Is your association healthy? If you can't answer that question in 30 seconds, then you might want an association dashboard, a summary of key metrics. Why would you want one? Peace of mind. When you are being pulled 20 different directions by your volunteers, it can be helpful to know at a glance if the association is healthy and moving forward.
Before you start creating your dashboard, I should note that I find most pre-packaged dashboards useless. They seem to focus on "interesting" metrics that I don't find useful or actionable. With that in mind, accept the ideas below as principles, but feel free to customize your association dashboard for your unique needs.
I'll start at the top and work my way down. My 30-second dashboard will tell me if the association is healthy, and if it's not, where to start looking for solutions.
#1: Cash Flow
The top line is the bottom line. It doesn't matter how many members you have or how registration is going, because without adequate cash flow, your association won't exist next month. Look at your cash available, accounts payable, and accounts receivable.
If you are on an annual renewal, focus on new applications versus year ago. If you are in your renewal period or use a rolling renewal, focus on renewals first, then new applications. Benchmark everything versus year ago, including percent renewed by this date. I prefer to include member types even at this highest level, as I like to know the regular/associate member ratio.
#3: Registrations (or Major Products / Services)
Show the registration numbers for your upcoming events. Benchmark them versus previous or similar events. If you don't have events, but instead offer products or services, focus on your major products or services.
As an association professional, I would consider this the minimum dashboard, but it's quite powerful. It will apprise you of the current situation, compare it to the previous year, and provide enough internal information so that you know where to start looking if there is a problem.
Of course, your department managers should have their own dashboards so they are always ready to answer your questions (or those you receive from board members). For example, a membership manager might use this dashboard:
A) Membership Total, Renewal, Applications by Type versus year ago (the same numbers you have in your dashboard)
B) Membership Marketing Activities versus year ago (types, quantity)
C) Membership Marketing Budget versus year ago (percent of budget spent)
D) Membership Test Results to-date (because you're always testing new ideas, right?)
You can have dashboards for sponsorships (number and amount versus year ago, renewed sponsors, etc.), event planning, or whatever you deem most important to your association. That said, association dashboards should not take long to create and update. If you do feel overwhelmed by the idea, start small and grow as needed.
So, is your association healthy? You're just a dashboard away from knowing.
Dave Stevens is the managing partner of Stevens & Stevens, an award-winning company dedicated to helping associations improve their marketing and communications results. Stevens & Stevens annually works with nearly 100 associations in the United States, from Boston to San Francisco, Tampa to Chicago and Indianapolis to Seattle. As a former record-setting Brand Manager of Procter & Gamble’s largest product, Dave was responsible for all marketing strategy, advertising, pricing, promotion, concept development, new product development and new product introductions associated with the brand.