The ultimate guide to nonprofit dashboards

Welcome to Whole Whale’s comprehensive resource for building nonprofit dashboards on a budget —  for a variety of purposes. While dashboards are pretty awesome — and awesomely pretty — things, it’s important to remember that it takes people and process to make data actionable.
The goal of this resource is to reduce the cost of creating dashboards (especially for those working for nonprofits and social impact organizations) while maintaining a high level of quality and clarity. Remember, the holy grail is not to create the ultimate 47-page dashboard that contains all of the things. The goal of any dashboard is to deliver the right data to the right people in the right time frame so that a business decision can be made.
The goal of any dashboard is to deliver the right data to the right people in the right time frame so that a business decision can be made. Subgoal: Don't create Dashzilla. Click To Tweet

3 Useful Types of Nonprofit Dashboards

1. Strategic or Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards

BI dashboards track key performance indicators (KPIs) of departments within an organization — or the organization as a whole. These may be revisited on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Strategic dashboards can be shared internally, or externally as a report for stakeholders.

2. Operational or accountability dashboards

These dashboards show the data of now, helping keep the ‘trains running on time within your organization. Accountability dashboards give a view of information needed on a daily or weekly basis, like a running total of ad spends, sales interactions, user support tickets, staff activity, web data, or social activity.

3. Analytical dashboards

Analytics dashboards show data in a way that allows users to identify trends over time, explore segments, manipulate filters, and search for insights. This requires clean, consistent data that connects with or pairs to the single “source of truth” database, such as Google Analytics.

Nonprofit Dashboard Category Topics

We have created specific resources around each of these topics for dashboards for your organization. This is by no means a comprehensive list of dashboards, just some of the most useful ones we’ve seen. Please don’t take this as a challenge to merge all of the below dashboards into a mega Dashzilla meant to solve all of the problems and cross all of the eyes. It’s a trap.
Resist the temptation to merge all useful dashboards into a mega Dashzilla meant to solve all of the problems and cross all of the eyes. To quote Admiral Ackbar, it’s a trap. Click To Tweet

Strategic Dashboards for Nonprofits

Impact/Program Nonprofit Dashboard

  • What & Why: This is a summary of KPIs and other leading indicators around programs and outputs. These can include on-the-ground work as well as digital impact.
  • Audience:Board of Directors, Investors, Public
  • Frequency: Quarterly to annually
  • Key Metrics:Quantity of services, reach, quality score of services, delta over time period, KPI inputs, KPI outputs
  • Tool Recs: Connect via API or dynamically integrate via Google Sheets the data needed for KPIs. This will make updating easier. Keep costs down by laying out data in a tool like Google Data Studio or Microsoft Power BI, or see below for more tool options. Once set up, screenshots can be taken to make presentations or PDFs.
  • Examples & Resources:

 

Strategic dashboard styled as PDF

PSI.org used a designed PDF download for this strategic dashboard.

Annual Report Dashboard

  • What & Why: Annual (or even quarterly) reports build a narrative around the major north star metrics of an organization. They tell a story of financial health, impact reach, and growth of the organization, while layering in the stories from the field and reiterating organizational mission and vision.
  • Audience: Internal Board of Directors, Investors, Public with modifications to hide sensitive data
  • Frequency: Quarterly to annually
  • Key Metrics: Organization-level metrics (north stars), audience reach, regions, organizational health indicators, programmatic growth
  • Tool Recs: Many organizations go with a designed PDF, custom bootstrap html solutions, or long scrolling (parallax) template sites on SquareSpace. These take serious time to design and produce. Our recommendation is to focus your nonprofit’s dashboard time on building something smarter and more dynamic. From there, you can take screen captures for snapshot reporting.
  • Examples & Resources:

 

Annual report dashboard

350.org used a custom HTML solution to show geographic reach metrics in its 2016 annual report.

Operational Nonprofit Dashboards

Financial Dashboard

 

Financial reporting dashboard

The Michael J. Fox Foundation goes public with its financial reporting.

QuickBooks financial dashboard

A QuickBooks Online dashboard exported and visualized with an automatic template in Microsoft Power BI.

Fundraising Donor Dashboard

 

Donor segmentation dashboard

A visualization of donor retention segmentation via Fundraising Report Card

Nonprofit Volunteer Dashboard

 

Nonprofit Volunteer Dashboard

Golden Volunteer’s management app visualizes the Golden Opportunities

Sales Dashboard

  • What & Why: Keep track of sales performance by region and salesperson, and track projected sales revenue
  • Audience: Internal senior staff, Sales team, advisory stakeholders and board members
  • Frequency: Monthly and up
  • Key Metrics: Sales leads, weighted value of pipeline, segmentation of lead type and sources, close rates, trends over time
  • Tool Recs: Try to extend the native dashboards of the database solution. Failing this, Google sheets have decent graphing tools and this format will allow quick integration with Google Data Studio. Microsoft Power BI also has great integrations with all major sales platforms and has robust templates.
  • Examples & Resources:

 

Salesforce dashboard visualization

Salesforce’s dashboard visualization on sales via Fionta

 

Google Sheets sales projections dashboard

Custom created sales projections visualized in Google Sheets. This shows the total weighted value of sales pipeline, weighted value of proposals, number of proposals active, and total backlog contract value.

