How to Select the Correct Data Structure in Salesforce for your Nonprofit: Individual Account (NPSP)

How to Select the Correct Data Structure in Salesforce for your Nonprofit: Individual Account (NPSP)

As we discussed in our first post of this series, Salesforce is an extremely pliable database, which allows for a number of different configurations across multiple industries. In our first post we took a look at using the Account to Contact structure for your nonprofit, discussing the pros and cons. Today we will be looking at the Individual Account (NPSP). As we said before, Salesforce has limitations which are dictated by the architectural “structure” you choose.

Individual Account (NPSP)

The Individual Account Structure is utilized with the Nonprofit Starter Pack designed by Salesforce. It was built with the intention that an organization could just start from the word go — reducing the need for consulting support. As you will see below however, that is rarely the case. Essentially, the NPSP is code on top of the pre-installed Account to Contact template with the very significant difference of adding the Household object and the “Individual bucket account”.

Data Entry and Usability

If data entry is done correctly, this structure provides the greatest view of your constituents. It reveals contacts associated to Households AND Organizations simultaneously. Data entry is faster with an Individual Account than with the Account to Contact structure, but the user must be attentive as to how they are entering their respective data in order to ensure that the correct relationships have been established.


Reporting is prebuilt in this structure so you already have a starting point. If you wish to add more reports, though, it can be challenging due to the addition of the Household object and the “bucket account” called Individuals.

Data Migration

Arguably the most challenging of the three structures. Due to the addition of the Household object and the “bucket account” called Individuals, the consultant must parse and concatenate data much more extensively in order to provide a proper data migration.

App Integration

Roughly 60% app integration. Any application associated at the contact table should integrate effectively with this structure. Contact table integration would include apps such as surveys, mail merges (in some cases), mass email and event tracking. However, if you are looking to integrate with the Account table as well, you will find it very challenging to do so. Account table integration would include apps for services such as bookkeeping, ecommerce, online donation integration, etc.


The majority of NPOs utilize this structure largely due to the fact that it is a template that is provided by Salesforce. Reporting can be a struggle at times due to the Individual account and Household objects, but overall it is the most dynamic structure of the three for managing the relationships that must be tracked by a nonprofit. Though it is excellent for managing relationships, it falls short on app integration. That can be challenging if an NPO wants to utilize apps that don’t “play well” with this structure.

So really why should you care? You should care because the data structure you leverage will have an impact on what apps you can integrate which means how much you can scale your CRM to meet your business process requirements. In addition there are only certain data structures that play nice with certain integrations (i.e. quickbooks). If you select the incorrect one you may find that you are limited to what third party solutions your CRM can “speak” too. Ultimately, you need to know which data structure you have selected so you can plan accordingly.

What questions do you have about this data structure or what to look for when selecting an option in Salesforce? Let us know in the comments below!

Rob Jordan

About Rob Jordan

Rob Jordan is the principal and CEO of Idealist Consulting Idealist consulting provides progressive and innovative Salesforce CRM deployments for NonProfits, Business and Governmental organization. The Idealist team is a robust group of developers,consultants and project managers having deployed over 750 projects throughout the hemisphere operating in both English and Spanish. To learn more about Idealist Consulting and how we may help please reach out to us directly at 800-678-9874


  1. Some other factors worth considering:
    – The Individual/Bucket model can be a real advantage if an organization has a need to handle a lot of accounts alongside individuals. For example, relationships with many businesses, or other purposes for the account object such as multi-project fundraising. In such situations, it can be quite confusing to have thousands of “fake” Contact accounts mixed in with the “real” business accounts.
    – Depending on the amount of data being handled, having a “spare” account object record in parallel with every contact record can needlessly fill up the SF data limit.

  2. Lindsay Klein

    I am looking into implementing the NPSP in my organization. We would shift to the 1×1 Account Model. Relating to the above comment, I am looking for help confirming any record limits. Are there any imposed record limits in the NPSP?

    • Lindsey…No their are not. However…it is important to note that after a certain amount of space is consumed beyond what is allotted by the 10 licenses you will need to purchase more space. This is rare occurrence for small to medium size organization and is unlikely going to be an issue for you. What database are you using now? How many records do you have?

      • there* darn auto check.

      • Lindsay Klein

        We have been using Salesforce for a number of years but are considering installing the NPSP because of the 1×1 Account Model for individuals and the ability to still relate individuals to organizations using contacts affiliations. We have about 6 different departments using salesforce and around 10 roles but over a million records so I need to be sure if we install the packages available on the app exchange, there is no record limitation.

  3. mpusto03

    I would add that a lot depends on the size of an organization’s database. I recall that when you get above 10,000 Contacts for a single Individual, things can get challenging. I can’t recall if it was 10k or 100k, but there is a size limit that nonprofits need to research and be aware of.

    • Size of the organization has some impact but it is more due to the “depth” of the organization rather than the number of records. In other words how many departments do they have, how many roles are there in the organization etc.. This effects the number of objects and relationships in Salesforce which in turn effects the Data structure. Number of records effect import load but only if it is over 65K. Interesting stuff!

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