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Upgrading to NPSP 3: Deb’s Journey

By February 4, 2016

By: Deb Van Zegeren, Administrative and Communications Manager, Cutaneous Lymphoma Foundation & Ashima Saigal, Founder, Database Sherpa

Deb Van Zegeren is the System Administrator for the Salesforce instance at The Cutaneous Lymphoma Foundation. CLF is a national patient advocacy nonprofit organization that has recently grown from 4 to 6 staff.

CLF has been using Salesforce for nearly 7 years, but only in the last four years has the platform been consistently used with the intention of making it their central tool for managing contacts, programs and events. Several years ago, CLF migrated to the Nonprofit Starter Pack from an older package known as the “nonprofit template.” Deb knew she didn’t want CLF to fall behind again, so she began her journey to learn more about upgrading to the NPSP 3 and converting to the Household Account model.

Why Upgrade?

Deb first wanted to understand why she should upgrade to NPSP 3. She started researching in the Power of Us Hub. What excited her the most were some of the new tools available in NPSP 3: Health Check, multiple/seasonal addresses, automatic address copying between contacts and household, and improved grant management. She was heavily influenced by the Hub community to upgrade. Since she relies on the Hub as a primary source of Salesforce support, she knew if she fell behind that it would be more challenging to receive support from the community.

Why Convert Your Account Model?

Deb learned in her research that the NPSP 3 includes a new Account Model called the Household Account (HA). Wanting to make an informed decision about converting to this new model from the one-to-one model, she turned to the Hub. She arrived at two main reasons why a conversion would be beneficial.

  1. Mailing Lists would be easier to manage. Currently, to generate a mailing list requires multiple steps and heavy use of campaigns to weed out duplicates. With new staff coming, Deb wanted to streamline mailing list creation so that lists could be easily built and exported. Thanks to the HA Model, she can now create one report rather than the three. This was a big win!
  2. The new model would handle diverse contacts better. CLF has a diverse base of contacts, some are one-to-one and others are organizational. It was a challenge to enter the donation data correctly, and it often took multiple steps. Staff also struggled to understand the processes. With the HA Model, this challenge was be eliminated. Contacts are all associated to a Household Account and organizational relationships are tracked through the Affiliation object.

Deb’s Journey

Deb before her NPSP 3 upgrade Journey

Deb before her NPSP 3 upgrade Journey

After doing her due diligence, Deb began her journey to upgrade to NPSP 3 and convert to the HA Model. She knew from following other Hub members’ posts about upgrading and converting that this was not going to be a quick “over-the-weekend.” However, this was something that an organization admin with good understanding of their Salesforce instance, could do. Due to time constraints, Deb decided to work with a consultant, Database Sherpa, who walked her through the process and be available if any issues arose that were challenging to resolve.

Package Upgrades

Following the sage advice of all those who came before her, she started with a Sandbox. She entered a little data, upgraded the packages, and ran the health check. She had no errors! Then, she updated her production instance and ran the Health Check again. There were a few items that needed to be fixed prior to converting to the HA Model. She also went through the post-upgrade steps.

It took her less than two hours to run the update and to go through the post-upgrade steps. It took about an hour to find and fix the Health Check errors.

Household Account Model Conversion

After installing the NPSP 3 packages, her next big step was to convert to the HA Model. Database Sherpa provided her a framework of tasks which included data cleanup tasks, reports to create and steps to migrate the data from production to the sandbox. Database Sherpa also provided guidance while she ran the conversion tool in the sandbox and addressed data issues as they arose.

This took about 3 working days total of cleaning data before the conversion based on reports Database Sherpa recommended. Then, another 8-10 hours with a Sherpa to discuss process and dive into data issues in the sandbox.

Deb spent two days for the conversion in production. It tooks her less than 6 hours for the conversion to run in production and to do the post-conversion steps. Then she spent the second day checking data to make sure it was consistent with all the pre-conversion reports by pulling addresses and checking affiliations and donation totals.

NOTE: She found it very helpful to take careful notes of the steps while going through the process in the sandbox so that in production, she had a step-by-step process to follow and she wouldn’t forget anything.

Benefits to CLF

Deb before her NPSP 3 upgrade Journey

Deb after her NPSP 3 upgrade Journey

Deb has already begun to see the benefits for her organization. Reporting for mailing lists is much easier. Development staff are able to enter and track grants easier. Donation tracking is more straightforward. There are fewer steps to ensure addresses are accurate between household members. The Health Check gives her insight into the integrity of her Salesforce instance. And now she’ll always have the latest version of the NPSP!

In Deb’s Words

“I can’t emphasize enough that, as intimidating it may seem to perform the upgrade to NPSP 3, it was really simple to do. Converting to the Household Account Model was a bit more complicated, but there are really good step-by-step instructions in the Hub and I was very fortunate to have Ashima’s assistance. At the end of the day, taking the step was worth all the hours of preparation because we are already reaping the benefits of the current upgrades and look forward to future updates. I sincerely mean it when I say, if I can do this, so can you.”

Looking for help upgrading to NPSP 3? Learn more at

Watch the Upgrade Webinar Recording