How to Best Customize Salesforce for Your Nonprofit

By Gerard Tonti

Salesforce is a popular CRM solution for a large variety of verticals. This is because it’s one of the most configurable systems. Because of this system flexibility, it’s rare that two different organizations, particularly nonprofit organizations, will configure their Salesforce solutions to look exactly the same.

However, when nonprofits do work to customize Salesforce for their needs, there are certain elements and features that all nonprofits should have access to as a part of their CRM software system. These will help execute and keep a record of standard nonprofit activities like raising money and marketing strategies.

In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of Salesforce customization for nonprofit organizations, what features they need and how to best access those features. Specifically, we’ll dive deeper into:

  1. Why nonprofits switch to Salesforce
  2. What is the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack
  3. Other tools nonprofits should look for and where to find them
  4. Where nonprofits can learn more about Salesforce

Keep in mind that Salesforce is always changing and improving. Nonprofits should also consider how the newest features offered will impact their customization plans and improve their overall strategy.

Ready to dive deeper into the relationship between nonprofit organizations and Salesforce? Let’s get started.

1. Why Nonprofits Switch to Salesforce

Salesforce for nonprofits has many enticing aspects, but a major one for a lot of organizations is the price. Salesforce offers its software for free for up to 10 users at a nonprofit organization. While the customization process still has some costs associated with it, this takes a large part of the financial burden off of these organizations.

It’s also an incredibly customizable solution (as we’ll cover in detail later). Experienced nonprofits find this to be an incredibly helpful aspect of the software. This is because large, experienced nonprofits have typically spent time identifying and defining their organization’s precise needs. In addition, a mature organization tends to experience less significant change year to year, meaning they can more easily predict both the current and future needs of the organization.

However, smaller organizations experience more change from period to period, making them less well-versed in their long-term objectives. Drastic growth and changing strategies makes it more difficult for smaller organizations to know the exact configuration needs. Therefore, investing in Salesforce and handling the customization of the software is substantially more difficult.

No matter the organization, big or small, the first step to the Salesforce configuration process is acquiring and implementing the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack.

2. The Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack

The Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) is a free solution designed by Salesforce to organize the objects and fields of the CRM for the unique needs of nonprofits. It’s a preconfigured solution that helps nonprofits track donor accounts, contacts, potential opportunities, and fundraising campaigns.

According to Salsa’s Salesforce NPSP guide, this solution works by expanding on the standard Salesforce data model. This means you’ll get all of the advantages of Salesforce in terminology that makes sense for nonprofits.

The CRM will help nonprofits store data such as:

  • Donor names and contact information
  • Prospect research data
  • Events and activities attended
  • Donations made, frequency, and amount
  • Communications interacted with, such as emails opened and clicked through
  • Survey responses

This data can then be used to optimize nonprofit outreach and reach fundraising goals.

Like any organization, keeping this data organized is the key to successfully incorporating it into your overall nonprofit strategy. Therefore, taking advantage of Salesforce duplicate management tools is necessary to effectively use the data collected and organized using the NPSP. Make sure all of your information is correct and up to date for the nonprofit.

While the Salesforce NPSP is a great start to configuration, consider how the data is saved there. Where does it come from? Are you inputting it manually? Do you have integrated fundraising technology? The configuration of the rest of your software ecosystem will help you make the best use of the NPSP and Salesforce as a whole. For that, you need to consider the other tools and integrations that will complete your toolbox.

3. Other Tools to Look for in Configuration

When it comes to configuration of Salesforce, you need to look past just your nonprofit’s CRM needs. You also need to consider your organization’s fundraising and marketing strategies. After all, this is primarily what you’ll use the data in your CRM to support.

The good news is that there are lots of apps and integrations that work with the Salesforce system (some of the industry top picks can be found here).

When it comes to building out the rest of your toolbox, your nonprofit can do one of two things. You can either look for individual tools to meet each of your needs or you can look for an integrated complete system that will round out your ecosystem.

We recommend the latter. Individual tools are a great way to fill in the gaps of software strategy, but investing in a complete software solution that meets all of your combined needs is better in the long run. Each of the tools will not only integrate with Salesforce but will also work together. The difference looks like this:

When your tools all work together, you don’t have to worry about different aspects of your strategy not interacting well with the others. Everything communicates with a complete solution.

