In 2008 when the nonprofit I was working for at the time chose Salesforce as its CRM system, the Nonprofit Starter Pack (NPSP) didn’t exist. It was the Wild West with everyone blazing their own trail. Most nonprofits muddled by with their own homegrown customizations or those their implementation partners put into place. Everyone configured their instance a bit differently and named objects and fields whatever they felt like. There was no common architecture or nomenclature. It made it a challenge to share knowledge across the sector and it posed particular challenges when it came to working with third party applications. You had to hope whatever you were using would play nicely with an app you wanted to install.
Thankfully some community heroes saw a need and came together to package a set of standard customizations that addressed some of the most common business practices that were in use across most nonprofits. This package was named the NPSP and some of the best and brightest developers and project managers in the sector have continued to add new functionality and make improvements to the package.
Unfortunately, some enterprise-level nonprofits considering Salesforce have overlooked the Nonprofit Starter Pack thinking that the Starter part of the name means it is only for small or medium-sized organizations starting out in Salesforce. That is definitely not the case and I’m going to explain why I think it may be the best option for enterprise-level nonprofits. Also Salesforce.org has just rebranded the NPSP as the Nonprofit Success Package – a much better reflection of what this package brings for nonprofits of all sizes.
One of the key advantages of the NPSP is that it is distributed as open-source software so you have complete visibility into the code, allowing you to understand what it does and how it works. This is key if you are planning to add further customization to your Salesforce configuration. You will know in advance what code you have to content with and not suffer the nasty surprise after creating new code to find it is incompatible.
NPSP updates are made every two weeks, allowing organizations to take advantage of bug fixes and new features right away. If you couple that with the 3 releases Salesforce puts out every year, you are getting a constantly enriched environment to continue to grow your use of Salesforce as your organization grows and your needs change.
If you have spent any time at all in the Salesforce universe lately you have heard mention of the Lightning. Salesforce has completely overhauled its UI and how apps are developed with Lightning. Salesforce is putting the majority of its development resources into features and improvements to the Lightning Experience and at some point in the future weeks or months your organization will likely see the scales tip in favor of turning on the Lightning Experience. In order to take advantage of the awesome UI and features Lightning has to offer you will need to ensure that all products and apps you use in Salesforce are Lightning ready. The great news is that the NPSP already is and the developer team is already working on some great new functionality that will work only in Lightning.
What Salesforce has that is unparalleled in other CRM systems is an awesome ecosystem of apps you can install to add on to your org and bring in new functionality. Instead of having to figure out on your own how to customize your org to provide functionality such as mass email marketing, online form creation and online donations, there is likely an app for that. Dozens of these apps were developed specifically for nonprofits. And the best part is the NPSP is very compatible with this universe of apps.
Another aspect that is unique to Salesforce is the community around it. It is more robust and active than any user community you’ve ever experienced. NPSP support is crowdsourced from some of the best and brightest users in the nonprofit technology world via the Power of Us HUB, a collaborative space for Salesforce nonprofit users. Users can ask questions, share resources and access NPSP documentation in the HUB. Also Salesforce.org also has weekly office hours where you can seek out help and advice from very experienced users and implementation partners. In addition, many major cities have a nonprofit-specific user group where you are able to learn more about Salesforce and meet other local Salesforce users.
The Nonprofit Starter Pack comes with many settings that you can use to control what features are used in what way so you can customize your Salesforce configuration to match your business processes. These settings include things like automatic household naming and what syntax is used for that. Another example is a setting where you can specify what kinds of donations are included in the total donations rollups on the contact and account pages; do you want to include event ticket purchases or leave them out?
It is for all of these reasons and many more that Cloud for Good has implemented the NPSP for many of our enterprise-level clients who are using it with great success. It has the right combination of standardized features and flexibility to meet the complex needs of an enterprise nonprofit. There are also exciting new features on the horizon for the NPSP. The NPSP is a great starting foundation for your Salesforce success.
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