Manage Contact Roles and Soft Credits

Learning Objectives

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

  • Describe how NPSP uses contact roles for hard and soft credits.
  • Add and edit contact roles.
  • Add and edit soft credits.

Variety Is the Spice of Life

The house party hosted by fictional nonprofit No More Homelessness’s (NMH) board member, Robert Bullard, was a hit! The entire staff at NMH was blown away after seeing such a variety of constituents there — former NMH clients, now alumni, dedicated volunteers who have also become dedicated donors, Robert's fellow board members, community members — it was a blast! And it strengthened NMH’s belief that all team members are important in cultivating NMH’s donor development and fundraising efforts (go team!). 

After the NMH team reflected further on Robert’s house party, they realized just how many influencers and advocates NMH has. Such a variety of constituents can solicit donations from a myriad of prospective donors — volunteer-led NMH advocacy workshops, speaking engagements featuring past NMH alumni, fundraising events (like Robert’s awesome party), and more — opportunities galore! That’s why all teams: communications and advocacy, development, and program management, are familiar with the donation soft-credit management process. With soft credits, NMH can give these influencers credit for soliciting donations made by other individuals or organizations. 

Let’s follow along with NMH’s Development Associate, Sofia Rivera, to see how she uses soft credits while entering donations from Robert’s party into Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP).   

Soft Credits

Sofia has logged several donations, given as a result of Robert’s party, into Salesforce using NPSP. While Robert didn't personally make all the donations, NMH wants to give him credit for soliciting these donations (this is the soft credit process we just addressed!). 

Soft credits provide a way for Sofia to recognize both Robert and the legal donor without counting a contribution twice. Nonprofits also use soft credits for gifts “in honor of,” “in memory of,” or "solicited by”—all donations that the different constituents who attended Robert’s party can solicit. In this case, Sofia wants to be sure to keep track of all the donations influenced by Robert since every board member has an annual “give or get” goal. Using soft credits in NPSP, Sofia and the rest of the NMH team will be able to easily track and report on his totals.

In NPSP, soft credits and soft credit rollups (that is, the aggregate totals of different categories of soft credits) are tracked on the contact record. There are many soft credit rollups that come out-of-the-box, and they look like the image below. If you're using customizable rollups, your admin can add even more soft credit rollups, including rollups that aggregate soft credits for all contacts in a household and roll them up to the household account, as needed.

The Soft Credit Totals included in Contact Record Details

Soft credits give you a more comprehensive picture of donor engagement. But how do you determine how to designate soft credits? Who receives them? And when? As we've learned, NMH has a variety of constituents who act as influencers and advocates, so it might get tricky if events are more complex (such as event or workshop series where multiple hosts/organizers are involved). To answer this question, and develop a deeper understanding of how soft credits work in NPSP, let's explore the related concept of opportunity contact roles.

Soft Credits and Opportunity Contact Roles

An opportunity contact role is just that—a role you assign to a contact on a particular opportunity (donation) record. If Candace Evans, an avid NMH volunteer, advocate, and donor, attended Robert Bullard's fundraising party and made a donation, then she's the donor on the opportunity, but you could also count Robert as the solicitor. NMH wants to capture both of these contacts and their different contributions on the opportunity record because both Candace and Robert had a role to play in securing the donation (see what we did there).

NPSP comes with the following opportunity contact roles out-of-the-box:

  • Decision Maker
  • Donor (this is a Hard Credit Role, by default)
  • Honoree
  • Household Member
  • Influencer
  • Notification Recipient
  • Soft Credit
  • Solicitor
  • Matched Donor

To ensure consistent use and accurate data, the NMH team has aligned on how they define and assign these roles (and your nonprofit organization should do the same!). Your admin can also create additional custom roles to fill any specific organizational needs. NMH, for instance, created a new contact role for Foundation Program Officer so that they could track the program officer on specific grant opportunities.

Bear with us for a second as we take a look at the NPSP data model. In NPSP, multiple contacts and multiple opportunities can connect independently to the household or organization account. But it is the humble opportunity contact role that connects the data between an opportunity and a contact. This connection is important because it allows us to connect giving information from the opportunity to the contact and household records. Without an opportunity contact role, that information is only related to the account record (or in NPSP, to the household).

Diagram illustrating the "Household" Account model.

Okay, the opportunity contact role is a connector of people and money (we all need one of those on our teams, right?), but how exactly does a contact role relate to soft credit?

Well, soft credits are assigned based on the opportunity contact role. That is to say, NPSP responds to contact roles, not contacts, when it creates soft credits. And this is where soft credit configuration can get a little tricky. If your admin set an opportunity contact role to receive soft credit, then any contact assigned that opportunity contact role receives a soft credit. If your admin *does not* set an opportunity contact role to receive soft credit, then any contact assigned that opportunity contact role *does not* receive soft credit.

Let’s rejoin Sofia as she enters Candace's $100 gift to see what the Contact Roles related list on the opportunity record looks like. Sofia assigns:

  • Candace Evans as the Primary (legal) Donor
  • Robert Bullard as the Solicitor (soft credit) and
  • Calvin Wong as Candace's Household Member (soft credit)

An Opportunity Record displays Contacts and their Roles.

The Soft Credit Total rollup section on Robert's contact page now also includes Candace's donation. Unlike standard donation rollup fields that calculate in real-time, NPSP calculates soft credit rollups in its nightly batch. So you won't actually see soft credit rollups update in real-time—unless you ask your admin to manually force the recalculation. You can also ask your admin to add the Recalculate Rollups button on the contact, which recalculates the rollup for a single record.

The Contact Record, including the Soft Credit fields rolling up into the total

In this particular case, making sure that the solicitor contact role is set to receive soft credit is critical. If it isn't, you wind up with no data in Robert's soft credit fields. If you believe that your soft credits aren't working as intended, have your admin check the settings.

Sometimes you might have a contact role for which you don't want to recognize soft credit. Or you might have an opportunity record type that you want to exclude from soft credit calculations (like in kind gifts). Again, your admin controls these settings. They can determine which roles and which record types receive soft credit and which do not.

Let’s take a minute to review those key points again:

  • NPSP calculates soft credits based on opportunity contact roles.
  • Your admin must set whether an opportunity contact role gets soft credit (or not) in NPSP settings.
  • Your admin can exclude certain opportunity record types or opportunity types from soft credit calculations.


Keep learning for
Sign up for an account to continue.
What’s in it for you?
  • Get personalized recommendations for your career goals
  • Practice your skills with hands-on challenges and quizzes
  • Track and share your progress with employers
  • Connect to mentorship and career opportunities