Create Your Implementation Blueprint

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
  • Identify your organization’s goals, pain points, and success metrics.
  • Map your business processes to Salesforce solutions.
  • Identify implementation project staffing, timing, and budget requirements.
  • Assess your need for consultant help.


We’ve talked quite a bit about Salesforce so far—about whether or not Salesforce is right for your organization, about standard functionality, custom functionality, and even complex data modeling. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start thinking about what Salesforce might mean for your particular organization.

Just as you’d want blueprints to guide construction of a house, you’ll want to have a thoughtfully designed plan for switching to Salesforce.

Let’s create your implementation blueprint together. With the help of some worksheets and examples, we’ll think through key elements like your goals, business processes, timing, and project team. This work is the foundation building we’ve referenced over and over again, and it’s very important. So grab a pencil and let’s get started!

A nonprofit professional, pencil in hand, getting ready to work on her blueprint

Start with the Big Picture

What are your goals as you evaluate a new CRM system? These goals become your high-level requirements. Get the Identify Your Salesforce Implementation Vision and Objectives Worksheet and work with your stakeholders to answer questions like these.
  • What are your organizational goals over the next six months? Year? A few years out?
  • What are your big opportunities?
  • What pain points prevent you from growing? What processes do you want to improve?
  • How do your constituents experience your programs and services now? How would you like this to change?

Consider that different groups within your organization are likely to answer differently. Make sure to get input from a cross-section of stakeholders, and consider what each group typically cares about most.

Stakeholder Group Typically want to . . .
Executives Improve organization effectiveness and simplify data collection for reporting to your board of directors
Development staff Get better visibility and reporting for donor management and donor cultivation
Marketing staff Understand and improve campaign effectiveness
Events staff Improve tracking of registrations, participation, volunteers, and post-event follow-up (also interested in campaign effectiveness)
Program managers Maintain fidelity of your organization’s program model and engage effectively with constituents

Sketch Out Your Current Systems and Processes

Now turn your focus to the details. How do you currently manage your data? What activities and processes do your existing systems and applications support?

Start with a high-level sketch.
Architects who draw up blueprints often start by asking clients to visualize their current home’s layout and use of space. The resulting bubble diagram helps you visualize what and where activities take place and how spaces relate to each other.Architectural bubble diagram showing where activities take place and how spaces relate to each other

Sketch out your organization’s own version of a bubble diagram to represent your major activities, process flows, and their relationships. Your sketch might look something like this.Bubble diagram showing typical nonprofit activities

Sketch out the details.
Next, go a level deeper and sketch out the specifics of each area. Take fundraising, for example. What’s your current process for tracking donations?

A flowchart diagram is a great way to visualize interactions and artifacts (forms, emails, reports, and so on) that are involved. It’s also a good way to identify pain points and hot spots that automation could solve.

For example, a flowchart for tracking a donation renewal might look something like this.Flowchart diagram of donation renewal process



It takes significant time and effort to assemble your artifacts and document your processes accurately. We encourage you to invest in this work because it’s so critical for the rest of planning.

Map Your Data to Salesforce Standard and Custom Objects

Remember all that complex data modeling we covered back in a previous unit? Here’s where working through that stuff really pays off. It’s time to compare your data needs with what you get out-of-the-box with standard Salesforce objects, and determine where you need custom fields or objects.

At this point, a spreadsheet comes in handy for listing your existing data fields—and finding a spot for them in Salesforce.Screenshot of spreadsheet file showing a sample mapping of a nonprofit’s data to Salesforce objects and fields

Identify Stakeholders to Create Your Project Team

To an organization with limited resources, the term “project team” may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t take a huge team to implement NPSP. Adoption is a crucial part of any Salesforce implementation. If key members of the organization aren’t on board, it’s much harder to realize success.

Decide who you want to cover these key roles (the same person can cover more than one role).
Role (Who) Responsibilities
Executive Sponsor Drive adoption, allocate budget, and champion the project.
Project Owner Steer the project overall. Get the application up and running. Understand how to map business processes to NPSP.
System Administrator Manage the application day-to-day. Help the organization use new functionality. Support training and adoption.
Power Users Test and provide feedback during implementation. Provide on-the-spot support and troubleshooting to end users.
End Users Buy in to learning a new way of working.
Experts (Outside consultants, in-house specialists, or board members) Serve as knowledge guides. Help implement more advanced features.

Define What Success Looks Like and Get Everyone On Board

We can’t emphasize it enough—user adoption is a key indicator of a successful CRM implementation. That means your stakeholders are actually using NPSP. They log in regularly. They’re confident about the quality of the data and are motivated to help maintain that quality. Aspects of their work are easier, faster, and more satisfying. The pain points you identified in your initial conversations are no longer so painful.

Get the Define Success Metrics for Your Salesforce Implementation Worksheet and work with your stakeholders to identify the most meaningful metrics for adoption.

A nonprofit professional earnestly convincing a group of colleagues to use Salesforce

You don’t want the introduction of NPSP to come as a surprise to anyone. Think through your user engagement strategy and consider how to:
  • Start building enthusiasm now and keep your users updated.
  • Help your executive sponsor come up with talking points, as communications from this level tend to have the most impact.
  • Get people on board by making it easy for them to get involved.
  • Ask for stakeholder feedback, act on it, and acknowledge it when you report back on your project’s success.
  • Plan for some early “wins.” When people experience the value of NPSP firsthand, they’re far more likely to use it.

Assess Timing and Budget Requirements

Consider who will do what, and when, and what things are worth paying for—whether with time or money.

Be realistic about the implementation timeline.
As you’ve seen by now, there’s a ton of planning and preparation that goes into an implementation. Set a realistic timeline that factors in all the steps you need to be successful.
Budget enough time for data cleanup and migration.
How much square footage, so to speak, does your current system cover? If you have thousands of donor records, think in weeks, not days. Seriously. Starting with quality data is critical. If your users don’t have confidence in the data, adoption suffers.
Budget for employee time.
Consider vacations, parental leave, and other absences that may affect scheduling. Don’t ask employees to design, do user testing, or start working in a new system during major events or your org’s busy times.
Consider a phased approach.
You can roll out by department and adopt the most critical features first—and then add more functionality later. A sample three-phase implementation plan might look like this.A sample phased three-phased implementation rolls out fundraising features first, followed by marketing, events, and volunteer management, followed by program management
Plan for training and support.
Training and support throughout your implementation are key for successful adoption. If users don’t know how to get things done the new way, they’re likely to continue working in the ways they’re used to.

Consider Bringing in Consultant Help

Do you actually know how to pour concrete and put up drywall? Or can you take the time to learn how to do-it-yourself? If your implementation involves complex processes, consider adding an implementation partner to your team.

The good news is that by this stage, you’ve already done a lot of the advance work that will help make the consulting relationship successful. In fact, a lot of the heavy mental lifting and analysis you’ve done in this unit is work a consultant would ask you to do anyway.

Do your research. Many existing Salesforce users have worked with consultants. Look for blogs summarizing their experiences. Reach out to your network of partner organizations and find out who has adopted Salesforce. Learn from the successes and mistakes of others in the community, and build that wisdom into your own blueprint.