This post is one in a series written by leaders who are presenting sessions at the 2015 BoardSource Leadership Forum taking place in New Orleans on November 9 & 10. We invite you to join us.
At first glance, driving a car and overseeing the operations of a nonprofit organization might not seem to have much in common. Look a little closer, though, and similarities emerge. As a driver, your objective is to get from Point A to Point B without getting lost, stuck in traffic, involved in an accident, or ticketed. As a member of a nonprofit board or senior management team, your goal is to get your organization from Point A — where it is today — to Point B — where it wants or needs to be. Along the way, you want to comply with all pertinent laws and regulations, avoid any actions that damage the organization’s credibility and viability, and keep your “vehicle” in good working order, so it performs well throughout the journey.
One important tool all drivers rely on to monitor a car’s performance is the dashboard. There, right in front of the steering wheel, are displays that tell you the car’s speed, how much fuel is in the tank, etc. If you spot a police car, you glance down at the speedometer, discover that you’re going 85 in a 65-mph zone, and slow down. If the fuel gauge nears “E,” you stop at the next gas station. Without the information provided by the dashboard, you may still get from Point A to Point B, but there will likely be a number of bumps along the way.
As a leader of a nonprofit, a tool comparable to a car’s dashboard would prove invaluable as you guide your organization toward the fulfillment of its mission. Moreover, nonprofits are often required to demonstrate an acceptable return on donor/grantor funds invested and provide “evidence-based” data to back up their claims of accomplishment with watchdog groups, such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, and with the general public.
If you’re looking for some practical tips on how to focus and align your vision and “drive” success for your organization, come to November 10th’s BLF 2015 session titled Using a Financial Performance Dashboard to Engage and Inform Your Board. At the session, my colleague Amish Mehta and I will provide you with an overview of one nonprofit board’s journey to integrate the dashboard approach into its oversight responsibilities and facilitate dialogue with the organization’s senior management to discuss the things that really matter.