Nonprofit Starter Pack

A Decade of Innovation and Community Partnership

On March 21, Salesforce.org employees, consultants, vendors, nonprofit administrators, and developers spent the day in San Francisco working together on the open source Nonprofit Starter Pack.

For the Nonprofit Starter Pack, it always comes back to community.

Lots of nonprofit organizations use the Salesforce platform every day. It’s part of our corporate philanthropy model: we donate 1% of our product (along with our profits and employee time). However, prior to 2008, nonprofit administrators getting started on Salesforce had the task of configuring the system to their own needs, with little common framework between organizations.

In 2008, the Salesforce Foundation (now Salesforce.org) collaborated with the nonprofit Salesforce community and launched the open source Nonprofit Starter Pack (NPSP) project to provide a baseline common and upgradeable configuration for nonprofit organizations. NPSP began as 5 separately installed managed packages useful to adapt Salesforce for constituent management, relationships, affiliations and fundraising.

In late 2013, Salesforce.org reimagined the entire NPSP open source project with community collaboration and contribution in mind, while still maintaining backward compatibility for existing users. Now it enjoys a single installer rather than separate packages to install and maintain. Instead of relying on individual organizations to manage their own Appexchange upgrades, Salesforce.org pushes automatic upgrades to organizations every two weeks. In addition to the main NPSP version 3 project, code-named Cumulus, the Salesforce.org product team maintains supporting open source projects such as ApexDoc for code documentation and CumulusCI for automated build scripts and release management.

Over the past year, with feedback from the Nonprofit Starter Pack Community Advisory Board, volunteers have contributed major features such as matching gifts, grant management, and campaign-member functionality. A significant portion of NPSP’s documentation has been contributed by the community.

It’s especially exciting when passionate members of the community come together for Community Sprints. These now regularly held regional events attract 50+ nonprofit admins, users, partners, developers, vendors, and Salesforce.org product team members to focus on improving the Nonprofit Starter Pack across the board. Read this SF Chronicle article on our most recent Sprint that was held earlier this week in San Francisco, as a “Community Day” in conjunction with the Nonprofit Technology Conference.

What’s unique about the Nonprofit Starter Pack contribution community is that people come from a wide range of technical abilities and experiences. It’s not just for those who can code Apex. For example, Beth Howard, Salesforce Administrator at World Bicycle Relief shared this post following the first Sprint she attended last year. Beth noted:

“As it turns out, I had a lot to contribute just from actively using, tweaking, and improving my instance every day. I know from first-hand experience what’s working great, what my users find confusing, and what new features or improvements we need — and this is exactly what the coders need to know to make the product better.”

Salesforce.org’s NPSP open source benefits all involved on a number of levels including:

  • Trusted platform: Nonprofits are able to leverage a free application — that their peers who truly understand their needs — helped build. The NPSP is the primary application that thousands of nonprofits and partners rely on. It’s open and transparent, providing the community the trust they need to feel confident in the Salesforce platform. As the primary application they rely on is open and transparent, they’re more confident in the investment they’ve made in the Salesforce platform. Even better, they have a collaborative community they can turn to for technical support, best practices and camaraderie.
  • Commitment to success: Contributors are more passionately committed to the long term success of the application and platform. After participating in a Community Sprint, Benjamin Washam, a consultant, shared on his company’s blog: “It was inspiring to see this group of people, most of whom had never met each other in person, roll up their sleeves and collaboratively work to make the Nonprofit Starter Pack a better tool for nonprofits to achieve their missions.”
  • Community efficacy: Provides the ability for the community to prioritize what they want to see done in the most straightforward way possible: by doing it.

The Salesforce.org product development team is thrilled to continue to partner with the community to deliver applications that help organizations of all shapes and sizes have positive impact on the world.