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Using a Dashboard to Bring Focus and Alignment

GuideStar’s mission is to help donors make better and more informed decisions and—just as important—help nonprofit organizations become more effective and efficient.

Earlier this year I traveled to Los Angeles and witnessed an amazing event. There in a large hotel ballroom were more than 200 nonprofit-organization managers gathered to learn how to make their organizations more effective, by aligning their activities and improving their organizational focus.

One of the speakers was Marissa Tirona, who spoke about how to build an organizational dashboard. I liked her session so much that we invited Marissa to be part of a free GuideStar Webinar. Marissa is a project director with CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, one of the country’s leading nonprofit consulting organizations, which is based in the San Francisco Bay area. She provides management coaching, training, and consulting services primarily in the areas of nonprofit finance, leadership, strategy development, impact metrics, and governance.

More than 1,000 nonprofit professionals registered to attend Marissa’s Webinar, “How to Build an Organizational Dashboard: Track and Measure Organizational Performance Easily and Inexpensively.”

Karen Rayzor, GuideStar’s director of nonprofit relations, moderated the Webinar. She reports that more than 60 questions were submitted prior to and during the presentation. She says there was a collective sigh of relief when Marissa addressed a question from Terri Heckman asking whether the dashboard should be used to evaluate an organization’s executive director or staff. (The answer: no, but there are other metric processes for doing that.) Other questions included:

• “Is a dashboard something we should share with the public?”
Deborah Ricci. (Answer: it’s more for internal work, but some of the highlights could be)

• “How do you guard against cherry-picking metrics to look good?”
Mike Mithani (Answer: it’s important to be accurate and honest, after all this is about organizational improvement)

• “Can you explain the difference between setting the annual goals for the organization, which we review periodically, and the dashboard?”

Natalie Apchin (Answer: it depends on your organization; some set monthly and quarterly goals as an accompaniment to the annual goals)
Interested in Marissa’s answers to these and other questions? You can find the audio stream and the presentation’s PowerPoint slides on our Webinar archives page. Once there, you will also find links to previous Webinar presentations.

Let us know what you learn and what your organization is doing.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice