Making Your Data Work for You with a Dashboard

Philip Manzano • Apr 30, 2018

Data is your fundraising program’s BFF. As I shared in previous post in this series, there are many ways data insights can help your organization make better decisions, identify strategies, and more.

But with the amount of data you have access to in your fundraising program, it can become too much of a good thing. My clients and students who are just starting out on their data driven journeys will often share that they are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of metrics they could be tracking. Maybe you feel this way, too. That’s why it’s important to make your data work for you by giving it some structure. One tool that you can use for this is a metrics dashboard; a nonprofit dashboard.

A metrics dashboard can be a simple as an Excel spreadsheet that you use to track metrics that matter to you. Depending on the metrics you choose to track, you may update this dashboard on a monthly or weekly basis. Here are a few steps I recommend to get your dashboard up and running.

Steps to create a Meaningful Nonprofit Dashboard

Step #1 Decide your dashboard’s focus

For your dashboard to be of use to you and your team, you need to decide which is meaningful for you to measure. This could be something as broad as fundraising revenue or planned giving prospects. It could be something more specific like email fundraising program.

My preference is to frame this as a goal so that I know what we’re working towards and can thus measure our progress. For instance, if I wanted to measure an email fundraising program, I would reframe it as: We have a goal of building an email fundraising program that accounts for at least 30% of our total fundraising revenue.

Step #2 Identify your key performance indicators

When I talk with my clients and students about defining their KPIs, I often say that they should pick KPIs that will help them assess their progress towards their goal. Picking more than one KPI is also helpful because it can help you further drill down into what’s working and what’s not.

Let’s look at the example of an email fundraising program. If the goal is building an email fundraising program that accounts for at least 30% of total fundraising revenue, here are some metrics I would look at on a regular basis:

  • Fundraising Revenue
  • Amount raised per email sent (for a campaign, this means dividing the amount raised by the number of people who received the email)
  • Recency of action (to assess the amount of list churn)
  • New to list (to assess list growth)
  • Number of subscribers who are donors

Step #3 Create a process for regularly measuring your data

I’m all about process and process documentation. Once you know what your goal is and what your KPIs are, map out your process for regularly measuring your data. This could be a simple checklist of what you’ll do once per week to update your dashboard numbers. The important thing is to write it out and set a regular time during which you’ll commit to measuring and tracking your data.

Step #4 Use your nonprofit dashboard

Once you at least 3 months’ worth data insights on your dashboard it will start to become extra useful. Having these data points in one place will allow you to look at the numbers and make better decisions. Regardless of whether you are a team of one or twenty, set a regular data check in time.

Fundraising success happens over time and as you commit to measuring what’s happening in your program you’ll find more quick wins and long-term sustainable strategy.