It matters more than you might know
Over the past few years, more and more people in the nonprofit sphere have begun using fundraising dashboards. Many, however, have been less than impressed with what their dashboards offer. That might be because their dashboards aren’t dashboards as business intelligence experts would define them. If you’d like to get more from your dashboard, or if you’re considering adding a dashboard in your fundraising system, the first step to success is understanding exactly what a true dashboard is.
Let’s start with what dashboards are not. First, dashboards are not portals. A portal is a collection of different applications you use regularly, offered up on a screen that you might be able to personalize. A dashboard can be part of a portal, but not the other way around. Second, dashboards are not simply collections of panels displaying information like upcoming event dates, general statistics and other non-strategic data.
Instead, a true dashboard is a hard-working expanse of computer screen real estate. Formal definitions of dashboards abound, but perhaps the most cogent comes from business intelligence expert Stephen Few, who says a dashboard is “ . . . a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.” (“Dashboard Confusion,” Intelligent Enterprise. Few, Stephen, March 2004)
All valid descriptions capture the essential characteristics of genuine dashboards. They
Dashboards come in three basic flavors:
Operational dashboards display data that keeps you informed about the operational side of your nonprofit: batch processing, acknowledgments, etc. This kind of dashboard usually relies on real-time data and tells you if you're on target today.
Strategic dashboards typically show key performance indicators (KPIs) that management tracks on a regular basis. They use pictures of data that do not change from moment to moment but often do trend over time. These dashboards ideally offer a 10,000-foot view of how fundraising is performing, like year-to-date giving, campaign progress, pipelines and more. Having this information available at a glance helps managers keep abreast of the health of and opportunities for your nonprofit.
Analytical dashboards can contain operational and strategic data. Their key difference is that they allow you to drill down into the data to gain more insight. Simply put, analytical dashboards are designed to help your organization set goals based on insights into data that you’ve collected over a period of time and set future targets.
Once you understand the definition of a true dashboard, you can easily grasp their usefulness. In addition, you’ll be much better able to create the dashboard that will actually work for fundraisers and donor services staff.
Learn about ClearView CRM's Reporting Dashboards
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Some trends predicted for fundraising in the coming year . . . nonprofits are:
(Sources: The Chronicle of Philanthropy, NonProfit Times, See3, “The Networked Nonprofit” by Kanter and Fine)
One of the key issues any fundraising department faces with the use of fundraising software is getting staff to actually record what they're doing with donors and other constituents so that they can track and report on those activities. It's arguably the primary conundrum related to moves management or, as we call it in ClearView CRM, opportunity management.
Opportunities are generally something of substantial value that an organization wants to obtain from a prospective donor. Fundraisers who don’t regularly record details on their pursuit of specific opportunities usually say it’s because they don’t have the time to do so. This functional inertia is a common ailment in nearly anyone who is asked to track his or her behavior in a system, from fundraisers and salespeople to those who have to bill their time by the hour.
If you or your staff isn’t currently tracking opportunities, you may want to address that situation for one key reason: the growing trend toward ensuring accountability among fundraising professionals. This trend is primarily driven by the increasing pressure on nonprofits to justify their costs in raising money, pressure coming from trustees, senior management, major donors and others who expect measurable returns on their investments.
Accountability is not going away. The more data fundraisers record about their opportunities, the better able they’ll be to demonstrate their effectiveness on the kinds of measures related to fundraising performance, among them:
Identifying and tracking activities related to opportunities in the appropriate fundraising software system will allow you the kind of detailed reporting that clearly shows progress toward all these measures. (You can also display the data in a fundraising dashboard to keep everyone aware and on track, as we discussed above.)
If you’re not tracking, you can’t measure. It’s as simple as that.
Some 97% of organizations suffer from data quality errors according to a study by Experian. These organizations also show a growing concern (25% one year ago to 32% today) that their level of inaccurate data is climbing, The graph below details the most common data errors these organizations reported:(Source: Experian 2015 Data Quality Benchmark Report)
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