Giving Compass’ Take:
• Bridgespan Manager Beth Jackson Stram interviews Gina Simpson, president and CEO of Hands On Atlanta, about building a dashboard to track progress and reach goals.
• How can your organization build a dashboard that reflects the most important outputs? How can this dashboard be used most effectively?
• What are the most important things to track? Read about some important components to include in your dashboard.
Hands On Atlanta was founded in 1989 to connect volunteers to service opportunities, provide nonprofit leadership training, and offer school-based direct-service programs.
How should a leadership team approach deciding how much and what to track?
From the senior leadership team view, 15-20 things to measure seem manageable. We have limited time and if we are not focused on our key priorities, we are less likely to reach our goals. More than 20 metrics and you will be spreading yourselves too thin, or getting into areas that program and functional staff should be focusing on. If you take the dashboard approach across your organization, you will have other staff members tracking additional metrics at the program level.
How has the dashboard been most useful?
The dashboard has been very useful in engaging the board in strategic planning and decision making for our programmatic and fund development efforts.
What have been the biggest benefits to having a dashboard?
The data tells us things we wouldn’t have seen before. For example, by tracking tutor hours, we found that schools weren’t using our mentors appropriately. Students weren’t getting the tutoring hours we know they need because the mentors were getting pulled away to do other things during the school day. But we know that consistent tutoring hours are critical to having students make progress, and so we did an intervention with our schools and addressed the problem. Our dashboard helped us home in on what mattered most, allowing us to keep discussions more high level and enable us to see and focus on the most critical issues.
Most important, data, relevant data, is now driving our conversations.
The point of the dashboard is to focus on the things that matter most—the metrics you need to see in order to assess your goals, and your progress against your goals.