Create and Convert Leads

Learning Objectives

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

  • Explain the difference between a lead and a contact.
  • Create a new lead record.
  • Convert a lead into a contact.

Not All Constituents are Contacts 

Michael Aviran has just arrived at No More Homelessness (NMH) for his first day as the Communications Intern, full of energy and great ideas. Michael is going to be working closely with the Communications and Advocacy team but he needs to be well-versed with the technology before he can do anything else. 

After an initial welcome and a tour of the office, Michael sits down at his new workspace and begins to familiarize himself with Salesforce and Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). The team was well prepared for Michael’s first day. As soon as he’s ready, Michael is handed a list of names and asked to create contact records for each person on the list. 

Michael is a quick learner (and he has some great resources on Trailhead to help guide him), so he makes it through the entire list without issue. Until the final page, that is. The entries on this page are different from previous pages, which included names, addresses, emails, phone numbers, volunteer skills and interests, and communication preferences for everyone. Some entries also included information about the person’s donation history, employer information, and listed the members of their household. The list he’s looking at now doesn’t include any of these details. There’s not enough information to create contact records. What is this list, if not a list of contacts? 

This is a list of leads. 

Leading the Way

In Salesforce, a lead represents possibility. Well, a lead represents a person, but it’s a person that doesn’t have a well established relationship with your organization—yet. A lead is someone who has expressed interest in working with or donating to your organization, but who’s not yet a volunteer, partner, or donor. A lead is probably going to be receptive to your message, a perfect audience for a communications campaign. If a lead engages more deeply, they can be converted into a contact. 

NMH has been gathering leads through the monthly newsletter signup form on their website. NMH adds everyone who signs up as a lead in NPSP. The newsletter includes profiles of clients, information on becoming a volunteer, and links to donate. Should any of the leads donate or volunteer, NMH converts the lead into a contact and the entire history of the relationship is included on that contact record. 

Including a form on a website is a common way of finding new leads. So common, in fact, there’s a name for it (web-to-lead), and your awesome Salesforce admin can work with your webmaster to set them up so that someone like Anthony doesn’t need to type them in. Although creating leads from a web form is awesome, leads don’t have to be created that way. A lead can come from almost anywhere, like a phone call, email or snail mail, an in-person event, or as a referral from a current constituent. No matter how you establish contact with a person, when they share their information with you and express interest in your organization, it’s an opportunity to start building the relationship.

Michael is on the lookout for new leads.

Create a New Lead

Michael realizes that he needs to enter the list of names not as contacts, but as leads. The list he has is the group of people who would like more information on the upcoming NMH advocacy training day event. 

To make sure that everyone on the list gets added to the email campaign promoting the event, he creates a new lead record for each person, like this:   

1. Log in to Salesforce and use the App Launcher ( The app launcher icon) to navigate to NPSP (if you’re not already there).

2. Click the dropdown arrow on the Leads tab.

3. Click +New Lead.

The Lead object tab in the navigation bar.

4. Complete the required fields in the form. Michael adds the First Name, Last Name, Lead Source, Email, and Lead Status. The Company Name field is also required, and Michael enters the word “Individual” here. We’ll tell you why in a moment.

5. Click Save.

Like nearly everything in Salesforce, the new leads entry form is customizable. The NMH admin added a field for including topics that interest the lead. You can ask your admin to add or delete fields and change which ones are required. In addition to name and interests, email addresses are also required for NMH because most of their campaigns are email, but your organization can change this to meet your unique needs.    

Bypass the Company Name (If You Need To)

Let’s take a moment to talk about that Company Name field in the new leads form. At most nonprofits, your leads will likely be individual people, not other organizations or companies. You can enter the word Individual to get around the required field, as Michael did. If your leads are other organizations or companies, like a list of potential suppliers, go ahead and complete the Company Name field. 

When the lead is converted to a contact, the word Individual triggers NPSP to create a household account for the individual contact. If you were to put another name in this field, like an actual Company Name, NPSP would create an organization account and affiliate it with this contact, and that’s probably not what you’re going for when you mostly convert leads to contact records for clients, donors, and volunteers. 

The New Lead form, with ‘Self’ in the Company field.

Wait. Convert a lead to a contact? Yes. We slipped that tidbit into the introduction, before showing you how Michael creates leads. It’s conveniently our next topic. 

Convert a Lead to a Contact

Just as he’s about to log off for the day, Michael sees an email come in from Chloe Jackson. He remembers creating a lead record for her today, so he’s curious to see what the message is about. Looks like Chloe is interested in registering for the upcoming advocacy training event! Time to make her an official contact. 

Because Chloe already exists in NPSP as a lead, Michael can convert her lead record into a contact record and household account record. 

Michael’s already logged in NPSP, so this is what he does next: 

1. Find the lead record. Michael enters Chloe’s name into global search and finds the record right away.

Finding a lead using global search.

2. Click Convert.

The convert button on a lead record.

3. Leave the Record Owner field default as your name.

4. Make sure the Send Email to the Owner box is unchecked.

5. Confirm the name is correct in the Contact field. If the lead already exists as a contact, you’ll see a choice to either merge with the existing contact or create a new contact. Choose wisely!

6. Confirm the Do not create a new Opportunity upon conversion option is selected. This step is important! Be sure to leave this box checked if all you’re doing is creating a contact from a lead. That’s all Michael’s doing.

7. Leave the Contact Account as the Opportunity Account selection.

8. In the Converted Status, selected Closed - Converted. It should be the only option in this menu and means that the lead record has become a contact record.

This is what the record Michael is working with looks like at this point:

Converting a lead into a contact.

9. Click Convert.

Now that Chloe has a contact record, the NMH team can add more information and connect her to other records, like accounts and opportunities, in Salesforce. 

But let’s go back to a few things that we (and Michael) skipped over in the process of converting this lead into a contact. 

The conversion form would have looked different if something other than the word “Individual” was in the Company Name field when the lead was originally created. When there’s a company (or organization) name in that field, the lead to contact conversion form includes options to create either a household or an organization account, and an option to create an affiliation for the contact. Michael did not see those options, because the “Individual” entered in the Company Name field for the lead told NPSP to create a household account for the contact.

By default, the Do not create a new Opportunity option is selected and an opportunity is not created. Michael made sure that this checkbox was selected, so he only created a contact record. However, if the box is not selected, a new donation opportunity related to the new contact is automatically created, using the contact name as the opportunity record name, with the Stage field set to Prospecting and an amount of zero dollars. We’re not going to go into opportunities in this module, but the possibilities of what you can do with this are pretty exciting. There’s more information on this topic included in an article linked in the Resources section below. Review that, and talk to your admin if this is something you’d like to explore. 

Record ownership can be transferred manually at the time of conversion or be automated. Michael ignored the Record Owner field when converting the lead to a contact. This made him the contact record owner, too. If he entered another staff member’s name, that person would be the owner of the new contact record. Straightforward, yes, but the reason we bring this up is because there are some automation things that your admin can do with this field, like route the record to different people based on the dollar amount the lead pledges. 

Amazing what a difference a little help from Trailhead can make. If you followed along with all the steps in this module, not just this final unit, you now know how to create and manage contacts, leads, households, organizations, relationships, and affiliations.

Success breeds success, so why stop now? Review the resources below for more in-depth information or search Trailhead for another topic on NPSP to keep the momentum of your learning journey.  

Resources