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Best Practices

Getting Started: Salesforce Fundamentals for Nonprofits

Fundamentals Prepare for Success Configure and Customize Import Data Deploy and Adopt Extend and Optimize

Salesforce Fundamentals for Nonprofits

Get acquainted with Salesforce terminology, your product(s), and the basics of using Salesforce.

Salesforce is a powerful platform and Getting Started can feel overwhelming. That's why we have broken it down into 6 steps. Take 'em one at a time and work your way through it:

  1. Getting Started: Salesforce Fundamentals for Nonprofits;
  2. Getting Started: Prepare for Success;
  3. Getting Started: Configure and Customize NPSP;
  4. Getting Started: Import Data into Salesforce and NPSP;
  5. Getting Started: Deploy and Adopt;
  6. Getting Started: Extend and Optimize

The Basics

What is CRM?

CRM stands for "Customer Relationship Management." CRM technology allows you to manage relationships with your constituents and track data related to all of your interactions with those constituents. It also helps teams collaborate, both internally and externally, track important metrics, and communicate via email, phone, social, and other channels.

A CRM app like Salesforce allows a nonprofit to have visibility into every aspect of its relationship with its constituents – including events, volunteer shifts, donations, client services, and so on. And as opposed to this information being locked away in various systems scattered across the organization --- it’s all in one place. So at any point in time, staff have a holistic snapshot of a donor or client’s relationship --- and can use that information to engage in personalized and powerful ways.

Salesforce is a single place to create, view and update your constituent data from anywhere on any device to drive lasting engagement with your customers. You don't have to install software to access Salesforce. You just need an internet connection and a web browser (or mobile App).

Of course, building a CRM system isn't just about choosing the right technology, but also having the right plan in place for a successful implementation. Check out Prepare for Success for more information.

How Salesforce Organizes your Data

Salesforce organizes your data into objects and records. Think of an object as a tab on a spreadsheet and a record like a single row of data.

Salesforce comes with standard objects already set up and ready for use. Salesforce was originally designed as a "Business-to-Business" (B2B) application to help companies improve their sales processes and maximize their sales. In the traditional B2B scenario, every company keeps track of their accounts (the other companies they are selling to). Each account has people associated with it (contacts), as well as other things like "deals" (opportunities), cases, tasks, and the like. How all of these things relate to and interact with each other in Salesforce is known as an account model. With Salesforce, the Account model is flexible and in the nonprofit world, of course, we keep track of things a bit differently.

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Translating the Salesforce Standard Objects

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    Leads = "Prospects" | Leads are used to store info about any individual who might have an interest in you nonprofit: donor prospects, client prospects, etc.
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    Contacts = "Individuals" | Contacts are used to store information about any individual who interacts with your nonprofit: donors, clients, volunteers, program officers, and contacts at funding organizations.
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    Accounts = "Organizations" - Accounts are used to track donor households (a Household-type account) or any other related companies (Organization-type Account), such as a funder, corporate donor, vendor, or other business entity. In Salesforce, every contact must be connected to an Account, so you might have individual donors connected to a household, a program officer connected to a Foundation, or a business contact connected to a company.
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    Opportunities = "Transactions" - The Opportunity object is used to manage financial transactions between contacts and accounts and your organization. This could include individual donations, grants, memberships, t-shirt sales, and so on. Opportunities are connected back to a specific person by the use of Contact Roles.
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    Campaigns = "Calls-to-Action" | Campaigns is used to track any tactic where you are asking a contact for a response: direct mail campaigns, class registrations, volunteer shifts, etc.

Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) Account Model

Many of you will choose to use the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). In the NPSP Account model, the standard Salesforce Account object acts as a Household Account, with numerous contacts (donors) and opportunities (donations) associated with it.

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Understand Salesforce Editions & Products

A Salesforce edition is a selected set of features and functionalities that also specifies the amount of customization possible, as well as the data and file storage capacity, and the API access available.

With the Power of Us license donation program, customers receive 10 "CRM Lightning"(which includes both Sales Cloud Lightning and Service Cloud Lightning) Enterprise Edition licenses at no cost. A license is attached to a single user, so with 10 licenses, you could have 10 users logged on to your Salesforce org at one time.

If you need additional licenses or products, you can purchase them at a deep discount from

In addition to your 10 Lightning Enterprise Edition (EE) licenses, you may have also chosen an App that will help you manage donations, grants and volunteers. On the website, you can choose between two trials - the standard Enterprise Edition and the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). The Nonprofit Success Pack App sits on top of your Lightning EE licenses.

Knowing what edition and what app you are using will be vital information for you to know as you review Salesforce documentation, log a tech support ticket, or ask for help from the community.

Get Oriented in Salesforce

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Trailhead: Free, Interactive Learning Paths for Salesforce

Trailhead is a free, interactive learning path through the basic building blocks of the Salesforce Platform. Test your knowledge of the platform while earning points and badges to celebrate your achievements.

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Your Support Team

Every Salesforce Foundation customer has access to a Sales Cloud Standard Success Plan which includes basic training to get you started. You also get access to community-based best practices and web-based support to help solve technical issues. Learn more about your Salesforce Support Team.

If you are interested in enhanced support, resources, and training to drive adoption, then you may purchase a Premier Success plan which is available at a deep discount to customers. If you are interested in pricing for Premier Success, please reach out to us via the Contact Me form.


This webinar will introduce you to some core Salesforce concepts and terms and give you an understanding of the tools that are available to help you along your getting started journey. We will focus on basic navigation in Salesforce and understanding the core objects from a nonprofit perspective.

Register Now for the Next Live Session in the US and Canada

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Get Help



Log a Tech Support Ticket

If you get stuck, you can always log a tech support ticket. Every customer has access to a Standard Success Plan which includes access to Standard Support.

Next step:Prepare for Success