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Best Practices

Getting Started: Import Data into Salesforce and NPSP

Your organization is ready to manage its donors in Salesforce, but first you have to import your existing donor data.

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Importing Data for Nonprofits


This webinar will introduce you to the data import process and give you an understanding of the tools that are available to help you get your data into Salesforce. We will focus on cleaning your data, the standard import tools and the NPSP Data Import object.

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If you’re used to working in Excel, think of Salesforce as many, many spreadsheets, all related to each other in specific ways, and all stored on the Internet. Salesforce is like a gigantic database in the cloud, and we commonly refer to the various “parts” of Salesforce as objects (contacts, household accounts, donation opportunities, and so on). You can see these as the tabs across the top of your Salesforce organization.

If you are using the standard Enterprise Edition of Salesforce (NOT the Nonprofit Success Pack - Which Version of Nonprofit Starter Pack Am I Using?), then go to the Data Management Trail in Salesforce Trailhead to learn about importing into standard Salesforce. If you are using the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), follow the steps listed below.

1. If you are using the Nonprofit Success Pack, download the NPSP Data Import Guide and the Import Template

2. Clean up your existing data.

Do this in your existing spreadsheet, database, paper ledger, or wherever you currently maintain your donor data. Make sure to budget enough time for this crucial step.

data cleaning
Review "Data Import: Cleaning and Preparing Your Data Using Excel."

3. Transfer your existing data into a template that’s specially designed to structure your donor data for import.

User-added image

Use the spreadsheet file called "NPSP Data Import Template.csv," which mirrors the fields in the NPSP Data Import custom object. For instructions on how to use it, refer to the import guide.

3. Upload data from the template into the NPSP Data Import custom object.

Use the Salesforce Data Import Wizard (in Salesforce Setup), or an external data import application ("Free Salesforce Data Tools for Nonprofits") to upload your data to Salesforce. (This is the first part of the two-part import process.)

4. Verify the uploaded data in Salesforce.

Check the fields in the NPSP Data Import custom object to make sure that your data uploaded correctly.

5. Run the NPSP Data Importer tool to complete the import.

Check the fields in the NPSP Data Import custom object to make sure that your data uploaded correctly.

Start the NPSP Data Importer tool, which takes the organized data from the custom object and imports it into the Nonprofit Success Pack as multiple objects, including contacts, accounts, and donation opportunities.

By the time you’re done, your data will reside in the following multiple Salesforce objects created from the import process.

  • Contacts (donors, volunteers, etc.)
  • Accounts (households, organizations, or companies)
  • Opportunities (donations, memberships, grants)

If you have thousands of data rows in existing spreadsheets or in-house databases, importing your data into the right Salesforce objects takes a lot of work. The good news? With the Nonprofit Success Pack tools described in this guide, you don’t have to tackle this complex, time-consuming project without some help.

Important: Even with the help of these tools, you need to budget enough time to go through the data import process properly. Data import is not something that can normally be done in an hour or two—it could take up to a month or more to go through all of the required steps, depending on the quality and quantity of your data. Please prepare accordingly.

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