Connect Contacts Using Relationships

Learning Objectives

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

  • Connect contacts to each other with relationships.
  • Describe how reciprocal relationships work.
  • Visualize connections between contacts using Relationship Viewer.

The Importance of Relationships

When you know how two people are connected, you can intuit a lot of things: how formal or personal their conversations are, activities they might do together, and even how they might feel about one another. Knowing the relationship between two people is powerful information both in the real world and in Salesforce.

Maybe you’re thinking about running a campaign designed for contacts with informal counseling experience and need to know who currently volunteers as a mentor to clients at your organization. Or maybe you’re preparing for a fundraising event and would like to know if the corporate giving director at an important sponsor is personal friends with someone in another household. Or maybe you just want to make sure you’re communicating appropriately with everyone in the same household—spouses one way, siblings another. 

Knowing what the specific connections are between contacts can help you find the right audience and tailor your communications appropriately. 

Relationships in NPSP

Relationships in Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) allow you to capture the important connections that exist between your constituents and put that information to good use. The standard set of relationships you see in NPSP are common ones (like ‘spouse’ and ‘child’) but your admin can customize the options and add new relationships that make sense for your organization and constituents. No More Homelessness (NMH), for example, runs a mentoring program for their clients and has added ‘Mentor’ and ‘Mentee’ to the list of relationships. They also use relationships to note a client’s case worker, so anyone at the organization can easily see who is the primary internal contact for each client. This helps the program staff understand the connections a client has with other staff members any time they open the contact record.

Create a Relationship Between Two Contacts

Creating a relationship between two people in Salesforce is easy if they're already contacts. Anthony, the Program Manager at NMH, has already created contact records for Alex and her son Daniel. He confirmed that they’re both connected to the same household record, but he also wants to make sure that their parent/child relationship is made explicit so anyone on staff will see that when they look at either individual contact record. 

To create a relationship between two contacts within NPSP:

1. Click the Contacts tab in the navigation bar and search or browse to find a contact record. Click that person’s record.

2. Click Related.

3. Find the Relationships section. Click New.

The Related tab and Relationship section on a contact record.

4. In the New Relationship dialog box, select a Related Contact. Search for another existing contact’s name to find people. You can also click +New Contact and add a new contact.

5. Select the Type. This is where you’ll see the different kinds of relationships, like ‘parent’ or ‘coworker,’ customized by your admin.

6. Add the Status and Description. The status field is to describe if the relationship is current or not. The description field is for relevant notes, and is optional.

7. Click Save.

In the Relationships related list on that contact record, you can now see a link to the related contact and get a brief description of how the two people are connected.

The relationship record for Alex Ventresca displays Daniel Baker as her son.

Adding a relationship on one contact record creates a reciprocal relationship on the other contact record. For example, on Alex Ventresca’s contact record, Anthony added Daniel Baker as her son, so Alex is automatically added as the mother on Daniel’s contact record. Relationships can be gender neutral or not. NMH uses the gendered “son/mother” but they could also use the neutral “child/parent” as the reciprocal relationship. It all just depends on how your admin customizes this option for your organization.

To see all the relationships for a particular contact, all you have to do is follow the first few steps above: Find a contact, click Related, and look for the Relationships section. You can also edit and delete relationships after they’re created.

Relationship Viewer

No matter how deep or strong the bond, you can’t always see the connection between people in the real world. The relationship view in Salesforce, however, makes those connections visible. 

The relationship viewer in NPSP is a data visualization tool that lets you literally see connections between contacts. Each contact is represented as a circle. If two contacts have a relationship with one another, their circles are connected with a line. The entire staff at NMH uses the relationship viewer to understand how constituents are currently connected and to identify where they might be able to foster more connections to strengthen the network. 

To open the relationship viewer, go to a contact record and click Relationships Viewer from the dropdown menu in the navigation bar. 

The Relationship Viewer menu item.

And up pops the relationship viewer:

The relationship viewer.

Yes, those colored circles sure are pretty, but they’re designed to help orient you within the viewer. 

The purple circle (1) is the base contact, the contact record you started from, and everything else is relative to this contact. The colors of the circles differ based on how distant the relationship is to the base contact. Blue circles (2) are direct relationships—child, colleague, assistant, group leader, cat herder—any relationship your organization uses could be represented here. Whatever the relationship, it’s written on the connection line (3). If the relationship between contacts is no longer current, which might happen between an employee/employer, leader/member, or spouses, you can indicate that in the Status field on the relationship record and the relationship viewer includes (Former) on the connection line (4). Double click into a blue circle to expand and see the next level of relationship. These second-tier relationships are green circles (5). In this example Sita Nagappan-Alvarez is a friend of Alex Ventresca’s mentor, Lisa Bullard. Hover over a circle to see quick links to the record or create a new relationship (6). 

One-on-one relationships are undoubtedly the most fundamental bonds we forge, but we are connected to more than other individuals. People are also connected to groups of people or organizations: employers, temples, churches, businesses, agencies, community groups, and clubs of all sorts. Knowing these types of connections your constituency has is important for understanding who they are. Relationships in NPSP only capture individual connections, but that’s ok because there’s a different feature to represent connections between people and groups. Take the quiz and keep on moving to see how to use affiliations to connect people to organizations of all types. 


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