Affinity Strategies recently began compiling important organizational metrics and presenting them to our client’s boards/executive committees on monthly dashboards. The purpose of doing this was twofold:
- To increase the flow of communication and information presented to all board members.
- Effectively and simply track data to analyze for trends/growth or areas that need greater support. Dashboards are not meant to be a substitute for all the information available to boards.
The intent of the dashboard is to look at the same key metrics at a high-level overview and use various visual tools like charts to present this information in an easy to digest way for boards.
- Internally, it took the Affinity team some time and drafts to land on dashboard metrics that were meaningful and uniform for our various clients. The dashboards may still be evolving, but from this process we found a few key take aways when building and rolling out client dashboards.
- Keep the information simple and approachable. Data is any company’s most important asset, but it is easy to get bogged down in data and in the weeds. For information like financials, not every board member is skilled at reading a budget sheet or financial statement. It is important to present information that everyone can understand.
- Track progress toward goals. Affinity has two narrative sections that don’t rely on data or metrics. Those are the Executive Director update and the Key Initiatives section. These sections allow for the board to receive monthly recaps on all the work being done behind the scenes that keeps their group on pace to reach milestones, complete events, scheduled programming, and strategic plans. It also allows the ED an opportunity to reflect on all that is being done, provide any needed insight or guidance on issues/developments.
- Accountability – Dashboards are a reliable way to show boards how it is doing. While it’s always reassuring to see what you’re doing right, you also need to see and understand what you’re doing wrong in order to increase your performance. Dashboards can show you exactly where your trouble areas are and give you the need push to improve. Membership numbers may ebb and flow, meetings may not perform predictably, and finances can change rapidly, especially in today’s rather unstable environment and unforeseen changes due to COVID. But tracking it and knowing the changes are empowering. We can use data and information to leverage new initiatives, to pivot and make decisions for new types of programming, webinars, or additional non-dues revenues.
- Common reference point across clients. For a management company, it is always nice to get reference points and common sets of information to see how other groups are performing, or garner ideas and best practices. While no two groups are the same, comparing data on areas like engagement, communication, and membership can really help develop best practices for an AMC. If one group has consistently higher open rates in their communications, or membership renewals, registration numbers, or social media – that information can be leveraged into company best-practices and be a template for campaigns across groups. What benefits one, may indeed benefit all.
Keep our boards and committees at the forefront of what we are doing. When a dashboard is designed with a governance perspective (gauging things like mission impact and outcomes, strategic effectiveness, and fiduciary oversight), it helps to encourage the board to perform its essential governance role rather than focus on all the details and be confident and reassured that staff is moving the needle forward.
The hope of these dashboards, as they continue to be rolled out and utilized is it instills greater transparency, trust and improves workflow between Affinity and our clients.