Skip to Content

Planning for the Long Term with NPSP 3

By January 26, 2016

By: Marisa Lopez, Nonprofit Account Manager, Exponent Partners

When you first invested in Salesforce for your organization, you likely planned to use it far into the future to improve the way you track your organization’s data and help your staff work more efficiently. There are a number of ways you can ensure that your initial investment continues to bear fruit, such as employing a system administrator to oversee your system and tracking the quality of data in your instance. The Nonprofit Starter Pack 3 (NPSP 3), the latest version of the Nonprofit Starter Pack, can also be a key mechanism to ensure you have a sustainable system that evolves with your organization ― especially if you are on an older version of NPSP.

I recently talked to two veterans of the Salesforce for Nonprofits community, our client Guy Baldwin from the Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF), and the Nonprofit Starter Pack lead for our consulting team, Jeff Issenberg, to learn more about how NPSP 3 can set you up for the future and what’s involved in upgrading.

NCCLF’s Path to Long-Term Salesforce Success

Salesforce for Nonprofits pioneer NCCLF has had a long and diverse history using Salesforce for many different organizational programs. The organization works with a variety of constituents, which requires a robust Salesforce solution. For instance, they lend to and consult with 100-150 nonprofits each year, and they work with a variety of types of investors and philanthropists to finance community development initiatives in Northern California. Across the organization, 32 staff members in 6 distinct user groups rely on Salesforce for their day-to-day work. NCCLF has built their Salesforce system over time into one that serves their whole organization, including their lending, consulting, investor relations, finance, development, and policy departments.

Upgrades to the Nonprofit Starter Pack have been a key part of NCCLF’s ongoing Salesforce strategy, which has also included custom configuration to track all of their programs. After starting out with a Salesforce “nonprofit template” (the predecessor to NPSP), they upgraded to NPSP 2.8 and then to NPSP 3. As you can imagine, they’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. Guy Baldwin, Information Systems Manager, talked about their experience upgrading the first time around to NPSP 2.8, which taught them that they “didn’t want to get behind again.” Before NPSP 2.8, he explained that they worked too long with functionality that wasn’t up-to-date and which reduced their efficiency.

After upgrading to NPSP 3 in 2015, NCCLF took another leap forward with their Salesforce solution. Now the latest updates to the product are automatically pushed to their instance as they are released. They can immediately benefit from the most recent advancements developed by the community. Affiliations are an example of functionality that has been greatly improved over time. As Guy explains, “the biggest thing that we appreciate is the multiple identities that contacts can have” in NPSP. He described a particular contact, their former president, who has worked for four nonprofits, donated to the organization, sat on their board, and has been an investor in their funds. They are able to track all of this information on one record in Salesforce. NPSP 3 introduced primary affiliation support for contacts, further strengthening the ability to represent the complex ways that an organization might interact with one constituent.

Expert Counsel for a Bright Salesforce Future

Echoing many of the points that Guy mentioned, our NPSP 3 Consulting Lead Jeff Issenberg describes using older versions of the NPSP as “something akin to running on an outdated operating system.” For Jeff, the biggest value in the new NPSP is the new Household Account Model, which he describes as a “huge improvement” over the old 1-to-1 Account Model and Individual “Bucket” Account Model. The new model does away with the awkward hidden accounts and neatly deals with Households without the need of a separate custom object. He recommends upgrades to the nonprofits that he works with in order to take advantage of this feature. He’s also seen nonprofit organizations benefit from the new address records that aren’t just a combination of street, city, and state anymore and are also synced between contact and household records. In addition, the Nonprofit Starter Pack Application Settings have gotten a serious UI upgrade in 3 and are a lot more user-friendly.

Jeff also mentions an unexpected benefit of the upgrade process to NPSP 3: better data quality. Many organizations don’t realize that they’ll need to clean up their data prior to the upgrade (using the Account Model Conversion Utility that has provided for converting data from legacy models to the Household Account Model), and they don’t foresee how this could improve the quality of their data. Data cleanup is also often the most complicated part that Jeff guides organizations through. The new Health Check System Tool in NPSP 3 first helps him identify some of the trouble areas, and then he uses reports to ask a series of questions to pinpoint problem data and fix it in anticipation of the conversion to the new Household Model. These steps ensure that an organization’s data is clean and ready for this more powerful version of NPSP, while taking a key step forward in maintaining the ongoing health of the system.

Next Steps to Taking the Salesforce Long View

As both Jeff and Guy indicate, NPSP 3 is both a leap forward in new features and also an insurance plan for your organization’s future needs. If our stories have piqued your interest, you can learn more about NPSP 3 from When you are ready to upgrade, you may want to look at partnering to accomplish your goals. NCCLF has partnered with Exponent Partners since 2007 to grow and adapt their system to their needs and to take advantage of the latest Salesforce technology and integrated apps. There are many reasons that an organization might look to a consultant like Exponent Partners to perform the upgrade, including the smooth management of Salesforce systems that have considerable data, custom coding or configurations, or many applications installed. In addition, an upgrade is a great time to assess your organization’s additional needs from Salesforce, such as program management, case management, and outcomes tracking! If you’d like to chat with one of our experts about an NPSP upgrade or assessment, reach out for a free consultation.

About the Author
Marisa brings her background in the social sector to her role as Foundation Account Manager. A veteran of Exponent Partners, she has worked with over 200 clients in her 5-year tenure at our organization. She is an outdoor enthusiast, and enjoys hiking, snowboarding, skate skiing, paddle boarding, and other outdoor adventures with her daughter during her free time.

Watch the Upgrade Webinar Recording