Two Things Nonprofits Should Never, Ever Turn on in Salesforce


With great power, comes great responsibility.

And for all its power in the ability to customize Salesforce, there is also danger. Because there are a few things that, if you turn them on, are irreversible. Did you hear me? Irreversible.

BrightStep just finished a diagnostic process with a fantastic nonprofit who had been using Salesforce for over ten years. And somewhere, in that ten-year period, a well-intentioned but unknowing person turned on one of the no-gos below. (I won’t say system administrator – because, like many nonprofits, they didn’t have purposeful resources directed there – and ten! people had system administrative security privileges). They asked me what else? should never be turned on.

Nonprofits (and any for-profit on Salesforce) take heed. NEVER, EVER, yes I am shouting! enable the following:

Person Accounts: What are person accounts? They are one of the ways to manage the tricky business of tracking individuals vs. those that work at companies. They are tantalizing for unknowing volunteer-implementors, and I’m sure there are specific use cases in the financial sector that make sense. BUT once you enable them, forget about using any integrated tool with any success, especially a donation page. And I’ll always remember the pain and ultimate flat on our face failure of trying to dedupe contacts and accounts in an org that had person accounts enabled and tried to work around them. Want more reasons against them? See mine and other rants in the Power of Us Hub. Once they are enabled? Forget about a work-around. You need a new Salesforce instance, and the cost to migrate to it. So what is best practice? Household Account Model and the Nonprofit Starter Pack.

Custom Fiscal Years: Thanks to the sleuthing of my colleague TJ Warfield, I recently learned the fun of this one. These seem like a good idea, yes? I want to make my fiscal year of July 1 – so of course I want to customize. But in Salesforce landia, there’s a difference between configuring fiscal years (i.e. setting up the fiscal year to start July 1) and custom fiscal years – which at some point in the past, fit one particular large enterprise’s need to have quarters with uneven number of weeks and years with irregular number of days, and now thousands of unknowing organizations are confused enough to turn them on. What happens? You lose any kind of relative date values within Salesforce, and any rollup fields based on date values installed by integrated packages – namely, in our world, the Nonprofit Starter Pack. All those beautiful summaries “Total Gifts all Time” “Total Gifts Last Year” etc. are not accessible. Again, can not be turned off. New instance time.



Salesforce – this is an open call. It’s time to make it a bit harder to enable those bits that can never, ever be undone. What about a two-person sign-off (inspiration from Tracy Kronzak for the image above) like the two-person rule rule for missile launches?

What else? I know there are others. Let me know so we can add them to the growing list of lessons learned for the orgs that follow.

Megan Himan has over fifteen years experience in the nonprofit sector and over ten years working on the Salesforce platform. She has a unique combination of deep technical skills paired with an ability to strategically convene groups, coach executives and leadership through transitions, and execute on project deliverables. She is Founder & Principal of BrightStep Partners - solutions with strategy for Salesforce success. In September 2017, she was named a Salesforce MVP.

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Posted in Administration, Implementation Success
4 comments on “Two Things Nonprofits Should Never, Ever Turn on in Salesforce
  1. Fab says:

    Great post Megan! 🙂

    I agree that the NSP is a better fit than Person Account for Non Profits organisation. Having said that, there are ways to make PA work and I wrote a post on the subject:

    Also, you’ll be pleased to know that “Person Account deactivation” is on the roadmap (#safeharbor).


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