The Magic of a Good Dashboard

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My car’s dashboard has a lot of stuff on it that I do not understand. Every so often, a buzzer sounds and the number “39” flashes on and off. I haven’t a clue why. I know the gas gauge, the speedometer, and the odometer, and the rest is kind of part of my periphery—the hope being that if I don’t pay attention to it, it will go away without hurting me. I have figured out that there’s an element that tells me how much farther I can drive before I have to get gassed up, and that is very nifty, but I only know that’s what it is because of the picture of the gas tank next to it.

This ignoring of signals is a bad strategy, but it’s one employed by many members of nonprofit boards. They know some of the numbers they need to watch, but as for the complete picture, as a whole? It eludes them.

Please join us on a primer on how to design the best possible dashboard for your nonprofit, one that everyone can and will use (because they don’t matter if you don’t use them).

Now, you may be surprised to hear that I swear by dashboards at work. I want to know how this number relates to that number and why, and then where the leverage point is, and then I want to know how to measure the stuff that will indicate that we are headed in the right direction. I want the whole thing laid out in pretty graphs that show progress or lack thereof over time. It’s a way to quickly correct a not-so-productive strategy. And—and I can’t stress this enough—it is a way to keep conversations among staff and board leaders organized.

Nonprofit dashboards are better than car dashboards in yet another way: You can change them when you need them to answer different and more pertinent sets of questions as time goes on. (And did I mention that they keep the board and staff on the same page?)

On February 17th, NPQ is presenting a special 90-minute webinar on how to construct and use a dashboard tailored to your nonprofit’s particular needs. Hilda Polanco will lead the discussion, which will cover a variety of different models. Please join us and (currently) around 1000 of your colleagues for this important session. You wouldn’t want to end up the only one who doesn’t know where the organizational GPS is, would you?