Find, Create, and Edit Constituent Records

Learning Objectives

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

  • Define Salesforce terms related to constituents.
  • Search for constituents in Salesforce.
  • Identify the important sections on a contact record.
  • View, create, and edit contact records.
  • View, create, and edit household accounts.

People are your most important resource as a nonprofit, and managing those relationships is top priority. Good thing you’re using Salesforce to help you input, organize, and access constituent data efficiently. 

We’ll walk through how to manage the data you need about the relationships that make your world go round—staff, donors, volunteers, clients, agencies, businesses, partner organizations, and any other individual or group that your nonprofit interacts with. We refer to a (fictional) nonprofit, No More Homelessness (NMH), to put examples into context. 

You Say Potato, I Say Solanum Tuberosum

Before we go too deep, let’s make sure we’re using the same vocabulary. When we talk about people data, there are a few terms and synonyms to know.

Constituent: An individual person. A constituent can be a staff member, volunteer, client, or anyone else. We use the word “constituent” interchangeably with everyday language, like “people” and “person.” Constituent data can be stored more than one way in Salesforce, depending on your relationship to the person. Most constituent data is stored in a contact record but a less-developed relationship can be stored as a lead record.

Contact: This word is tricky because it has a technical and a colloquial usage. We trust that you know what it means outside of Salesforce, but within Salesforce, it can refer to either the individual record for a contact or the contact object designed for storing all those records. We try to be clear when we’re referring to the object called “contact,” individual records, or when we’re using the term more generally.

Account: Like contact, this word has multiple meanings for you now. In addition to the real-life meaning, it can also refer to the Salesforce account object or an individual account record. If you’re using Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), you can choose between a household account, for grouping contacts that live together, or an organization account, for grouping contacts that have another association, like professional or religious. We also try to be clear when using the word account if we mean it in the everyday way or one of the specific Salesforce ways.

Lead: A person who has expressed interest in your organization but hasn’t committed further. The lead object functions differently than the contacts object, even though they’re both used for storing information about people. You usually know much less about leads than you do contacts, so a lead record is usually more sparse than a contact. Leads are special. We’ll cover them elsewhere to keep the focus on the business of contacts management, but we introduce the term here because it’s another type of constituent.

Gordon and Gorav think about potatoes in very different ways.

If any of this vocabulary is new to you, like object and record, review the Nonprofit Success Pack Basics content on Trailhead to catch up (see the link in the Resources section). It’s not long or hard, promise, but first, let’s review some foundational information and terms.

Find and Read Contact Records

Before you start working with contacts, it’s important to know how to find and read a contact record. 

Contact records contain personal information about every individual person that regularly interacts with your organization—clients, volunteers, staff, donors, board members, and anyone else. A contact record typically includes a person’s name, address, phone, email, and related information like past and potential donations. It can be customized to include related information about an individual’s involvement within a program, volunteering skills and interests, and nearly anything else that’s relevant to your organization. 

There are a couple of ways to find a contact record quickly. If you already know who you’re looking for, use global search, the search bar that appears at the top of all pages in Salesforce. Type the name in the search bar and use the dropdown arrow to limit your results to Contacts. Select a record from the suggested results or press your return (or enter) key to see all possible search results.

Searching for a contact using global search

The other way to find contacts is to click the Contacts object tab in the navigation bar. Your Salesforce admin can customize which objects appear in the navigation bar, so yours probably looks a little different than this one. It’s possible that you don’t have Contacts as an option, but most organizations choose to include it and it's there by default in Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP).

The Contacts tab in the navigation bar

You should see a list of contacts. You can use the dropdown arrow to see different list views, like My Contacts or All Contacts. If you want to get a closer look at a single contact record from the list, click a contact name. 

Let’s take a tour of NMH’s board member Robert Bullard’s contact record.

A contact record

Highlights panel (1)
A quick glance at some important contact information. Your admin can customize which fields appear here, so you see what’s most relevant to you.
Details (2)
Fields and values specific to the person, like name and phone number, organized into logical sections. Depending on the customization, you can see sections for Contact Information, Volunteer Information, Program Details, or Donor Research and Scoring.
Related (3) 
Other object records associated with this contact record. The objects you see depend on your customization, but NMH includes Relationships, Organization Affiliations, Volunteer Hours, Cases, Campaigns, and more.
Activity Timeline (4)
Tasks and events listed in reverse chronological order. The timeline is a great way to see all the past and upcoming communications and meetings with a constituent.
Chatter (5)
A Salesforce collaboration tool that works like a private social media network just for your organization. It’s an easy way to collaborate internally on records and files with a colleague or in groups. Only staff who can view a record can see the related Chatter posts.

We cover some of these items from the contact record in more detail elsewhere in Trailhead. For now, let’s get to the business of creating and managing contacts.

Create a New Contact and Household Account

Anthony Hall, the program manager at NMH, just got a web inquiry from Lucy Sadeghin. She wants to volunteer for the NMH crisis hotline. Before Anthony reaches out to interview her, he needs to create her contact record, so any future communications, training, and events can be connected to her. This automatically creates a new household account for Lucy, too.

This is the process Anthony follows when he needs to add a brand-new contact record. Anthony is currently using NPSP, but you can take the same action even if you’re in another app or if your version of NPSP is customized and looks different from Anthony’s version.

Even though Anthony is pretty sure that Lucy is a new volunteer, he first types her name in the global search bar to confirm that a contact record doesn’t already exist for her. If there’s already a contact record for someone, you can stop right here to avoid creating a duplicate (you’re welcome). In this case, it looks like Lucy is indeed new to the organization.

To add a new contact and a new related household account:

1. Log in to Salesforce and click the App Launcher ( The app launcher icon) to navigate to NPSP or another app you want to use.

2. In the navigation bar, find the Contacts tab. Click the dropdown arrow.

3. Click +New Contact.

4. In the Contact Details section, enter all relevant details. Scroll to make sure you’ve completed all the sections. HEY! THIS PART IS SUPER IMPORTANT: Leave the Account Name field blank. This is key to creating a new household account in NPSP.

5. Click Save.

Achievement unlocked: There’s now a new contact and household derived from the contact’s name and information.

The Account Name, based on the contact

Take heed! This is the recommended way to create a new household in NPSP—via a new contact. Also remember that as you follow along in your own account, you can see different things than the staff at No More Homelessness see. Your Salesforce admin can customize the fields on the contact record, so you can have slightly different options. Regardless, the general process for creating contacts and households is like the one Anthony followed.  

So now you know how to create contacts and households, but what about managing those households? Thankfully, managing a household in Salesforce is more straightforward than managing a household in real life, and you can do most of it while sitting down. Take the quiz to demonstrate your contacts acuity and continue on to the next unit to find out how you can do it all from your comfiest chair. 

Resources