We often tell our clients to “let the data tell a story.” When we analyze various data points and look for patterns to emerge, the resulting picture is a unique view of the health of an organization.
Data takes many forms including financial, outcomes, participation, utilization, ratios, retention, satisfaction, and more. But unless leadership uses a critical eye, the data is just numbers on a page.
For instance, we had a potential client tell us in our first meeting that they have 800 donors. But what does that measure mean? How many of those 800 donors are new this year? How many are renewing donors from last year? They couldn’t answer.
When we dive a little deeper, data has more meaning and becomes more relevant for decision making.
Sometimes, though, organizations have so much data that they are swimming in it. Every program has metrics, every funder has requirements, and no one person is responsible for overseeing it all.
That’s where dashboards come in. They provide an at-a-glance report of key performance indicators (KPIs) that give leaders a tool to understand current state.
Bubbling up essential KPIs is a powerful exercise for the board and senior staff to do together. It should be determined what data being collected is the most important, and what, if any, is not being collected that should be.
Once that decision is made, don’t try to put everything on one dashboard; rather, create a dashboard aligned with each board committee so that finance, development, governance, etc. all have specific metrics to monitor. Make sure the KPIs tie to strategic plan priorities and goals and that they are more than surface level, i.e., don’t report that you have 800 donors.
While dashboards can be in an Excel spreadsheet format, it’s helpful to have visual elements such as charts and graphs too. But don’t overdo it — less is more so that the report is easily understood.
Remember that an important facet of good board governance is monitoring and strengthening programs and services. Giving board members tools such as a graphic dashboard aligned with strategic plans and board committees is a powerful way to deepen engagement and improve governance.
If you use this information to create a dashboard, let us know what indicators are most useful. We would love to see how you are measuring performance through your unique data.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO