The Nonprofit Dashboard – What Does Yours Look Like?

Many an electronic, fundraising database comes with a dashboard that pops up when you log on. What does it tell you? Where you are in reaching your fundraising goals? Lapsed donors and total missed in giving? Outstanding pledges? A chart of where your donors are on the fundraising pyramid? All technical details.

Let’s broaden the view and think with whom we want and should share our dashboard beyond fundraising data. A dashboard can tell a story – what do we want it to say? Why do we want a dashboard? It is a fast glimpse of your organization’s successes and challenges. It could be a tool you share on you website, e-news, annual report (look-back) and can/should include program AND financial measures.

Audience – Tell a Story

There can be internal and external audiences for your dashboards. We can use them to share information with volunteers, Board members, donors, prospects and staff. Let’s not make our lives more complicated and see if we can come up with a dashboard we can use for everyone and then determine what information each department might need for internal use. Let’s think less is more, snapshot v. movie version, use it to tell a story and be sure the data you want and should measure is accessible and available.

What to Measure?

Program and Finance (fundraising). The two big kahunas of nonprofit work. No program nothing to fundraise for. No fundraising or money coming in = no program.

Scale: What do we and our audiences want to know about program? How many we served? And there could be more than one service area – seniors, children as well as different communities.

What about impact? This talks directly to your mission and how you are accomplishing it. Better reading scores for children. Reduction in recidivism among recovering addicts.

Can you measure sustainability? Of the reading scores over time? Or what those reading scores mean to student success over time? Can an addict remain drug free and fully employed?

And on the fundraising side the same applies:

  • Scale – How much has been raised? Needs to be raised?
  • Impact – Ability to serve/not serve more people with more dollars. Grow programs or not. Economic impacts.
  • Sustainability – What is the cost per client/program. What if any cash reserves, endowment, outstanding pledges are available?

Take a look at One Acre Fund program dashboard as an example.

If we are telling a story, then your dashboard gives the audience the numbers. But real stories of impact, change and success can and should be included with your dashboard. How and when a child finished reading their first book. How the job is going for the recovering addict. What does reading to a senior mean to them?

Take a look at the dashboards you have. Are there ways you can adapt or change to make it meaningful to your audiences?

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