Our org created 20k+ "contact" records in custom objects that was later migrated to the proper Contacts object without using Leads for anything. Over about 6 years many custom Contacts fields were created (200+) and now we need to use Leads for web-to-lead forms.

We're a small NPO, so using an app isn't going to work due to cost.

I want to use the Contact object metadata file and the Force.Com IDE to pull over the field customizations done into the Leads metadata file. First, is this a good approach? If so, will surgically copying the <fields> tag and contents be all we need? What about <fieldsets>, <availablefields>, or <displayedfields> (and others)?

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First, is this a good approach?

Maybe, but I'm pretty skeptical. Can you define the business case for needing over 200 custom Contact fields on your Lead object? Surely your web-to-lead forms won't be capturing data for anywhere near that many fields. Why not surgically define specific fields you wish to capture via web-to-lead and build only that (presumably much smaller) suite of fields?

Don't think of the Lead as a mirror of the Contact object, but more like a preliminary Contact object, possessing a much smaller data set until it's converted to represent a longer-lasting relationship to your organization.

If so, will surgically copying the <fields> tag and contents be all we need? What about <fieldsets>, <availablefields>, or <displayedfields> (and others)?

Yes, you could do this, and it would fundamentally work - although I would exhort you strongly to do it in a sandbox and then deploy via changeset to production if, as it sounds, you don't have much experience with the Metadata API.

You'd only copy <fieldsets> if you wanted Contact field sets on Lead too, which would be dicey since field sets might include standard Contact fields that don't exist on the Lead object (and hence couldn't be duplicated). The latter two tags you mention are children of field sets.

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    I'm no metadata API expert - probably a novice, yet have never been asked to "sync Contacts and Leads fields" especially on this magnitude. I appreciate your insight and you're right: we likely do not need many of the Contact fields (a lot of checkboxes with descriptions and help text, for example). This may cut the Leads field additions by half! – Mike Stan. Jul 28 '19 at 0:18

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