Visualize it All: Salesforce Lightning for Nonprofits


Salesforce has been a solid tool for 20K+ nonprofits for many years, but over the past two years it has gone through a makeover. The core platform (the software built for enterprise and small businesses) has released a new interface called Salesforce Lightning.

But it’s not just a pretty new face on an existing product (and it is pretty). It is new functionality that speaks to the way nonprofits work and manage themselves. And it’s awesome.

Yet the true game-changer is that with Salesforce Lightning I’m able to visualize and act on business processes.

For example, instead of a static major gifts pipeline, you get an Opportunity Kanban. Kanban is a fancy software development name for what is essentially a post-it-note style visualization to see what’s happening now, next, and what’s done.

For major gift officers and their directors, the flat excel report gets translated into a drag and drop prioritization summary of Prospects, Ready to Ask, Ask Outstanding and Pledged.

Visualization = Prioritization

I’ve written before that for nonprofits, time is our most precious asset. The beauty of a visualized pipeline or process is that everyone – program officer, COO, director – can see what’s next, and what’s now. It also is about standardizing the way we talk about the way we work.

What does it take to move a potential donor from “Prospect” to “Ready to Ask”?

What are the stages of our application for our fellowship program, and what needs to happen at each?


What does it cost?

The Lightning interface is completely free for all users of the core platform, and with the latest update, users can now “Kanban” all the things, all without any custom code or development work.

This means that a Salesforce Administrator can take a custom object, like the “Applications” object above, and use a picklist or global picklist value to create a visualization board.

Any new Salesforce trial of the Nonprofit Starter Pack since November 2016 automatically is set to the the Lightning interface.

What are the gotchas? And if I’m a nonprofit already using Salesforce, how do I switch?

There are some pieces of functionality that, for system administrators, require switching back to the “Classic” interface. Though with each passing month, these are becoming fewer and fewer.


Switching to Lighting for existing nonprofit Salesforce users may require a bit of finesse, depending on the amount of customizations in your system – particularly page layout and visualforce components. And don’t underestimate the “people” side as well as the technical side.

There’s a great Resource document that Judi Sohn has curated for adjustments that nonprofits need to make post-switch. And our team and many others have contributed ongoing documentation to the finds and fixes in the Lighting group in the Power of Us Hub.

Finally, look out for Salesforce training and enablement resources near you. The teams on the core platform are trying to help organizations make the move and take advantage of this new functionality and interface.

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.

Posted in Implementation Success, Lighting

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