Board Cafe: Dashboard for Nonprofits

Board Cafe

Dashboard for Nonprofits

By Jan Masaoka

The dashboard in a car gives an instant update on many important factors: speedometer, gas left in the tank, engine temperature, whether the air conditioner is on. At the same time, it may not give you the most important piece of information-whether you are on the right road. A nonprofit dashboard is similar: it gives important information to decision makers such as executives and boards, in a quick-read way. But it may not be helpful on bigger matters: are we doing the right work? should we be considering merging or a new initiative? CompassPoint consultants increasingly work with client organizations to develop dashboard indicators. Here's an example that may be helpful to you.

Dashboard Key
Red: Act now
Yellow: Watch
Green: Celebrate!

A report issued at the halfway point in the fiscal year:

Performance indicators:

1. Program

  • Number of first-time clients. Target = 360 per year. Current status: 205. GREEN.
  • Post-test scores. Target = 80% have increase of 50% or more. Current status: 65%. RED.
  • Client satisfaction. Target: Average score of 4.2 out of 5.0. Current status: 4.6. GREEN
  • Volunteer hours. Target: 960 per year. Current status: 569. Current status: GREEN.

2. Finance

  • Days of cash on hand. Target: 30 days. Current status: 14. RED.
  • Net surplus or deficit compared to budget. Target: within $25,000. Current status: $28,000. YELLOW.
  • Days after month end for financial statement preparation. Target: 21 days. Current status: 41. RED.

3. Fund development

  • New individual donors. Target: 100 this year. Current status: 82. GREEN.
  • New foundations or corporations. Target: 10 this year. Current status: 5. GREEN.
  • Total non-government revenue. Target: $600,000 this year. Current status: $178,000. YELLOW.

4. Human resources

  • Performance evaluations completed on time. Target: 90%. Current status: 82%. YELLOW.
  • Staff meeting or exceeding goals in core job functions. Target: 95%. Current status: 97%. GREEN.

5. Board of Directors

  • Attendance at board meetings. Target: 75%. Current status: 83%. GREEN.
  • New board members joining. Target: 6 this year. Current status: 2. RED.
  • Executive Director performance evaluation completed on time. Target: yes. Current status: on timeline but not competed. YELLOW.

Imagine getting a dashboard like this at every meeting . . . with a glance board members could see how the organization is doing, and go to the important questions. The board would also be able to discuss what indicators should be added to the dashboard, and which might not be necessary. Board committees could look at expanded sets of indicators within their own areas; for example, the Fund Development Committee might have additional indicators around major donors, or attendance at events.

If this Dashboard is distributed at each board meeting, the board can zero in on key issues, rather than try to discover issues on their own. Don't forget that a dashboard shows a lot, but not everything.

Original publication date: 05/01/2005

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