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A Quick Guide to Salesforce Person Accounts for Associations

Learn more about Salesforce Person Accounts and how to choose the right data model for your association.

Salesforce Software Technology

Salesforce uses data models to give your data structure using elements like objects, fields, relationships, and more. Like many other Salesforce features, your association can customize elements of the data model to suit its unique needs.

However, you’ll need to make an important choice when implementing your association’s Salesforce instance: Will you choose the Person Accounts model or the Account and Contacts model?

This decision is very important, but it can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, this guide, and our experts at Fonteva, can help you make the right decision for your organization. Let’s get started!

Seek out the best future-ready software for your association by reaching out to Fonteva.

What Is a Salesforce Person Account?

The Salesforce definition for Person Accounts is defined: “Person Accounts store information about individual people by combining certain Account and Contact fields into a single record.” This means Accounts and Contacts are merged to form a single location for an individual’s data, and a user no longer has to associate a Company with a Contact.

This data model can be suitable for fundraising organizations, retail suppliers, and financial service institutions whereby the organization is conducting business or raising fundraising dollars from a home address. Associations, professional societies, and trade associations should educate themselves on the pros and cons of a Person Account data model before taking the plunge.

Where Person Accounts Make Sense

This data model can work well for:

  • Financial services
  • Healthcare & life sciences
  • Retail & consumer goods

While Person Accounts are a great solution for these businesses and organizations, there are many disadvantages to using them for associations.

Disadvantages of Using Person Accounts for Associations


A Person Account record will actually count against your storage for both the Account and Contact object. This is because a Contact is automatically created when a Person Account is

created. Organizations with a large number of individual customers will need to keep this in mind when they consider Person Accounts.

Estimated storage for records by object type:

  • Leads: 2KB
  • Contacts: 2KB 
  • Accounts: 2KB 
  • Person Accounts: 4KB

Increased Costs 

Because a Person Account takes up more space than any other data model, including the one-to-one model, associations should expect an additional 10-15% annually in data overages when using Person Accounts.

Account Flows

When a user creates or edits a Person Account, all Account Flows are initiated. This could cause performance issues for Salesforce organizations that have a lot of automation in place for their Account object.

Sharing Data

Changes to the organization-wide sharing settings are required before Person Accounts are enabled. Organizations that don’t have a private sharing model or do not have Contacts set as “Controlled by Parent” in their sharing settings are required to update their sharing model. In Salesforce, it is crucial to control who can access and view certain data.

By enabling Person Accounts, individuals and organizations are granted access to not only their accounts, but others. Out-of-the-box, Person Accounts creates a public sharing model so all internal and potentially external users can see accounts they don’t own or belong to. This poses a significant security risk, as sensitive information may be exposed to unauthorized individuals.

Missing Fields

When creating and editing Person Account records, the following fields are not available: 

  • Parent Account
  • View Hierarchy
  • Reports To

Missing fields for Person Accounts can be crucial for associations because they hinder the ability to establish a hierarchical structure and manage contacts effectively. Associations strive for a comprehensive view of their customers/members, but with Person Accounts lacking built-in

hierarchies, customization is required to create a complete 360-degree view. 

Additionally, the absence of a parent/child relationship makes it challenging to manage contacts and track important associations between individuals. Moreover, the inability to automatically flow benefits and rules from parent accounts to child accounts, like components/chapters, can result in inconsistencies and difficulties in managing privileges for individual members. Overall, addressing these missing fields becomes essential for associations to optimize their operations and provide seamless member experiences.

AppExchange Limitations

The Salesforce Ecosystem is expansive. Today there are over 4,500 apps available, but many of the apps do not support Person Accounts. If you are looking to extend your Salesforce organization with features like case management and email marketing, your options are limited.

Lead Conversion

Lead conversion can become complex when leaving the company name blank. This introduces a new field and process, automatically creating a Person Account, which can lead to problems with account search. Additionally, mistakes in the Person Account require changing the account type, adding further complications.

Limited Reporting

Reporting with Person Accounts is cumbersome. Things get even more clunky if you want to do rollups or include Contact Data. If you are utilizing custom report types, it is difficult to add Person Account fields to the report. You have to add the Fields via Lookup to the underlying Contact and Account records, which is very time-consuming. In addition, joined reports are limited.

Adds Complexity

Whether in reporting, sharing settings, formulas, workflows, or contact triggers, Person Accounts adds complexity to your database that makes what should be simple tasks confusing and difficult for your users.

Irreversible Decision

Once Person Accounts are enabled, they cannot be disabled. This overrides the inherent flexibility and choices provided by Salesforce and limits the opportunities your organization has to grow.

Testimonials About the Accounts and Contacts Data Model

“With the Accounts and Contacts data model, we have full visibility into our members,
donors, advocates, all the way down to the granular metrics that measure the true
impact of what those donors and advocates have done for the families they’re helping.”

– Edima Elinewinga, Chief Technology Officer (Former) at ZERO TO THREE

“Our primary focus is to provide unparalleled value to our members. To achieve
this objective, we have implemented an accounts-based system that is crucial
to our operations. By leveraging the power of Accounts and Contacts, we
can seamlessly extend exclusive membership discounts to organizations and
individual members, ensuring everyone receives the benefits they deserve. Our
strategic approach prioritizes the overall value for organizations and allows us to manage
member data effectively. Our system can efficiently locate, and group members based on
their organizational numbers. This streamlined approach simplifies administration and
enables us to track member engagement more effectively.”

– Sid Bhatnagar, Chief Executive Officer (Interim) at American Society for Quality (ASQ)

“One of the most important points that we must emphasize is that you must be mindful
of the decision you make because, like a tattoo, you will live with it forever. Person
Accounts cannot be turned off once enabled, and there will be long-term consequences.”

– Clara Perez, Senior Salesforce Technical Architect, Fonteva

“NBAA adopted Salesforce’s Accounts and Contacts data model, prioritizing security
and optimal data structure. Our member’s data security is critical, and this model
enforces best practices such as the principle of least privilege. On the contrary,
Person Accounts’ public sharing model is overly broad. Additionally, one of the
primary drivers for moving to Salesforce and Fonteva was to leverage the vast,
innovative ecosystem of AppExchange and third-party integrations built for Salesforce which
are predominantly designed for the Accounts and Contacts data model. Person Accounts would
have limited our ability to leverage our investment in CRM to improve service to our members.”

– Todd Wormington, Chief Technical Officer at National Business Aviation Association NBAA

The Bottom Line: Make an Informed Decision for Your Association

The power of Salesforce lies in its remarkable flexibility and abundant options for users. Salesforce is incredibly dynamic, empowering your organization to scale to new heights. When you’re considering software to expand the platform’s capabilities, it’s important to choose one that enhances your association’s features. 

Fonteva offers associations the opportunity to foster meaningful relationships with their members, providing them with tools for engagement. If you’re ready to discover how Fonteva can benefit your organization, contact us today!

Start using Salesforce to its full potential, starting with choosing the right data model. Contact Fonteva to get started.
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