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Nonprofit: Nonprofit performance dashboards

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4imprint Employee

Measurement is an important aspect of managing a nonprofit, and nonprofit performance dashboards can tell a lot. They can help readers visualize performance over time, monitor program impact and measure progress toward various goals. But simply measuring, without providing meaning, can render those dashboards useless to your organization, its board and its supporters.

In this e-newsletter, you’ll learn how to create dashboards that tell a meaningful story—a story that can help you celebrate success, raise a red flag or take other action. These best practices will help you paint a picture that tells the story of your nonprofit.

  • Identify the best indicators to highlight: What matters gets measured, but each measurement doesn’t necessarily matter to all the individuals on your team. Assemble a committee of board members, staff, volunteers and donors to determine which indicators are most important to whom. You may find it valuable to present multiple dashboards—perhaps one with finances, strategic planning and program goals for board members; and social media influence, fundraising progress and grant deliverables to staff.

Remember to thank stakeholders for their input with a small token of gratitude, such as a stylus/screen cleaner combo, magnetic clip or tumbler.

  • Keep it simple: Keep it simple by providing measurements on a single-page document, perhaps a spreadsheet, Word® document or PowerPoint® presentation. Whichever format you choose, be sure it provides quick, easy-to-understand updates on the metrics that matter most.
  • Use colour: Colour-coding can quickly draw the eye to what’s good, what’s bad and what’s interesting. Consider highlighting celebratory numbers in green, cautionary items in yellow and top concerns in red. Thought-provoking numbers or items of interest can be highlighted, too.
  • Show changes over time: A snapshot of today is great, but that alone will not tell you where you’ve been or where you are going. Include past data, where you are now and goals for the future. Add a trend line to help stakeholders see what’s stagnant, what’s improving, or what’s declining over time.
  • Celebrate success: Ideally, your dashboards will show some successes worth celebrating. Be sure to rejoice in your organization’s achievements and commend all who played a part. Present your accomplishments at a staff lunch and provide small tokens of thanks for jobs well done. A lunch bag, imprinted with a message—such as “Providing nutritious lunches to 200 children”—or a sportpack, imprinted with your organization’s fundraising thermometer, makes a nice choice!

Remember, dashboards are an integral part of nonprofit management. They show stakeholders performance over time, the impact your programs and services have, and progress towards various goals. Use these tips to add meaning to your measurements and share a story worth reading.

“Dashboards for Nonprofits.” National Council of Nonprofits. N.p., N.d. Web. Retrieved 23 Feb. 2016.

Leroux Miller, Kivi. “Dashboards to Share Progress: Examples and Tips.” Kivis Nonprofit Communications Blog. N.p., 25 Nov. 2014. Web. Retrieved 23 Feb. 2016.

Campbell, George. “Building a Risk Indicator Dashboard.” Security Leader Insights for Risk Management (2015): 21-23. NonProfitSteward.org. Web. Retrieved 23 Feb. 2016.

Bell, Jeanne, and Jan Masaoka. “A Nonprofit Dashboard and Signal Light for Boards.” Blue Avocado. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 23 Feb. 2016.

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