Development Dashboard

Your friendly mechanic uses an automotive scan tool to discover how well your engine is performing. You also need tools to evaluate and adjust your development efforts for better fundraising performance.

Last time, we stressed the importance of using a simple report to track basic fundraising accomplishments. A standard weekly scorecard will tell you where you’ve been. But how do you keep your eyes on the road ahead?

The most common solution is a dashboard that monitors KPI (Key Performance Indicators) and displays them in dynamic visualizations. A fundraising dashboard is akin to the instrumentation on your car. Only, instead of items like a speedometer or a gear indicator, it uses charts, graphs, and status signals to convey point-in-time results. In short, a dashboard is a great way to summarize data and share it in an easily understood manner.

With a dashboard, you not only can report outcomes, but you can also contrast them against budgets and work plans. Variances trigger alerts.

So which KPIs should you track in your Development Dashboard? Some suggestions would be:

  • Monthly Contributions (annual, rolling 12 months, actual vs. forecast, current year vs. prior)
  • Source of Contributions (direct mail, general donations, credit card/ACH, major gifts, tuition/fees, planned gifts, capital campaign, earned income such as a social enterprise)
  • Website Traffic (visits per month, pages visited, donations)
  • New Donors/Lapsed Donors
  • Cultivation Visits/Calls
  • Ask to Close Ratio


Each of these KPIs can be further divided by drilling deeper into the data. Don’t make things so detailed that the compilation takes inordinate amounts of time.

A dashboard gauge only becomes useful when it has context and meaning. They must help the development professional determine what, if any, action is succeeding and where a course correction is required.

The first dashboard I ever built was rather simple but required a good deal of time and effort to update regularly. Since it was a basic way to get started in outcome measurement, I’ll explain how it functioned.

It was driven by two Microsoft products – Excel and PowerPoint. Since I didn’t have an interface between our CRM software (Blackbaud in our case) or QuickBooks, the data had to be retrieved each month and manually posted to an Excel worksheet. The date was then copied into a cell for the corresponding month. A separate cell housed the annual or a running 12-month cumulative total. Parallel rows contained either the budgeted amount for the period, or a comparative matrix such as prior year results.

Using the standard Excel chart tool, a visual depiction was created within the Worksheet for the type of chart that was appropriate for the KPI being measured. For example, Revenue by Month was displayed in a line graph. Revenue by Source was a stack chart. A pie chart was used for Website Pages Visited.

The chart was then copied and pasted into a PowerPoint slide template. Each slide had space for the visual representation of the KPI (the chart), plus various symbols and text to provide background and context.

In the next “What’s New…”, I’ll include sample slides so you can better visualize what I’ve described. This is what my standard dashboard slide contained:

  • Title of the Gauge
  • Description of what was being measured and the source of the data (QuickBooks report, CRM query, etc.).
  • Evaluation Criteria (outcomes versus budget, a monthly standard, what formed a favorable/unfavorable variance)
  • Trend Line (usually depicted by a traffic signal where green represented “on pace,” yellow a variance requiring “vigilance” and “red” indicating corrective action necessary.
  • Champion (the staff member responsible for generating the report).


Once the monthly dashboard was built, it was posted to the agency’s internal network. 11” x 17” copies of the gauges (the PowerPoint slides) were posted on an office bulletin board with a large scorecard listing each gauge and its corresponding Trend Line (traffic signal) for the month. I would also review the dashboard, in summary form, at our quarterly all-staff meetings so everyone in the organization knew how development was performing.

After a while, I created some shortcuts and workarounds for the monthly process of updating the dashboard. Fortunately, there now are powerful tools like Microsoft’s Power Bi, and commercial software that will do most of the heavy lifting for you. That will be part of the next installment in this series.

Until then, treasure what you measure.

Author: Denny Bender, Consultant
Before joining The Timothy Group, Denny served as Executive Director of Union Rescue Mission in Wichita, Kansas, a 114-bed emergency housing shelter for homeless men that also provides addiction recovery, a residential life-change and re-engagement program, as well as food assistance and infant care items for women and needy families.

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