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Duplicate Management for Nonprofits and Higher Ed Organizations

By Tom Leddy January 28, 2019

Managing triplets, or triplicates or duplicates, can be a lot of work! Family photo courtesy of employee Daryl Spreiter (who is a triplet pictured in this photo).
Managing triplets, or triplicates or duplicates, can be a lot of work! Family photo courtesy of employee Daryl Spreiter (who is a triplet pictured in this photo).

Maintaining clean and accurate data is crucial to getting the most out of your Salesforce implementation. Unlike managing a family with twins or triplets, who are still unique individuals, when nonprofits and higher ed organizations have duplicate data on the same person, it can cause a variety of issues. Duplicate data affects only for your employees but also for donors and the people who receive your services. For example, communications sent to the same contact multiple times are inefficient and make your organization appear disorganized to your constituents. Additionally, having to search for information on more than one record is another time-consuming activity that will cause your internal users to lose trust in your CRM.

Fortunately, Salesforce provides robust duplicate management functionality that’s available for no extra charge in professional, enterprise, and unlimited editions. Duplicate Management in Salesforce is highly configurable and works with a number of different object types, including:

  • Business Accounts
  • Person Accounts
  • Contacts
  • Leads
  • Records Created from Custom Objects

There are two aspects to managing duplicate records: detecting and removing existing duplicates and preventing new duplicate records from being created. The key to both of these activities is understanding how to set up and maintain matching rules and duplicate rules.

While matching rules and duplicate rules both deal with duplicate record handling, their purpose is slightly different. Matching rules are used to define the criteria by which duplicate records are identified, while duplicate rules define what actions should be taken once a duplicate has been identified. Both of these can be found in setup by doing a search for Duplicate Management and selecting either Duplicate Rules or Matching Rules from the menu.

A matching rule compares field values to determine whether a record is similar enough to existing records to be considered a duplicate. Salesforce comes with standard matching rules for Accounts, Contacts, and Leads.

Photos of triplets, with employee Daryl Spreiter pictured. Keep reading for more tips on managing duplicates (or triplicates!).
Photos of triplets, with employee Daryl Spreiter pictured. Keep reading for more tips on managing duplicates (or triplicates!).

The standard matching rules for leads and contacts look at various combinations of first name, last name, company name, email address, and phone number to identify potential duplicates. The standard matching rule for accounts looks at various combinations of company name, billing street, city, state, ZIP, phone, and website fields. For NPSP users, there’s an additional matching rule that looks for matches based on the first name, last name, and personal email fields as well.

If the standard rules aren’t enough or if you’d like to create a matching rule to use against a custom object, you can create your own simply by clicking the new rule button, selecting an object where you’d like to apply your matching rule, entering a name and description, and selecting your matching criteria.

Matching Rules

Depending on your selected fields, the options for matching method may be either Exact (for fields that match exactly) or Fuzzy (for fields that match approximately). You can also specify whether the rule should consider blank fields to be a match and add additional filter logic to determine how the fields should be evaluated.

Duplicate rules work with matching rules to prevent users from creating duplicate records. A duplicate rule can either completely block users from saving records identified as duplicates, or simply alert them that they may be creating a duplicate, but allow them to save the record anyway.

Salesforce provides standard duplicate rules for Accounts, Leads, and Contacts (all of which alert users about potential duplicate records but don’t block their creation). If you’d like to create a new one, click the New Rule button above the duplicate rules list and fill in the appropriate values and assign it to a matching rule. Note that you can set different actions for new records vs. records that become duplicates after they’re edited. Also note that you can determine whether or not the rule will enforce sharing rules (only compare records a user has access to) or bypass them (compare all records regardless of user access). While bypassing sharing rules will allow for a greater number of duplicates to be detected, keep in mind that the resulting list of potential duplicates will only include records to which the user has access.

Duplicate Rules

Setting matching and duplicate rules to prevent users from creating duplicate records is one thing, but how do you identify duplicates that already exist? Find existing duplicates by following the steps below to create and run duplicate record reports:

  • In Setup, use the Quick Find box to find Report Types and click the New Custom Report Type button.
  • Create a report type and select the object you’d like to report on as the primary object (generally Account, Contact, Lead, or Duplicate Record Set).
  • Relate Duplicate Record Items to the primary object that you selected and save the report type.
  • Give your users access to the Duplicate Record Set and Duplicate Record Items objects so they can create reports based on the report type you created.

Duplicate Record Report

Once you’ve identified duplicate records, the next step is to merge them. In Lightning Experience, you can open an Account, Contact, or Lead record and see an alert if potential duplicates exist. You can then click the “View Duplicates” and select up to three records from the list to merge. Once the records have been selected, choose one to be the master record (i.e. the sole record that will exist after the merge is complete) and then select the fields you want to retain from each record.

Compare Contacts

Once you’ve successfully merged your existing duplicate data and set up matching and duplicate rules to help minimize the number of new duplicate records from being created, you’ll have much more efficient system in which your users and constituents will have confidence.

For additional information on duplicate management, check out these links:

About the Author
Tom LeddyTom Leddy is a Senior Principal Customer Success Architect at based in the Chicago area. He helps nonprofit and higher education organizations integrate Salesforce into their IT landscapes so they can serve their communities more effectively. He is also an author, public speaker, marathon runner and the president of Pawsitively Famous, Inc. You can connect with Tom on LinkedIn or Twitter.