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Best Practices

What are Campaigns and How Do They Work?

This article describes what Campaigns are and some of their use cases.

This article includes these sections:  

What is a Campaign?

The word Campaign has many possible meanings for nonprofit and higher education organizations. For example, a capital campaign is a major fundraising effort to support construction of a new facility. Organizations with a strong programmatic element often describe their initiatives, such as protecting a new wilderness area, as a campaign. Marketers see a campaign as a way to reach out to constituents to build awareness and ask for support.

In Salesforce, you can use a Campaign to represent all of these scenarios. Nonprofit and higher education organizations use Campaigns in these and many other creative ways. At a basic level, Campaigns group people together in your database so that you can ask them to take some sort of action and track the results.

Campaigns combine several sources of data in one place to make it easier to analyze the results of a call to action. They are excellent at summarizing information related to constituents (Leads or Contacts) and money (Opportunities). For example, a Campaign could summarize the number of people targeted in a fundraising appeal, how many responded, and the amount of money raised. A different Campaign could summarize the number of people invited to an event, attendance, cancellations, and a count of those who made a donation at the event.

Let’s take a closer look at how Campaigns work and the details of some common use cases.

How do Campaigns Work?

Campaigns have special properties in Salesforce that make them a useful tool for many different scenarios. Here are four properties and why they are important.

Campaigns Group Leads and Contacts Together

You might regularly work with both Leads and Contacts as part of your constituent outreach and Campaigns make it easy to:

  • Create lists of people. After you add people to your Campaign, you have a list that you can use for outreach and reporting. Campaigns also avoid duplicating the same Lead or Contact, if it is already associated with the Campaign.
  • Track the status of engagement. People are related to Campaigns through a Campaign Member record. The Campaign Member links the Lead or Contact to the Campaign and has a field for tracking the Campaign Member Status. You can use the Status to track who has received a mailing, appeal, or invite, who responded to it, and so forth.
  • Track the effectiveness of your outreach or fundraising efforts. A person who starts out as a Lead can be converted to a Contact and a related Opportunity. Salesforce Campaign functionality summarizes the number of converted Leads and Closed Opportunities.
  • Engage with donors and volunteers. Many organizations use a sign up form to find new volunteers, clients or donors. An easy way to do this is with a Web-to-Lead form that is connected to a Campaign. Salesforce campaign functionality tracks these new people and shows which outreach tactic connected them to you.

Campaigns Track Opportunities Too

Campaigns are excellent at summarizing information–like number of attendees or amount of money raised—because they show the relationship between people and contributions. In the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), you can automatically add a donor to a Campaign when they make a donation. In addition, you can:

  • Use Record Types or Opportunity Types to track different types of Opportunities, even if all of the revenue came through the same fundraising tactic (Campaign record). Some examples of revenue types could be Registration/Tickets, Donations at Event, Items bought, Auction items purchased, etc.
  • Compare the effectiveness of different fundraising tactics. Imagine you had a Gala and an Auction. You can use Campaigns to compare the number and value of Opportunities and see which tactic was more effective.  

Campaigns Have Hierarchy

If you have several courses within a semester, or several tactics within a fundraising goal, you may want to group campaigns and summarize the total amount of Contacts or Opportunities. Use Campaign Hierarchies to achieve this. Let’s look at an example of how a Campaign Hierarchy works.

Let’s say you're running a Spring Appeal that consists of four email blasts, a direct mailing to your major donors, and a gala banquet. Create each of those as a Campaign and relate them to the Spring Appeal 2018 Campaign using the Parent Campaign field. On the parent Campaign, you can see the aggregated amount of money you've raised as well as the money raised by the individual Campaigns. You can then compare which tactics are the most effective in your fundraising.

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Campaigns Can be Archived

Many organizations have a plethora of Campaigns at any given time. The Active checkbox controls whether Campaigns appear in lookups when you add Contacts and Leads. By unchecking the Active checkbox, you archive a Campaign. You can still use global search to find archived Campaigns.

Campaign Use Cases

Campaigns are such a versatile tool. It’s fantastic that one object can do so much! Let’s look at some common use cases.

Segmentation and Outreach

One of the primary uses of Campaigns is to create lists of people, usually for sending them email or direct mail. In the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), use the Household Mailing List report to export your mailing list with only one member per household included. No duplicate mailings!

Lists or groups you might consider building as Campaigns include Board Members, Media Contacts, Fundraising Prospects, or People who are interested in Program Area X or Y.

For more ideas on categorizing Contacts in NPSP, see this article.


