My Experience at the Non-Profit Starter Pack Sprint

I recently got the opportunity to attend my first Non-Profit Starter Pack (NPSP) Sprint and with the latest NPSP release fast approaching, this is a great time to share my experience.

The NPSP is largely built and maintained by volunteers, which is kind of cool when you think about it; a tool designed to help nonprofits that is also built by volunteers. Anyone can submit an improvement for review and see it in the next release. If you have an idea for an awesome improvement but you’re not sure how to handle the technical aspects, that’s where the Sprint comes in! It is a chance for volunteers to get together in a single location and work on the NPSP.

Sticky notes are essential to brainstorming


After intense sticky note organizing, we narrowed our scope to five categories:

  • Upgrading to NPSP version 3: People are afraid to upgrade to version 3. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, right?  The thing is that sometimes things can be broken in ways you can’t see. Just by upgrading to version 3, you will get the benefit of automatic updates and bug fixes even without enabling any of the features or taking the time for customization.  Pretty cool huh?

A self assessment checklist, a tool that will evaluate your system and identify possible red flags for upgrade, and a month long campaign of upgrade advice from the experts on the Power of Us Hub were a few ways discussed to ease and encourage updating.

  • Community and Governance: A big part of our conversations centered around how to get the existing community of users to start interacting more, both on and off the Power of Us Hub as well as bringing in new users.  We also talked about better ways for the community to interact with the advisement board to maximize their voice.  Lastly were discussions about the pros and cons of allowing people to post to the Hub anonymously, for the shy NPSP users among us.
  • Coding Solutions: A huge part of any major software product is it’s API (Application Programming Interface) which is a set of instructions for how other code can access and utilize features built into a product.  Until now the NPSP has not had an official API, making integration with it a tricky affair for any other app makers, big or small.  Luckily, as of this sprint, that is all changing!

I was part of a project to build a tool to automatically create a Campaign Member whenever a new Donation is created. This will also work with the data import tool built into the NPSP.

The last programming project was to make the NPSP household edit page compatible with Salesforce Lightning so that NPSP will be ready to switch to the new Lightning Experience the moment you are.

  • Documentation Needs: One of the weak points of the NPSP has traditionally been documentation, it used to be enough to just have a bit of text telling you how to use the tool and call it good but those days are long gone.  A team dedicated itself to revamping the NPSP landing page with Trailhead links (yeah we’re on the Trailhead bandwagon), tutorials and quick start guides.
  • Future Features and Vision: Our last group of volunteers pretty much just let their minds wander, literally (not literally).  Their job was to look to the future and come up with features that could implemented down the road.  I can’t detail every crazy idea they came up with but I will share two of them with you.

Foreign language support.  The goal is to make all text in the NPSP work with the built in Salesforce language tools so that it can automatically adapt to whatever language a user is set to.

Account to Account affiliations.  Functionally this is planned to work very similar to the existing relationship object that exists to link two Contacts except for Accounts, with automatic reciprocal affiliations and everything.


Well, that’s it in a nutshell.  I find it hard to describe the creative energy that a room full of enthusiastic, intelligent volunteers put out.  If you have an opportunity to attend a NPSP Sprint, I recommend it, however, I will say that the group was already quite large and these things work best in smaller groups so maybe it’s time for us to start having multiple local sprints.  Regardless of where you’re located chances are there’s a decently sized nonprofit community near you, why not gather them all up and have an NPSP day? It could be coordinated via the Power of Us Hub and multiple communities all over the country could participate.  It wouldn’t even have to be about improving the NPSP, it could also be just as much about support for the NPSP community because after all, you’re the most important part.