Practice Key Salesforce Admin Best Practices

Learning Objectives

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

  • Understand proven techniques to use as you manage your Salesforce org.
  • Prepare to collect requirements and plan for growth with your colleagues.

Keep Your Org in Tip-Top Shape

An admin reviews an implementation checklist with their colleagues.

No matter the size of your organization or number of users, there are a few things that every admin should do to keep their Salesforce org and Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) working well. Not all of it is glamorous, but it’s all important and effective.

In this unit we’ll explore some of these proven best practices.


We focus here on best practices for when your org is up and running. If you’re just getting started with your implementation, check out the Prepare for Success with Nonprofit Cloud trail linked in Resources, then come back here to learn more.

Prioritize Data Governance and Plan for Growth

Yeah, governance sounds so formal, but it’s simply a set of agreements you make with your leadership and users for the success of your Salesforce org. Think of governance as guard rails that allow your organization to innovate and grow quickly while reducing risks.

Ideally, you’ll have a governance framework set up early in your implementation — but it’s never too late.

A good place to begin is by answering these questions. (While the size of your organization may affect your answers and policies, the questions remain the same.)

  • Vision and strategy: Why are you doing a project or adding a feature? How will you know it’s successful?
  • Business backlog: How do you prioritize the features and functionality your teams want in Salesforce?
  • Software development lifecycle: How and how often will your organization roll out changes and updates?
  • Data strategy, architecture, and management: How will your organization keep its data clean and healthy?
  • Communication strategy: How will your organization involve and inform stakeholders about changes?

Let’s spend a moment more on data management. While some governance is project-focused, there are things you’ll have to do regularly to ensure compliance and data cleanliness, like reviewing recently created records and ensuring naming conventions are being followed. Check out Data Hygiene Schedule and Actions for New Admins, linked in Resources, for a schedule of those tasks.

And be sure to check out the Nonprofit Cloud Implementation Best Practices module on Trailhead, also linked in Resources, for more on governance and its importance.

Drive Adoption by Empowering Users

Implementing Salesforce is not a one-time event. Sure, there’s the initial implementation, but as you learn and grow you should expect to add features and update your org to fit the needs of your nonprofit. (Check out Continuous Investment And Smiley Faces from The Build Tank in Resources for more.)

And no matter when a change happens, or how minor it seems to you, recognize that change can be hard for some users. Practice empathy for your users — and prepare for some resistance — as you get them on board.

Keep these tips in mind: 

  • Create a training plan for any change. This could include a mix of hands-on training and tools users can reference on their own time, such as custom Trailmixes, cheat sheets, or screen recordings. Ask your users how they like to learn and tailor your plan to them.
  • Find and enlist power users to help you test new features, train their colleagues, and cheer on new features. You may even want to establish a “buddy system” to pair hesitant users with power users for support — both technical and emotional.
  • Create feedback loops. Set up a way to collect questions and bugs, such as in a shared spreadsheet or form, Chatter, or the Case object in Salesforce. Plus, you should regularly ask for feedback with formal or informal surveys. At the very least, use a tool like the free Salesforce Adoption Dashboards, available in the Salesforce AppExchange and linked in Resources, to see trends in adoption and respond when you need to.

Remember that training, like implementation, isn’t a one-time event. Be prepared to offer formal and informal refresher training sessions as you identify common problems.

Collect Requirements and Write User Stories

You probably have a say in deciding what new features will be added to your org, and may play the role of a business analyst as part of being an admin.

Business analysts help guide nonprofits (and businesses) to improve processes in Salesforce based on user requirements. Check out the links in Resources for a sample job description and more. In short, business analysts help create solutions for challenges — and it’s important that you start with the challenge and not the solution.

When you collect requirements, start by asking users what they want to do and why. Don’t jump ahead to what feature they’d like to add. It’s helpful to write each requirement as a user story, a tool used to help prioritize new features, focus on value, and avoid limiting your thinking by focusing on one solution.

User stories are formatted like this: As a [who], I want to [what] so that [why].

This can help take you from “I need a new field on contact records to store donor research” to “As a major gifts fundraiser, I need to record key background information about donors so that I can better manage relationships and raise more money.” Maybe a new field is the right solution for your organization, but when you instead start with the challenge it frees your thinking to better meet users’ goals.

Build, Test, and Train in a Sandbox

When you’re building a customization, testing an app, or training your users, it’s best to set up a Salesforce sandbox to protect the valuable, real-world data in your Salesforce org, or what we call your production org.

A sandbox is a copy of your production org that allows you to build and play without the stress of breaking something important. You can create multiple sandboxes in separate environments for different purposes — like testing or training — without compromising the data and applications in your production org.

Plus, if you use a sandbox to create and test configuration changes you’d like to use in your production org, you can use change sets to bring over those changes into your production org through the Setup menu.

Every customer has access to several developer sandboxes and a partial copy sandbox, though the exact number and type of sandboxes are determined by your license type. Check out the Sandboxes: Staging Environments for Customizing and Testing link in Resources.


Sandboxes are a helpful tool, but if you don’t have a Salesforce org yet and want to just play around with NPSP, we recommend completing the Install Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) into a Trailhead Playground project linked in Resources.

Don’t Do It Alone

Being an admin can be a challenging job — especially if you’re an also-admin balancing other tasks or a solo admin responsible for the entire role largely by yourself.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available and a community of people just like you. In the next unit we’ll suggest where to turn for different types of help on your admin journey.


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