Contacts and Accounts
In the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), Constituents are tracked as Contacts and Accounts. This can be somewhat different from what you’re used to in your current constituent database.
What is a Contact?
A Contact is a person, similar to Contacts in your phone or Outlook address book. In NPSP, Contact records store information that is specific to that person, and that person alone.
Here's an example of what a Contact might look like
The types of information you might find on a Contact record include: first and last name, mobile and work phone numbers, email addresses, and demographic information such as gender, marital status, or whether or not someone is deceased. You may also want to track information about someone's volunteer participation, membership on your board of directors, or personal preferences and interests on their Contact record.
What is an Account?
An Account can be either a Household or an Organization.
What is a Household Account?
A Household Account is a way to group Contacts who live together. Every Contact in the Nonprofit Success Pack is part of a Household. Households are very important because they allow you to track certain types of preferences and attributes for and send certain types of mailings to all of the members of a Household, rather than doing so at an individual level.
For instance, if an individual's home address changes, you would not want to change that manually for all members of a Household. Instead, you could change it on the Household record, and have the option to update all of the Household members automatically.
Similarly, you may want to track solicitation preferences and send fundraising appeals to an entire Household, rather than send TWO appeals to a married couple.
Households also show you a high-level view of donations made by everyone who is a part of the Household, in situations where both Contacts might have donated separately to your organization.
Here's a video tour of a typical Household record in NPSP: Take a Tour of the Household Account Page
What is a Primary Contact for a Household, and how do I decide who should be primary?
Every Household has a Primary Contact. The Primary Contact is listed first in auto-generated Formal and Informal Greetings that you might use when you send out mailings. If you create a Donation from the Household record, NPSP will set that person as the donor by default (although you can change it). So, the Primary Contact in the Household should be the person you think fits this role best.
If you are coming from a system like Raiser's Edge, this would be the Constituent rather than the Spouse. If you are coming from a system where you had a single record for both members of a Household, it would probably be whoever was listed first. If neither of those scenarios apply, you might make the decision based on some other factor, such as gender or a field that you have in your current database to determine who is primary.
In the example above, Bartholomew is the Primary Contact, so his name is listed first in all of the Household Greetings.
Salesforce.org has some additional information about the Household Account Model online
You can read more about the "Household Account Model" here: https://powerofus.force.com/articles/Resource/NPSP-What-is-an-Account-Model#!#household
What is an Organization Account?
Organization Accounts represent institutions that exist outside of your own. They can be used to express companies, non-profits, foundations, membership associations, teams, or interest groups.
NPSP Documentation: Add and Manage Organization Accounts