But what should you look for in this complete solution? The different features nonprofits should make sure their apps and integrations cover include: donation tools, peer-to-peer fundraising, event registration, and digital marketing.

Donation Tools

Your nonprofit is already familiar with donation tools. These are the online solutions that help you collect funding from your supporters to help support your mission.

When your donation tools are integrated with your Salesforce solution, you’re able to launch and run Salesforce-powered fundraising campaigns.

These campaigns allow you to collect information from both your donation tools and marketing tools to save data such as:

  • What lead supporters to give to the campaign
  • The average gift size of donations made to the campaign
  • Date, time, and format of donations made to the campaign
  • Other interactions donors have with your campaign

Manually inputting each and every donation your nonprofit receives into your CRM is time-consuming and inefficient. Ensuring a successful integration will help automate this reporting, automatically filling out individual donor profiles and campaign data.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is another form of fundraising that not only raises money for your organization but helps expand your donor base at the same time. The premise is that your supporters create their own custom fundraising pages and raise money on behalf of your organization.

They work to expand your network by inviting their friends, family, and online connections to give to your campaign.

When your peer-to-peer fundraising software is integrated with your Salesforce CRM solution as soon as new supporters give, that data is streamlined into the system. New donor profiles are automatically created and information is saved to them.

Event Registration

Nonprofits use events to get supporters engaged, to raise money, and to market the organization. It’s a great way to foster every stage of your important relationships. Think about it, events allow your nonprofit to:

  • Provide an opportunity to reach out to potential sponsors in order to create relationships with companies
  • Gather the community together, allowing your nonprofit to reach a new audience of interested community members
  • Reach out to existing supporters and encourage them to get involved in a unique and entertaining way

When your event registration tools are synced up with your Salesforce CRM software, your nonprofit can automatically save this information to help foster these relationships in future communications.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is what helps pull a lot of your nonprofit’s strategies together. After all, how can you raise funds if your supporters are unaware of your campaign? Your marketing tools should allow your nonprofit to:

  • Send personalized emails to all of or groups of supporters in your CRM
  • Create and distribute direct mail to groups of supporters
  • Post to social media to inform followers of upcoming activities
  • Update your website or blog with the newest trends in your sector

When your digital marketing is an integrated part of your software ecosystem, you gain access to a variety of valuable and time-saving features. For instance, you can segment your supporters by various commonalities, such as their location or preferred method of giving, in order to create more personalized outreach strategies.

You can also better personalize your online messages to supporters by automatically populating personal details from the CRM into emails or direct mail. For instance, automatically populate the donor’s preferred name and the last event they attended in the body of a message.

Finally, CRM software allows your nonprofit to save communications for future use. For instance, you may work hard to draft each email in an ask string. By saving this letter as a template in your CRM, you can tweak the details and use it again in the future for a new audience. Fundraising Letters offers donation request letter templates that your nonprofit can use to start drafting this evergreen content.

4. Learning More about Salesforce for Nonprofits

Because every nonprofit is unique, each one will configure their Salesforce solution slightly differently. This can make it hard to generally discuss best practices regarding the system.

However, once it is configured the way your nonprofit wants it to be, Salesforce is an incredibly valuable tool.

Therefore, taking some additional time to conduct research about the solution is well worth the investment. The Power of Us Hub is the first place you should look, as the ‘online community for customers, certified partners and staff. …get answers, build your Salesforce skills, share your expertise & connect with others in the nonprofit sector who are using Salesforce!” What is the Power of Us Hub? 

Make sure your nonprofit leans on authoritative Salesforce expert articles on sites like SalesforceBen, the Salesforce blog, and Salesforce integration partners like SalsaLabs. These online resources are powered by people who are well-versed in using the software.


Salesforce is an incredible tool for nonprofits, but it must be configured in a way that best meets the needs of the specific organization. Make sure to conduct ample research into your new software ecosystem and make sure you have all of the tools you need to succeed!

The Author

Gerard Tonti

Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits.

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