The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Rev Up Your Data with Dashboards

Do your hear crickets when you ask for help with donor engagement tasks, cultivation, or thank you calls? Are eyes glazing over when your board and staff review spreadsheets and donor lists? Fear not, there is hope!

In our Nonprofit 911 webinar Change Your Data Story, Lori Jacobwith, president and co-founder of Ignited Fundraising and co-author of the Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits, shared how you can transform otherwise dull data into attractive and easy-to-understand dashboards that inspire everyone to action.

What’s a Data Dashboard?

The dashboard in your car gives you an at-a-glance update on some really important factors, like if you should slow down or stop for gas. Similarly, a data dashboard shows the important information your organization needs to know to achieve its strategic goals. The data should be arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored as easily as the dashboard in your car.

Data dashboards often show financials or various kinds of giving information, presented by day or month, year over year, zip code, and so on. Less common are board dashboards, but you’re likely to see a big jump in board engagement when you share data visually with this group.

Why Use Dashboards?

Good visual displays cause people to take action. Data dashboards:

  • Bring attention to your priorities and help you reach your goals.
  • Monitor performance and create accountability.
  • Simplify information, such as complex financials.

Fact: Humans are visually wired. Half of our brain is involved with visual processing. We remember 80% of what we see, 20% of what we read, and 10% of what we hear. Color increases our willingness to read something. In social media, for example, you know images are everything. The same is true when we present lots of numbers.

You have just two goals when presenting any kind of data:

  • Convey your story.
  • Establish credibility.

Some stories you might convey with data: Are we tracking adequately toward our goal? Do we need to fill our fundraising event with more people? Can we improve attendance at our board meetings? Dashboards drive these messages home quicker and more effectively than columns of numbers.

Tip: Visual data displays should show information over time, not just year to date.

3 Types of Nonprofit Dashboards

The varieties are endless, but here are a few dashboards to get you started.

Business intelligence dashboard: Presents facts about your organization. The Indianapolis Museum of Art’s website features a live dashboard showing current totals of Facebook fans, endowment size, and active memberships. “Today’s Attendance” brings up a live tally of how many people passed through the main entrance, gift shop, special exhibitions gallery every two hours.

business intelligence dashboard



Current status dashboard: Answers the question, “What’s our current status?” If you’re working on a capital campaign or have a specific target for your fall appeal, your dashboard can show your progress by date and the trajectory of where you need to be so your team doesn’t get complacent. For example, they’ll quickly see that they’ve raised $10,000 and have just three weeks to raise another $10,000. With this knowledge, the conversation at the staff or board meeting might revolve around “What action will we take?”

current status dashboard
Image Source: Mashable Blog: Is Give2ogether a Google Analytics for Philanthropy.

Accountability dashboard:
This one might feel scary! Let’s say you want at least 80% of your board members attending board meetings. Your accountability dashboard shows names, dates, and who attended. It gives you some one-on-one discussion points without making everyone feel bad: “Hey, Lynn, how can we support you? What’s keeping you from attending, because your board seat is really important and we want to make sure you’re able to do your duties as a board member.”
accountability dashboard

Now that you know the value of dashboards for presenting important data quickly and sparking people to take action, why not try creating one that’s relevant to your organization’s numbers? For more in-depth guidance, examples, and useful resources, download a recording of the webinar for free.

If you don’t have the ability to collect data to make a dashboard worthwhile, we can help!

We’re helping small nonprofits raise more this year.

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About This Blog

Carrie Saracini
Content Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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