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Design A Better Dashboard

Take a look at any nonprofit dashboard and the most effective ones probably have an organizational process that lies ...

Take a look at any nonprofit dashboard and the most effective ones probably have an organizational process that lies beneath. Dashboard design is more than simply clarifying outcomes and key metrics. Dashboard design should also inspire buy-in and continuous improvement by using “human centered design” methods.

But shouldn’t dashboards be designed by data scientists and graphic designers? Yes they can be part of the team, but anyone can be a designer! These are methods for developing solutions (any type) in service of people. By applying this approach to any program development or strategy and even your organization’s dashboard, your nonprofit can more innovative and get more impactful results.

Many times dashboard design is focused on “getting it done efficiently” and graphs and does not address the human side – buy-in, learning from data, and consensus on metrics. A focus on the bar charts without taking the time to understand the challenges and open up creative thinking will not inspire organizational buy-in which is so important.

Here are two stories about two very different nonprofits and how they approached designing their dashboards with human-centered design techniques.

Tracking for Impact and Learning

Edutopia, a project of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, is an online web site that creates and curates content that is distributed through mobile, social media, video, and offline channels. They also have a robust online community. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of education. Their theory of change is about raising awareness of the issues and then inspiring, engaging and encouraging their audiences to take actions around this goal.

Their dashboard already did a great job at tracking impact metrics about the reach and size of their audience, but they wanted to go deeper in tracking engagement and taking action. With a large staff producing and marketing content, they also wanted a way to capture data for ongoing feedback to improve their content.

Again, using design-thinking facilitating methods, the process started with a presentation from the executive director on the strategy for the year and measurement. Staff were asked to use a technique called “Rose, Bud, Thorn” to identify strengths, challenges, and opportunities for change. They created a concept map of the different themes that emerged. While technical topics such data and measurement processes emerged, so did a lot culture change issues.

Next staff identified key impact metrics by creating a paper prototype of the dashboard on the wall, with sticky notes. Using a sticky dot voting process to identify metrics most important to senior management and the board and those most important to different staff departments, they were able to design different “views” – a high level for impact and more detailed version for “learning.”

What emerged from the conversation was a plan for impact reporting, but also a process for more intentional experimentation and learning linked to key metrics.

Metrics for Movements

GivingTuesday, a philanthropic movement to promote a national day of charitable giving that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, organized a convening of key stakeholders called “Measurepalooza.” The gathering followed on the heals of the “Best Practices Summit” where partners and participants came together to share and learn best practices and identified the need for the movement to also capture metrics beyond “dollars raised on the day” numbers.

In particular, they were interested in looking at transformational metrics such as donor engagement, building nonprofit capacity, and global reach.

As a movement, GivingTuesday needed to address and get consensus on two big measurement questions: What metrics should the movement as a whole measure? What should participants each measure for their individual campaigns?

The session started with setting context on the accomplishments of the past year’s campaign and a summary of what was learned during the best practices summit. This lead to a discussion about the need to capture both “transactional” and “transformational” metrics related to specific outcomes as well as what and how to effectively use both quantitative and qualitative data for both movement level learning and for participating partners.

Through a facilitated design thinking process, small groups of participants created a draft of the Giving Tuesday movement level and partner level metrics.  As a consensus building process, participants used “sticky dot” voting to identify the most important metrics (green for partners; red for the movement as a whole). This allowed everyone to see visually what the group consensus was and hone in what was most important.

Summary

Whether you are using data to inform a digital content strategy or to build a philanthropic movement, it is important to remember that effective measurement begins with people.

How has your organization achieved buy-in from staff or senior leaders about what data to collect for impact tracking?  What are the processes that your organization is using to help ensure that data is used for decision-making and learning and not ignored?

Design A Better Dashboard, July 18, 2014, Beth's Blog, by Beth Kanter
 

Leadership in the Volunteer Community

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to...

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred.

I have been studying the structure of volunteer organizations and analyzing the leadership of their professionals’ leadership styles for a little more than forty years. I have founded a number of synagogues in Europe and the United States, worked as a congregation rabbi and finally served as the exec director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC) for nearly thirty-five years. My work has been guided by the belief that if one wishes to build a community one must empower and invest in its volunteers.

This isn’t always easy and it runs counter to the way most organizations function. The majority of not-for-profit organizations when they wish to develop a community or a project choose to invest in professionals. This, is a logical means of moving forward but it often overlooks the fact that the professional staff is only one part an equation. The second part of that equation is the volunteer culture. The manner in which professionals interact with their volunteers often determines their continuity and the success of the organization they represent. The success of any not-for-profit organization is dependent upon this volunteer/professional relationship.

A large number of professionals assume that part of their position is to create and articulate a vision but the manner and the strategies that the professional employs to empower others with that vision is rarely taken into account.

In order to create a working meaningful volunteer/professional culture the professional or professionals needs to develop a plan that engages and develops volunteers. Too often this fails to occur and tensions between lay and professional leaderships develop.

I often ask newly ordained rabbis, serving in their first pulpit, to define their leadership style in a simple sentence ending with an adjective and a noun. For example, “I am a dynamic leader.” The results are usually very interesting primarily because they have never been asked to consider this question. When I am asked this question, and I usually am, my response is “I am a servant leader.”

