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Explore Your Customization Options

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the options available for customizing Salesforce and Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP).
  • Access information about working with the partner ecosystem.

Common Customization Needs for Nonprofit

While Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) is designed to work well for most nonprofit and fundraising needs after just a few configurations, you may have to add a few things to make it work best for your organization. You might want to create custom home pages for different departments in your organization, for example, so that the Development team can focus on fundraising and your Program team can focus on delivering your mission.

A few other common customizations for nonprofits include:

  • Custom fields on contacts to keep track of who is an alumnus of your programs or current and past board members.
  • Custom page layouts to bring the most important information about contacts, accounts, and other objects to the top of the page.
  • Custom list views to help users find, sort, and work with records most effectively—like a list view of your biggest donors or board members.

Those are all relatively small customizations, but even with small changes it’s important to remember that whatever you build, you have to maintain.

Fortunately, you don’t always have to start from scratch. Let’s check out your options.

Options for Customizing Your Salesforce Org

An admin at a whiteboard considering their customization options

There are essentially three ways to customize your Salesforce org: do it yourself with custom objects, fields, picklist values, and more; install ready-made apps from the Salesforce AppExchange; and find a consulting partner to help you create what you need. 

In reality, you might use a combination of all three to achieve your goals. Let's take a look at each option.

Do It Yourself with Custom Objects, Fields, and More

Salesforce and NPSP come with plenty of useful elements already, so you may only need a few small changes, like adding a field to an object or changing the values in a picklist. For example, if you host a lot of fundraising events and want to keep track of donors’ dietary requirements and food allergies, you can add those custom fields to the Contact object and group them in a section.

Custom Dietary Requirements and Food Allergies fields on a Contact record

Making these small adaptations to standard or NPSP objects and features allow you to take full advantage of Salesforce’s constant innovation—when NPSP gets better, your data can get better. You’ll save time and money on customization and maintenance, too. Always start here first.

If you have unique requirements that can’t be met by making small changes to a standard or NPSP object, you might consider creating your own custom objects or building an app of your own. A custom object is one unique to your Salesforce org, created to meet your specific needs. An app is a collection of objects grouped together around a function or role, so you can build apps that meet every one of your specific requirements. 

Check out the video for advice about thinking ahead, planning what to build, deciding what to automate, and more.

While building it yourself means you get exactly what you want, it does come at a price. You have to invest in designing, building, updating, and maintaining your solution, which might be a small commitment for simple customizations but could grow rapidly.

Your requirements may not be totally unique, though, so there may be an easier way than doing it yourself...

Install an App from the AppExchange

The Salesforce AppExchange is the marketplace for apps that can get your Salesforce org working just the way you need it to. It lists plug-and-play solutions made by Salesforce and our partners that can get you where you need to go without having to build and maintain something yourself.

Do you work for an arts organization and want to manage ticketing through Salesforce? Work for an animal shelter and need to track your furry friends? Need a tool to better send PDFs of gift acknowledgements to donors? Check out the AppExchange.

There you can learn more about free and paid solutions, including reviews from your peers at other nonprofits. If you want to learn more about particular solutions, you can also check out the App Advice and Consumer Reports group in the Trailblazer Community. (Click the link in Resources.)

The AppExchange is also one place where you can learn more about Salesforce-created nonprofit solutions, like Program Management Module, Volunteers for Salesforce, Nonprofit Cloud Case Management, Outbound Funds Module, Grants Management, and more.

Check out the AppExchange Basics module on Trailhead and the AppExchange’s directory of nonprofit solutions linked in Resources to learn more.


Want to try an app from the AppExchange? Always start by installing it into a sandbox, a version of your Salesforce org to safely test new features. Not familiar with what a sandbox is? Not to worry—we’ll cover them more in the next unit.

Work with a Partner

Whether you install an app or build something from scratch, you may want to work with a partner—one of our trusted, certified consultants who help nonprofits with their Salesforce orgs.

In theory, you could implement any solution yourself, but that isn’t always most efficient because the learning curve can be steep. Unless your team has been trained in database management, has time to invest in learning, and has previous experience facilitating major change inside an organization—or even if you do—you'd likely benefit from expert help.

That help may come with an up-front investment, but also with significant long-term payoff. We’ve learned from experience that chances for success increase dramatically for organizations who use a consulting partner to help them get up and running with Salesforce, NPSP, and any additional customizations.

Fortunately, we can help you find a partner. We recommend turning to’s network of implementation partners who are experienced with Salesforce, certified on Salesforce for Nonprofits, and specialize in organizations like yours. You can work with your Account Executive to find a Network implementation partner, or check out the Resources section at the end of this unit for more information.

Think About the Future

An admin trains staff in a conference room.

However you customize your Salesforce org, remember to document changes and train users. Let’s say it again (and again) for the folks in the back: Document and train! Document and train! Document and train! 

In the short-term, documentation will cut down on questions you’ll have to answer, and training will help your users make the most of any new app or feature.

In the long-term, good documentation and training will help your organization make the most of its Salesforce org and will help remind you what to watch for during upgrades and future changes. And this doesn’t just help you, but anyone who comes after you. We’ve heard from admins who join an organization with poor documentation and have to reverse engineer all of the custom elements. Be kind to your future self and your eventual successors and write it all down!

In the next unit we’ll talk more about your role in implementing best practices.


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