Tracking Organizational Contacts: Nonprofits + Salesforce

CongressOver the years, great minds have come together to form a solution around tracking individuals and their households for nonprofits using Salesforce. Households are represented as Salesforce Accounts and Individuals as Contacts within those Accounts. Already lost? Read more about the data model I love here that is the Nonprofit Success Pack.

Within that model, there’s a recommendation and assumption that a nonprofit will track ALL of their contacts in this way – connected directly to a Household Account, and “affiliated” to their Employer. If you have a donor who is also a manager at Google, her Google participation would be represented as an Affiliation.

For many nonprofits, who use Salesforce primarily for donor management, or individual/family case management this works perfectly.

But for organizations that use Salesforce for the beautiful, expansive utilizations for other program management, it can get ugly fast.

Cases in point:

  1. An educational nonprofit tracks parents as their own contacts/households, and uses affiliations to link those contacts to their children’s schools. Now they want to find the school staff – only they have to sort through 300 current affiliation records to find some title referencing “teacher” with that school Account and hope for the best.
  2. A fellowship nonprofit works directly with a number of Congressional Offices. It also tracks its fellows and alumni in association to their Congressional office via the Affiliations object. Now it needs to contact that Congressional staffperson – that intern who changes every three months. Impossible to sort through 500 current affiliation records, and it doesn’t want to track that intern as an individual separate from their Congressional office, anyhow!

What’s the Solution?

The answer is what I like to affectionately call a “Mixed Contact Model”. This means that some people, perhaps most, depending on your nonprofit’s orientation, would be tracked with their own Household Account and Contact record. Other Contacts, for whom your relationship is primarily with their Organization, get tracked as Organizational Contacts – as a Contact linked directly as a child record of that Organizational Account.

That’s Confusing. How do I decide if my Contact should be a Household Contact or an Organizational Contact?

My former colleague Tracy Kronzak had a saying that I love to repeat when faced with this question:

If an individual has given (or could give)

  • time (as a volunteer)
  • money (as an individual)
  • thought leadership (like a board member)

track them as a Household Contact.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 1.53.47 PM

Household Contact Example

Otherwise, track them as an Organizational Contact, that lives, breathes and dies with the Organization, until at which time they do one of the above (when you can move their Account Name to the Primary Affiliation section, and have the NPSP auto-create a Household Account). Next time you need to contact that teacher or Congressional intern, you’ll thank me.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 1.58.18 PM

Organizational Contact Example

Many organizations may decide, for ease, to track only Household Contacts. That’s okay. But if your nonprofit spends much of its time moving Organizations, and the people that work inside them, don’t be afraid to mix it up!

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
2 comments on “Tracking Organizational Contacts: Nonprofits + Salesforce
  1. Good post, Megan. Thank you. In can become even more complicated. In my current case, the same person can be a school teacher and at the same time be a person looking for a new teaching job. It means a person should consume a completely different set of services.


    • Megan Himan says:

      Sergey – thanks for taking the time to comment. Interesting use case! How did you resolve it? My initial thought is that if you are interacting with them personally for any services, then they should be a “Household Contact”. Would love to hear how you worked through this.


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