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Understand the NPSP Data Model

Learning Objectives

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

  • Summarize the basics of the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) data model.
  • Explain which objects are NPSP-specific and how NPSP uses the Salesforce platform data model.

Salesforce for Nonprofit Organizations

You probably know that Salesforce began as a tool for business-to-business sales and is now the world’s #1 CRM, or customer relationship management platform. But in the nonprofit context, consider it a stakeholder management tool.

A nonprofit food pantry employee greets constituents.

Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) uses the standard objects in Salesforce: Contacts and Leads track individuals, Accounts represent the organizations those individuals belong to, and Opportunities represent in-progress and closed revenue. NPSP also adds other objects, special fields, and more to adapt the system to the nonprofit context. 

NPSP’s combination of standard and nonprofit-specific elements gives you everything you need to track the different types of revenue and relationships your organization relies on. That includes big, multi-stage government and foundation grants, and also the relationships you build with individual donors, volunteers, advocates, and their households.


Objects, fields, and other data-tracking elements combine into what’s called a data model. Check out the Admin Beginner trail and Data Modeling module on Trailhead to learn more.

Let’s start by checking out the basic elements of Salesforce used by nonprofits and NPSP.

How NPSP Uses Standard Salesforce Objects

Despite being infinitely customizable, every Salesforce org starts with the same basic objects. Here’s how NPSP uses some of those objects. 




Records donor or client households, companies, foundations, or other organizations with whom your organization has a relationship. NPSP adds the ability to create two types of accounts: Households and Organizations. Household accounts are used to track donors, clients, or other stakeholders at the same mailing address, such as spouses or a family. Organization accounts are for other types of organizations, like foundations, companies, and government agencies.


Records individual stakeholders. All contacts must be connected to an account record. Use the Contact object to track donors, members, volunteers, clients, and staff—basically any individual who interacts with your organization.


Tracks revenue-generating activities like donations, grants, or membership fees. You can record each step of a donation, from prospective, to pledged, to closed, to received. Opportunities could include financial contributions from an individual, grants from an institution, contracts from a government institution, in-kind gifts from a company, or sales of merchandise related to your organization.


Records any outreach you’d like to plan, manage, and track. Associate opportunities with campaigns to show your return on investment from an email, direct-mail message, or other communication.

What NPSP Adds

NPSP adds custom objects to record the data your team needs. This data model has become the industry standard, in part because it’s been built for the nonprofit community with the nonprofit community’s involvement and feedback.

Let’s check out some of the NPSP-specific objects and their uses.




Stores additional addresses for household accounts, which is handy for seasonal addresses or when one member of a household is away at college or on a military deployment. For details, check out Contact and Account Settings in Nonprofit Success Pack on Trailhead.


Records the relationship between contact records and organizational account records, such as a program officer at a foundation or an employee at a corporate donor. For details, check outCreate an Affiliation with an Organization in Salesforce Help.


Tracks requirements and deadlines on opportunities, such as the elements of a grant application or reporting requirements. For details, check out Manage Grantseeking Opportunities in Salesforce Help

Engagement Plan

Automates creating and assigning Salesforce tasks so your staff has a clear checklist for growing a stakeholder relationship. Use engagement plans to set a process for welcoming a first-time donor or to make sure your staff acknowledges a donor who gives their first gift of more than $1,000. Different engagement plans are defined by the Engagement Plan Template object. For details, check out Engagement Plans and Levels in Nonprofit Success Pack on Trailhead.

General Accounting Unit (GAU)

Records funds set aside for a specific purpose or because of special restrictions, such as a gift or grant that should go toward a particular program. You create GAU Allocation records to designate parts of opportunities to particular GAUs. For details, check out Opportunity Settings in Nonprofit Success Pack in Trailhead.


Uses your criteria to rank contacts or other object records, organize them into groups, and automatically move and regroup them if the criteria changes. For example, you may have different levels for donors who give different annual donation totals. For details, check out Engagement Plans and Levels in Nonprofit Success Pack on Trailhead.


Records payments toward a closed opportunity, such as gifts made as part of a pledge. In that case, the pledge would be recorded in an opportunity record, while each gift toward that commitment would be recorded as a payment. For details, check out Opportunity Settings in Nonprofit Success Pack on Trailhead.

Recurring Donation

Tracks gifts made on a regular, repeating basis, such as an ongoing monthly donation or a gift given in increments on a particular schedule. For details, check out Opportunity Settings in Nonprofit Success Pack on Trailhead.


Records the relationship between two contact records, such as spouses, parents and children, friends, or colleagues. For details, check out Contact and Account Settings in Nonprofit Success Pack on Trailhead.

Soft Credit

Records gifts a contact should receive credit for even though they are not the direct donor. This is for cases where a contact influences another donor’s gift or to give credit to every member of a household for one individual’s gift. For details, check out Opportunity Settings in Nonprofit Success Pack on Trailhead.

If you love a good multi-colored entity relationship diagram, check out the link in Resources to see an illustration of how these items all connect.

Data Import in NPSP

NPSP also comes with the handy NPSP Data Importer utility. This tool allows you to import data to the objects nonprofits use most.

NPSP Data Importer makes import less onerous by allowing you to check and revise data before records are created. Plus, built-in matching rules help prevent duplicates!

When you’re ready to learn more about importing data and get some practice, complete the Import Data With Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) project.

Getting Started

Alright! You got through another doozy of a unit!  Fortunately, you don’t need to memorize this all now. Your learning journey as an NPSP admin is just getting started and it will be a long—and fun and rewarding—process.

When you’re ready to dive in, NPSP comes with a Get Started page for you as an admin that walks you through customizing your Salesforce org and NPSP. (Plus, your users get their own Get Started experience!) Check out this video to learn about the page.

But before you dive into the Get Started page, let’s pause to learn about options for customization in the next unit.


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