Displaying organizational successes in a dashboard format can help organizations communicate clearly about goals and opportunities. For many nonprofits, the term dashboard may be a foreign term. Think of the dashboard in your car. It provides you with a lot of information about how your car is operating, how much gas it has, its temperature and, in many of the newer cars, whether or not a tire is low or windshield wiper fluid is needed; quite simply, it is a graphic representation of how the care is running. Translated to the nonprofit world, a dashboard can provide the organization with information about its operations, its programs and services.
The first step in developing a dashboard is deciding what to measure. Some things to think about as you are developing your dashboard include:
- Outcomes – what do you want to accomplish? How will lives be different or changed as a result of your organization?
- Mission – based on your organizational mission, what is important?
- Success – what does success look like for your organization?
- Risks – what risks do you need to keep in mind when making decisions?
- Services – what services are being utilized and which ones are not?
Once decisions have been made about the information to include, the next step is to identify the format that will be easily read and understood by your stakeholders. Some organizations use a print format with key indicators presented in graphic form. Other organizations find that an electronic format is most helpful as it can provide up-to-date information in real-time format. Whichever your organization decides to use, the following tips will help you in your design.
- Make the dashboard relevant to your organization. It will not be helpful if you use the format of a neighboring organization if their dashboard does not measure what your organization needs to measure.
- Use a consistent format to present data and to ensure that the same data is presented over time.
- Include a narrative story to support the graphic. We have all heard that pictures are worth a thousand words, in the case of a nonprofit dashboard, it is important to include a narrative that tells the story you want to tell.
One of the strengths of using a dashboard is everyone is able to see the same information and review the highlights quickly and easily. It is important to note that dashboards are not designed to present every piece of organizational information available but instead the key highlights.
Does your organization need assistance with creating a dashboard? Contact us, we can help.