Breaking Down Silos With Dashboards
I participate in meetings with fundraising organizations where we draw diagrams on the whiteboard, trying to create a map of the primary databases and technology systems in use. The conversation sounds something like this: “Here is our new donor management system. Over here is our website content management system. This box is our finance and accounting system. Over there is our email management system. We use a third-party volunteer management system and sometimes a separate event management system.” And so on. By the time we’re finished, the whiteboard is covered with boxes, cylinders and arrows.
Data silos make it hard to manage across an organization. They are barriers to a single view of a donor. But for many fundraising teams this situation is the reality of life today.
Given that multiple technology systems led to these silos, how can you use technology to improve this situation?
Automobiles are complex pieces of machinery, but they summarize their health in a few simple dials and numbers: an elegant automotive dashboard. This summer, in addition to enjoying the warm weather, try to build an executive dashboard for your organization.
Start with a blank piece of paper and sketch what your ideal dashboard would show. Try to be as visual as you can. Draw dials, graphs and pie charts. Since you’re limited to one sheet of paper, it’ll force you to summarize and distill key elements.
Now, ask other members of your leadership team to draw their own dashboards—no peeking! Bring everyone together and compare. You’ll find the show-and-tell and resulting conversation valuable.
Once you’ve done this (and have come to some agreement as to which dials and graphs should be on your executive dashboard) try to make it come to life. Hook it up to some of the data systems you are using.
An easy way to start for many teams is to use Google Analytics. It’s free and extremely powerful. It’s focused on the website/social-media/email parts of your system, but that’s a good place to mine lots of data.
Here’s a metric that will force cross-functional collaboration: your website donation conversion rate. In other words, for every 1,000 website visitors, how many online donations do you receive? Calculating this ratio will require communication across finance, marketing, fundraising and IT.
Try to make this ratio the centerpiece of your dashboard. I also recommend breaking this metric down into three primary subcomponents: your desktop conversion rate, your tablet conversion rate and your mobile conversion rate. You may be shocked.
If you’re looking for a shortcut, when you create a new dashboard in Google Analytics one of your options is “Import from Gallery.” Once you’re in the Google Solutions Gallery, search for “fundraising” and you’ll find some of the dashboards that I and other digital fundraisers already have created and shared.
Create an automated email that will deliver your dashboard to your leadership team on a weekly or monthly basis, providing the springboard for a productive leadership discussion.
Of course, you can use other tools to create your executive dashboards, such as iDashboard. The important takeaway is that your dashboard needs to be simple enough to be effective. It needs to be reviewed on a frequency that makes it relevant, and it needs to be delivered to everyone on the leadership team, so you are all on the same (literal) page.
You’ve heard the phrase “what gets measured gets managed.” This is particularly true for fundraising teams. I’m willing to guarantee you that once you start calculating and discussing your website donation conversion rates, they are going to improve.