Leadership and The Workplace

Nonprofit Spark

Renee McGivern

Nonprofit Spark – Using dashboards for nonprofit evaluation – 04/30/12

This week’s episode is a “show and tell show,” which means that my guest and I want you to look at sample dashboards as we talk about them. Please download the worksheet with Sample dashboards here before you listen to the show.

A dashboard gives nonprofit leaders an at-a-glance view of what’s happening in the organization. It measures progress at a higher level, much like your car dashboard indicates what’s happening under the hood of your car. New nonprofits who quickly succeed use evaluation to discover what part of what they’re doing is effective, and to get better and better at it. They discover what’s not working, too, and get it out of the way. Learning and evaluation go hand in hand, and donors can’t resist supporting organizations that can say with confidence, “This is what we do, this is what we know works, this is what we’ve learned, and won’t you learn with us?”

My guest this week is Myia Welsh, an independent evaluation consultant who provides ethical and practical solutions to the evaluation challenges of nonprofits. Her passion for helping nonprofits improve programs and meet their missions is backed by more than 12 years of experience in the sector. Organizations that Myia has worked with include The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Myia holds an MSW specializing in Social Policy and Program Evaluation from the University of Michigan.

Myia has been kind enough to create dashboards for a fictitious organization, Happy Paws Animal Rescue, and we talk about each one on the show. Now, it’s easy to dismiss these dashboards as being too simple to be useful, but don’t be too hasty. Evaluation experts like Myia know how effective dashboards are in supporting decision-making and board governance.