Think for a moment about the dashboard in your car – it’s in plain sight each time you sit in the driver’s seat. For newer vehicles, the navigation system is integrated in the car’s design – you guessed it: in the dashboard. And for those with older cars or who prefer to use a separate device, this is the best place to place the information in order to maintain as much visual focus on the road as possible.
Purpose of a Dashboard
A dashboard for your nonprofit organization is very similar; it’s a visual display of related data. It provides a high-level view of metrics in a format that’s easy to digest. This tool, whether displayed digitally, allowing for the most up-to-date data, or in a physical location, can both indicate and drive results. So, how do you ensure it tells you the information you’re looking for?
You must determine the organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs) for a particular time period (quarter, month, etc). They should represent where the organization is focusing their efforts and how well those efforts are working. What has the board and leadership determined to be key priorities for this time period? And how can the effectiveness of these priorities be measured? Make sure these questions are asked before KPIs are established. Below are a few examples of KPIs:
- Fundraising: Number of gifts received, donor growth, donor retention, return on investment
- Programming: Number of individuals served, program attendance, satisfaction rate
- Staffing: Employee retention rate, satisfaction rate
- Accounting: Year over year revenue growth, operating surplus or deficit, operating cash flow
Mission, Vision & Value Integration
Bearing measureable indicators in mind, let’s take a step back and remember your organization’s vision, mission, and values. These core foundational elements should drive every decision, including KPIs, keeping the organization on track in the long term. Veering away from your mission and values is a risk not only to those you serve, but also to your supporters – the people who have trusted and backed you from the beginning.
Because these three elements are so important, let’s do a quick review of what each of them are, noting that they should be so ingrained in your organization’s structure and operation that they permeate everything your nonprofit and staff says and does.
- Vision: Where do you see your organization in the future? The vision should be clear, inspiring, specific, and sellable.
- Mission: What is your purpose and how do you fulfill it in your community? What difference do you make for people?
- Values: What are 3-5 non-negotiable core principles that guide how your organization operates? Values are a compass for behavior and interaction with others. Examples include integrity, compassion, and trust.
Clearly Established (and Understood) Roles
Great! You know your values and you’ve determined your KPIs. What else? Ensure your people both understand and are playing their respective roles. The Executive Director leads, manages, and accomplishes the organization’s intended work. The Board of Directors directs, protects, and enables the organization to move forward. The Board establishes boundaries and advocates for the nonprofit’s work, while the director leads the people and systems that bring operational goals to fruition. 
Your organization will soon be on a path to an impactful legacy with the presence of clear, established roles, a strong, consistent vision, and relevant key performance indicators that are regularly reviewed in a dashboard. Just remember that your work is not in isolation. Andrew Carnegie once said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision – the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
 Aligned Influence: Beyond Governance by Ken Schuetz. Published 2020.