Servant leaders help make their volunteers the best volunteers, the best leaders, they can be. Servant leaders places volunteers in the spotlight, and helps them learn how to motivate others. Servant leaders quietly create the roles models we wish to be emulated. They are the ones who help their professionals make decisions. They are the ones that learn how to lead grace after meals so they can teach others.

In order for this to occur, volunteer leaders require backups and partners and the security that they will never fail, because the professional understands that their lives, like ours, are extremely busy and very complicated. Someone will lose a job, or contract an illness, or have something happen to their family which will limit their ability to serve. At times this means that the volunteer leader might not meet some people’s expectations. They might not perform in a position the way someone else would. It might mean two steps forward one step backward. The servant leader helps leadership understand they are doing the best they can and are learning how to be more effective volunteers and possible leaders if they are properly encouraged. In the volunteer world a culture of friendship means that no one ever fails, they just might not succeed as much as they desired. The professional’s job is to create a culture of friendship and trust coupled with the recognition that everyone has different abilities.

I was recently asked by the leader of one of the great teaching institutions in America, how could I run an organization, the only one in the Conservative Movement that is growing and getting younger, with such a small staff? My answer was simple and straight forward. I empower volunteers to coordinate all of the various portfolios. I help them break down positions with tremendous responsibility into small achievable goals and tasks. I place them in positions where they can succeed and I trust them. I help them learn to share, to ask questions and to request help from others. I work hard at teaching them how to work as a team and to divorce themselves from ownership

Too often lay leaders, upon attaining high office, confuse “inauguration” with “installation”. They speak of their legacies and results. Attitudes like these creates cultures of fear and mistrust. When this occurs, organizational directions can be shifted in different directions at the whim of the president. On the other hand, a culture of friendship reflects a venue where incoming, existing and past leadership works together. They stay on course from administration to administration concentrating on previously determined goals.

In many instances the vision of the professional doesn’t always reflect the needs of the organization. This is one of the great pitfalls in the not-for-profit world. A person can be swept up in the perceived glory of becoming an international figure, a world Jew, when in actuality in order to strengthen the organization a different professional direction is needed.

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred. They forget how important it is to be a servant/leader.

Leadership in the Volunteer Community, July 15, 2014, eJP, by Charles Simon  

 

Rethink How You Approach Lapsed Donors

Conventional wisdom says it’s more cost effective to retain donors than acquire new donors. Of course you shoul...

Conventional wisdom says it’s more cost effective to retain donors than acquire new donors. Of course you should spend a fair amount of your time tending to your active donors, ensuring they’re seeing the impact of their donation and making them a part of your community. In this case, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. But what do you do if these supporters stop giving? Write them off and move on?

Not so fast, says donor retention expert, Lisa Sargent. In a recent newsletter, Lisa outlines her perspective, complete with a Monty Python reference. She offers superb examples of what to test with your lapsed and long-lapsed files (especially multiple or long-time lapsed givers), instead of immediately purging or ignoring these former donors.

As you assess your own approach, consider these five things before addressing your lapsed donors:

Lapsed donors probably don’t consider themselves “lapsed.” Be careful how you reach out to these donors—many may consider themselves to still be active givers to your nonprofit. Just because they’re not giving at the frequency you prefer, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel they’re important contributors to your cause. Acknowledge their contributions and make sure to let them know the difference they’ve made. In most cases, your next outreach to this group could be considered an “impact report catch-up.”

Different segments have different needs. As you build relationships with donors, remember that you have affinity groups who have specific motivations for giving, and give in different ways. Create a cultivation plan with these variances in mind, and do the same for those who have skipped a donation. Preventing a lapse is the best solution, but early intervention can help bring a portion of these donors back from the brink. (Alan Sharpe has a top-notch framework for a ‘win back’ letter.

Engage them with something different. It’s likely these so-called lapsed donors are still interested in supporting your cause in some way. Offer something new to this group, such as surveys, advocacy tools, volunteer opportunities, or event invitations to assess if they’re still interested. These activities will help keep your cause top of mind and communicate the impact of your work, which will allow you to build a case for giving again.

Look in the mirror. Is your donor stewardship model all it could be? Perform an audit of your donor communications from the point of giving throughout the lifespan of that donor. Then, compare that to a timeline of your donor churn rate. These are the critical moments at which you need to prepare compelling, proactive outreach. If you already have communications just before these time periods, it’s time for an overhaul. (Need some help? Listen to our recent webinar with Donor Relations Guru, Lynne Wester.)

Have a conversation. If a long-time or high-dollar donor stops their support, it’s time to pick up the phone and find out more. Use this as an opportunity to reach out and understand if everything is ok—for both your donor and your organization. Is something going on in your donor’s world that interrupted their support, or have they been soured by a miscommunication? Perhaps they’ve outgrown their current relationship with you and are unsure of other opportunities to do more with your cause. Be prepared to embrace any and all feedback—it’s likely to be an eye-opening conversation that could change your understanding of your donors.

So when do you cut them loose? Some fundraising advisors say never, while other experts say to take a hint after one year. I say: it depends. Look at the reasons why donors may stop giving to your organization and your fundraising cycles. Understand those first, then put a process in place to remediate, reactivate, or retire these contacts.

How do you handle your “lapsed” donors? Chime in and share your experiences below!

Rethink How You Approach Lapsed Donors, June 4, 2014 Network for Good, by Caryn Stein