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Keeping an eye on the dashboard

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Jeffrey W. Steed

Jeffrey W. Steed

The word “dashboard” has become a popular buzzword and analogous term in nonprofit circles related to measuring effectiveness.

A dashboard provides a view for monitoring important gauges, watching out for warning signals of potentially problematic areas and developing action steps based upon the dashboard results.

Monitoring gauges helps the driver consider the boundaries for the journey that are established, such as the speed limit.

Watching for potentially problematic areas on the dashboard, such as a low tire pressure, helps prevent a crisis.

The gas gauge helps the driver develop action steps when he or she has one-fourth of a tank of gas and the next town is 242 miles away.

A dashboard can help increase the probability of success along the journey, helping to maximize the effectiveness of one’s personal priorities or keeping focused on a nonprofit organization’s impact.

Personal dashboard

A personal dashboard helps one focus on priorities and maximizing the effectiveness of those priorities within one’s life.

Typically, every Sunday morning, I start up the computer and open my personal dashboard file.

I have seven priorities in my life that reflect personal and professional areas. For every priority, I have a rating, from one to 10 that I assign that relates to how effective I believe that I am related to that area.

I have to be completely honest with myself on the rating or it’s worthless.

I then review previously-recorded action steps that relate to increasing the effectiveness of that priority area.

I then brainstorm on what other action steps need to be added to that priority area. I highlight the previous and new actions steps I want to emphasize. I try to make the action steps very specific and measurable.

I then progress through each priority with the same process.

Organizational dashboard

Leaders of nonprofit organizations can use the same process with an organizational dashboard to keep focused on a nonprofit’s impact.

Whether feeding the hungry, helping to further educational pursuits, promoting religious convictions, providing funding vehicles to fight disease, an effective impact must be envisioned, planned, executed and monitored.

A weekly monitoring process for a nonprofit leader to contemplate in uninterrupted time can include:

* Refocusing on the organization’s priorities and current effectiveness ratings

* Monitoring previously-recorded action steps, potentially generated from a comprehensive strategic plan to help fulfill the pursuit of the organization’s priorities

* Brainstorming on new action steps

This dashboard process can be crucial for the underlying effectiveness of a nonprofit.

It allows for a perspective on the nonprofit’s purpose from a higher-elevation view and a lower-level view.

When the nonprofit leader has a clear higher- and lower-elevation view, the purpose and priorities will likely be more clearly communicated to constituents as well as lived out in the life of the nonprofit organization.

To increase overall effectiveness, nonprofit leaders can monitor their personal dashboard and organization dashboard.

The dashboard process can train the mind to consciously, as well as continuously, focus on priorities that are important personally and professionally as a nonprofit leader.

As we make life’s journey personally and professionally as a nonprofit leader, our dashboards monitor all the gauges, warn of potentially problematic areas and become a motivational system due to the action steps involved in the process.

It makes the journey more effective for our own sake, as well as for those whose lives we are attempting to make better.


Jeffrey W. Steed is vice president of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation and Christian Ministry Services.

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