Every Nonprofit Pro Needs a Dashboard
I was not into cars growing up, except for one beautiful late 1950’s Dodge that had the greatest speedometer ever. That speedometer showed green, yellow or red colors as perfect indicators of the speed of the car as it went faster. I have always remembered that color indicator tool that I use for dashboards today. Besides cars, should dashboards be used in business to denote performance?
What about nonprofits utilizing dashboards as a business tool? In a blog post from GiveWell, a question was posed as to how anyone evaluates an organization without a dashboard to monitor performance. The blog noted that a good organization should provide a picture of what they do and whether their organization is successful. The blog asks the following questions: How can an organization measure what it does? If you do not use any measurements, how can an executive director know what is going on? Does a board without metrics know what is going on? Each organization has a very large quantity of facts. Does anyone interpret and organize them? How can donors feel comfortable donating to a nonprofit organization without seeing a dashboard of performance information?
Clearpoint Strategy points out that a management dashboard displays the critical information needed to manage an organization. Here are six reasons why a dashboard is important, according to Clearpoint:
- It helps you manage the complexity of running a business, municipally or nonprofit.
- It allows you to consolidate information from across your organization.
- With it, you can pull key information from all software applications into one place.
- It allows you instant access to critical information.
- It gives you a clear picture of how you’re doing with your key projects.
- It helps you follow through on your management meeting and action items.
If you determine a dashboard is needed for your organization, ask yourself what information do we need for the dashboard to make managing the organization easier, how should we go about building our dashboard, how can we ensure that our dashboard stays up to date and what is the easiest way to do these things.
My development committee chair recently asked me to provide an updated report that indicated where we were on various areas of focus for this fiscal year. I created a table for the presentation the night before and placed it on an easel in the conference room where our meeting was to be held. I turned it around, so you could not see it until my presentation. Each topic was in black. The results to date were either in green (goal achieved), red (goal not achieved) or yellow (the results are pending), depending upon the level of success to date. I also created a note/next step section that indicated on what was needed for green to occur.
You need a dashboard to state your case simply and completely. Color codes tell the story. I also use color codes on dashboard tables for solicitation scenarios. If the color is green, the ask resulted in funds raised. Red was obviously a no and yellow is pending. If you have not done so start creating dashboards. It gives you a way to constantly monitor progress and encourage administration, boards, staff and volunteers to help be accountable with you for success.
In our field, it is all about results. Create a fiscal year dashboard continuum and monitor it constantly. Your performance will improve over time when your performance focus is on point. You need a dashboard today. Don’t wait as the next fiscal year is right around the corner.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.