Fundraising Campaigns can track the effectiveness of your fundraising effort. You send requests for money to people and if they make a donation, you select the Campaign in the Opportunity’s Primary Campaign Source field and mark the donor as Responded. Standard Campaign fields can be used to track the results and calculate ROI:

  • Total Contacts: The number of people in your outreach that you’re already engaged with.
  • Total Leads: The number of people in your outreach that are prospects.
  • Total Converted Leads: The number of people that this Campaign helped to convert.
  • Total Responses: The number of people you’ve marked as Responded.
  • Total Value and Number of Won Donations: The number and amount the Campaign has brought in.

You can also track how these numbers stack up across a hierarchy of Campaigns (see Campaign Hierarchy section above). There’s plenty of information available, even for the most statistic-obsessed development team!

Event Management

Campaigns are very useful for events. Use Campaign Member Status to track the attendance status of your invitees. For example, you can create statuses for Invited, RSVP - YES, RSVP - NO, Attended, Cancelled, and so on. Additionally, you can update the Campaign Member Status for Contacts and Leads as their attendance status changes. Be sure to only mark people as Responded if they participated or attended; that way, you get an accurate count of the people who came to the event.

You can also log the registration fees as an Opportunity with your event Campaign as the Primary Campaign Source.

You can customize your page layout for the events with fields like an Account lookup for Location, date/time fields for Setup Time, Start Time, End Time etc. You can even upload documents like directions, fundraising pitches, powerpoint slides, and more right on the Campaign record.

Keep in mind that there are many integrations and third-party apps that leverage Campaigns for additional functionality such as email marketing, marketing automation, and online donation tools

TIP: Explore Volunteers for Salesforce (V4S) to see a great example of how to use Campaigns for volunteer event management. If you want to explore many of the concepts of Campaign management in V4S with a real world example, check out the Manage Volunteers for Nonprofits Trailhead.

Program Registration

You can use Campaigns to track classes, workshops, and conferences with conference sessions by using different Campaign types and leveraging the parent Campaign hierarchy. As a program director, you can set up a parent Campaign for the Spring Conference. The Spring Conference has three sessions. Each of these sessions has a Campaign record, linked to the parent Spring Conference Campaign. The people who attend the conference sessions become Campaign Members of the particular session which they are attending. Use the Campaign Member Status field to differentiate between those who were invited, those who registered, and those who actually attended.

You can add custom fields to the Campaign Member records if you need to track additional information such as lodging information for the attendees, conference roles (presenter, attendee, sponsor, vendor, etc), meal preferences, and more.

If there is payment associated with the conference or sessions, you can link the Opportunities to the specific child Campaign record (for example, the session they attended), and then summarize at each parent Campaign level.

Considerations when using Campaigns

Here are some important things to keep in mind when setting up and using Campaigns:

  • Each person can only be in a Campaign once. To show how Campaign Members change over time, you can update their member status.
  • Each Opportunity can only have one Primary Campaign; if you need to relate an Opportunity to more than one Campaign, consider using Campaign Influence.
  • Create a naming convention for the Campaign Name field. Campaign Name is how you commonly find Campaigns in search, reports, and lookup fields. It’s important that similar Campaigns share the same name format. For example: Annual Fund Spring Appeal 2018 & Annual Fund Fall Appeal 2018.
  • Campaigns have a hierarchy limit of five meaning that your hierarchy can contain a Parent Campaign and four Campaigns under it. You should keep this in mind if you choose to group campaigns by year and program area, because that only leaves three hierarchy levels remaining to capture tactics and other campaign characteristics.
  • To make new Campaign records, someone with the System Administrator profile needs to check the Marketing User checkbox on each User record.
  • Cloning campaigns doesn't clone Campaign Member Status options, or Campaign Members. To copy members from one Campaign to another, you can create a Campaign with Campaign Members report filtered to include the source Campaign. Then use the Add to Campaign action to add the members to your new Campaign. Alternatively, use a third party app that can clone Campaigns and Members.
  • You can classify Campaigns using Record Type and/or the Campaign Type field. Use these fields strategically to create an intuitive way of categorizing your Campaigns. Record Type could represent the “big bucket” idea and Type the specific activity or channel. For example you could have a Record Type called Appeal and Types such as: Direct Mail, Email, Phone Bank, etc. You can also create a Campaign Subtype field using a dependent picklist if you need another level of specificity.
  • Campaigns themselves are not meant to be a marketing automation tool, but rather made to integrate with other third party solutions.

Resources for Further Information

Thank You!

Special thanks to Samantha Shain, Trish Perkins, Sara Monostra, Abby Morrow, Hua Ping Tan, Donna Whitig, Sandy Whitten, Danielle Landaal, Bill Florio, and Ashima Saigal for their contributions to this document.