Staff Performance Dashboard

  • What & Why: If an organization uses online project management systems the data may be exported to create a staff accountability dashboard. These can be helpful for managers as well as good for fostering healthy inter-office competition. Whole Whale uses these for our biweekly sprint recaps.
  • Audience: Internal staff and management.
  • Frequency: Bi-weekly or by sprint/regular project length.
  • Key Metrics: Task breakdown by person, department, and project over time, task type segmentation over time, cost and/or time per task ratio.
  • Tool Recs: Use the native dashboard of the project management tool that your organization uses. If needed, export to Google Sheets and play with in Google Data Studio. Or us Excel and Microsoft Power BI to build shareable dashboards.
  • Examples & Resources

 

Asana staff performance dashboard

Whole Whale’s internal staff activity in the middle of a 2-week sprint, showing tasks completed by person and remaining tasks. This was made by exporting Asana data to Google Sheets, then visualizing in Google Data Studio (because we love measurement).

Analytical Dashboards for Nonprofits

Web analytics dashboard created with Google Data Studio

  • What & Why: Create a clean and branded visual of your organization’s web behavior for non-data geeks. This format allows you to extract data from Google Analytics and merge with other data sources for a 30,000-foot view of performance. This can also be dynamically updated with given time frames.
  • Audience: Internal, Stakeholders, Public
  • Frequency: Weekly and up
  • Key Metrics: Segments that include how good/how many to give tables context (i.e.,  sessions and bounce rate), conversions for business goals, trends over time, behavioral acquisition. Note that Data Studio can pull in a lot more than just Google Analytics data.
  • Tool Recs: Ummm, Google Data Studio
  • Examples & Resources:

 

Whole Whale Google Data Studio Report

Whole Whale’s Data Studio report, available on… (you guessed it) Google Data Studio

Google Analytics Dashboards for Web Data

      • What & Why: Website data is a treasure trove of insights if you’re able to pull out the right threads. Creating a focused dashboard of the indicators that matter is the first step to monitoring what matters.
      • Audience: Internal, advisory stakeholders, Board Members
      • Frequency: Weekly and up
      • Key Metrics: Segments that include how good/how many to give tables context (i.e., sessions and bounce rate), conversions for business goals, trends over time, behavioral/acquisition. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Download our nonprofit Google Analytics dashboard templates for an even deeper dive
      • Tool Recs: Google Analytics (GA). Note that other tools can pull in GA data, however as soon as any timeframe or segmentation is applied, those tools can’t account for the unique cookies of users. In other words, things will break and numbers won’t add up due to absolute unique users.
      • Examples & Resources:

 

Google Analytics dashboard for executive level team members

Whole Whale’s Google Analytics Dashboard template view for executive level team members

People and Dashboards

For any dashboard solution, keep in mind the staff or department using it. People will naturally make a game of improving any number put in front of them, so make sure that the numbers you share internally are the right ones to improve.
The type of dashboard and metrics used also depend on the internal seniority of the person as well as their ability to process the data. In an awesome dashboard article by Chief Evangelist of Google Analytics Avinash Kaushik, Kaushik examines the need to merge insights, business impact, and recommended actions into data presentations.
This chart below summarizes the balance of access to data and the need for drilling down based on role in the organization. This is why Whole Whale recommends using the right nonprofit dashboard for the job, rather than creating Dashzilla (have we mentioned that we don’t like Dashzilla?).
 

Avinash Kaushik on data

Image credit: Avinash Kaushik

Nonprofit Dashboard Software

Before buying the Tesla of dashboard systems, consider this advice from Avinash Kaushik  about the 10/90 rule. In his article, Kaushik states that for every $10 spent on the analytics tool, roughly $90 should be spent on the people and processes that support it.
A dashboard created in a vacuum without the users to review it is almost sure to fail. Our recommendation is to start with free, low-cost, or native dashboard tools to learn and test how your team needs the data.
Spoiler alert: Based on the flexibility and cost of Google Data Studio, we recommend beginning with it when starting with dashboards. Check out our master guide and template for using Google Data Studio if you’re not sure where to start. More of our favorite tools are below.
 

Paid Dashboard Tools

 

Free Dashboard Tools

 

More Awesome Dashboard Tools for Nonprofits

 
Finally, please consider the environment before creating a Dashzilla.