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Common Pitfalls When Implementing Salesforce for Nonprofits: Custom Record Types

This is part one in a series on common pitfalls nonprofits face when implementing Salesforce and the Nonprofit Starter Pack (NPSP).

At Cloud for Good, we often work with clients who have already implemented their Salesforce instances prior to becoming our clients. Typically, they come to us in search of a better way to manage their instance moving forward, or as a means to correct issues they are currently experiencing with how they implemented their Salesforce instance originally. In working through these projects, I have witnessed common pitfalls that can lead organizations astray and I have highlighted the first pitfall in my post below to help others avoid these issues in the future.

This pitfall comes from using custom record types for everything that needs to be categorized, and it is a very common, oft-repeated mistake that I see clients make. It can seem compelling to create a new record type for everything. Record types, however, are intended to drive unique user experiences based on different business processes that need to run within an object, and are not intended to be used for defining different types of the same thing. The urge to use different record types is tempting- I’ve often battled it myself, but knowing when and when not to use record types is essential to increasing user adoption and overall usability.

The most common use case for record types with nonprofits is within Opportunities. For example, your grant process looks completely different than your planned giving process. There are items you want to track for grants like ‘proposal submitted date,’ that don’t really apply to planned giving. In this case, record types are useful to enhance the page view of what users see when inserting a new grant versus inserting a new planned giving opportunity, where it may be more useful to have fields like Life Insurance Company Name.

Try to avoid using record types when you simply want to define a category in general. For example, in thinking about grants, creating a record type of ‘Corporate Grants’ and ‘Foundation Grants’ may not be necessary, and could cause additional confusion among your end users. Instead, simply leveraging a custom “Type” field on opportunities would work. Remember that you can manage the picklist options that are displayed for individual record types. In this example, you can have your newly created “Type” field define 10 different sub categories across your opportunity record types, but only two of the picklist choices- “Corporate Grant” and “Foundation Grant” are visible when you are within the Grant Record Type.

Things to remember:

  • You can manage the picklist values within a record type.
  • Record types can have unique page layouts.
  • You can restrict certain profiles from being able to create new records of a specified record type.
  • When creating a new record type, review your picklist fields to ensure the values can be selected when creating a new record. Nobody likes to have greyed out picklist fields!

You may also be interested in these posts:

Six Simple Steps to Improve Your Salesforce User Experience
Data Management Tips
Successful Data Migration