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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Richardson

Salesforce User Adoption in Non-Profits

With tight budgets and a propensity to spend solely on the mission, non-profit organizations lag behind their for-profit counterparts when investing in and adopting new technologies. So when a non-profit decides to invest in Salesforce CRM technology, user adoption becomes a significant factor in determining the return on investment.

From engaging and beautifully displayed data to maximizing automation, this article runs through a few determining factors for successful Salesforce user adoption catered to the proclivities of the non-profit world.

Engaging User Interface

My previous experience working in the nonprofit space allowed me to see how essential engaging data is for user adoption. One great example of this is showing where Salesforce Lightning really thrives. Most users using any CRM (including classic) tend to want to stick to what they know but often veil this general mindset as Salesforce having too significant barriers of entry to bother to transition.

When one nonprofit told me they stayed on classic because “it was better,” my first question was to ask, “well, why is it better?”

“The dashboards just aren’t as effective. I can’t find any of the buttons that I already know and use on Classic. It just does not have what I use day-to-day readily available.” The simple solution to every statement was that the user interface did not cater to what they had or wanted.

Creating engaging dashboards for visual learners, modifying page layouts and lightning pages to easily find buttons and quick actions, and modifying profiles and permissions sets to have the right data appear for the right people. These changes make Salesforce an attractive upgrade to any nonprofit’s current CRM.

While this example identifies the transition from Salesforce Classic to Lightning, the ideas behind it hold true for any transition. Pen and paper users want to identify what they are familiar with easily, and those who transition from different CRM providers to Salesforce want to mimic the processes of the old database while simultaneously taking advantage of the wonderful and unique tools Salesforce offers. The user interface makes the transition easier for people adverse to change.

Lowest Common Adopter

A more particular case for nonprofit organizations is the idea of a “Lowest Common Adopter” (LCA) or the person who is most resistant to the transition to Salesforce. Especially in smaller nonprofits, the personalities and dispositions of a few people can make a huge difference in a successful transition.

Finding and catering to the LCA allows for the needs of all users to be met. How? Identifying the pain points of preexisting CRM (of which most users would share frustrations) along with the specific worries of the particular user allows a consultant or administrator to cater to organization-wide solutions but also meet individual needs as well.

This idea can be similarly identified as the network effect, in which the increased number of participants utilizing a service increases the value of said service. If one user does not adopt the new technology, eventually, all users will revert to the old one.

Understanding Department-Wide Workflows

The network effect plays a similar role on an organization-wide basis. While packages like NPSP usually cater more to development roles, there are people who may not use CRM on a day-to-day basis but still play an influential and active role in the organization. Increasing the number of people utilizing Salesforce across the organization increases success in user adoption.

Going back to the example above, some different areas of the nonprofit did not utilize CRM software, operations, and accounting to programs focused more on creating content rather than categorizing it. Talking to everyone in the organization and looking for opportunities to bring more people into the Salesforce ecosystem takes advantage of that network effect. Understanding donors before big donor meetings, creating cases for internal issues, and consolidating technologies into a single platform, are a few examples of how you can bring other departments into the database.


Users often fail to realize the impact a CRM can have on the efficiency of an organization from the start. Automation goes a long way in exhibiting the immediate effects CRM implementation can have. A lot of tasks in entry-level development positions are monotonous, for example. Taking donations, processing gifts, sending emails, and recording conversations with donors and internal users alike, an efficient non-profit thrives on this data but spends a considerable amount to put it where it needs to go.

Salesforce addresses the need for automation with various points of contact throughout an organization. From screen flows for batch processing, GAU allocations offered by NPSP, roll-up summaries, and enhanced email capture, record-keeping becomes an immediate approval and quick success to demonstrate to users and executives alike that the costs and training of learning to use Salesforce can quickly pay off. It allows roles across the organization to move to different tasks that can help further the mission of any nonprofit.


Lastly, is the development of comprehensive training resources built out in a variety of different platforms. With one of the highest turnover rates, the non-profit industry suffers from long-lasting user adoption because they do not have adequate access to continuously train new employees on best practices.

Here are a few tools to help with the problem:

  • Trailmaker

    • Create your own trailhead modules via Trailmaker. Update and publish lessons that look specifically at your organization and address the intricacies of your build while providing real examples to your users.

  • Workflow Screen Recordings

    • Identifying basic processes utilized in your org (creating a contact or logging a gift) and making simple walkthrough videos allows visual learners to mimic your steps to properly create and edit records.

  • Walkthrough

    • Walkthroughs are in-app guidance that help point out features of your org to new users. Essentially a help screen when you first log on, you can navigate users through records, buttons, and general knowledge before they use the CRM.

The best part about all three of these solutions is that they do not need a designated mentor or trainer to help new hires. Developing quick training for those situations when you do not have time to focus on training new employees increases the likelihood of continued Salesforce usage.

Taking into consideration these five factors helps significantly increase the positive outcomes of user adoption for new and existing non-profit Salesforce implementations.

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