, you can get valuable but not essential dirty data cleaned and imported.

Tip Five: Target Simple Workflows

Salesforce is so much more than a place to house data. It’s a powerful tool to simplify and automate work, saving time, enhancing servicing levels and improving collaboration.

Select a few simple workflows that your team could use for a test drive. Showing people how they really can do more with less provides the incentive to learn Salesforce and find ways to exploit its power, now and in the future.

Tip Six: Find a Way to Get Quick Answers

Salesforce is big, powerful and flexible. That brings complexity. Resolving this complexity often does not require deep thought. It’s about being able to get quick answers for taking simple steps.

What’s great about Salesforce are the online groups and communities that can help. You may be able to solicit the support board members or volunteers who are using Salesforce in their jobs. A Salesforce consultant committed to your teams training and capacity building also should be identified for support.

If you are still wondering if Salesforce should be in your nonprofits future, then check out our blog, 5 Reasons Why Salesforce Is Right for Your Nonprofit.

 iMission Institute is a strategic Salesforce consultancy working exclusively nonprofit organizations.

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