The Power of Dashboards

Visualizing data is a good way to digest and understand the key findings. Along with data visualization comes the concept of dashboarding. Dashboards compile selected visualizations into one interface. They’re a powerful medium for presenting a series of visualizations dealing with a central topic that can provide a window into data at all levels of an organization.

Unlike a daily or weekly report, dashboards curate raw data and present it in ways that allow users to observe trends and relationships. In an association or nonprofit, dashboard “users” may come from all levels of the organization, and can be tracking and reporting on key program performance indicators, reviewing organization wide reports, or overseeing organizational activities.

Dashboard users can use customized inputs to limit the data presented to a specific segment of the population, review a specific time period, compare multiple segments or time periods, and more. This puts the power of data analytics in the hands of the person with the most knowledge of the usefulness and applicability of the data.

Is your association considering building a dashboard? Here are some key questions you should ask:

  1. Who is your audience? – Dashboards exist to inform the user. What are they interested in? What information is most relevant to them? How do they best digest information?
  2. Where/what are the data? – For a dashboard to be meaningful and valid, it is important to understand the data that underpin the dashboard. What is the source of the data? What do the data represent and what are their limitations?
  3. How does all of this data fit together? – One of the primary benefits of dashboards is the ability to take data from multiple sources and present it in one location, so it is important to understand the relationships between the data sources. What are the potential links between sources?
  4. What should the dashboard look like? – A dashboard can be well curated, include the most relevant and important data possible, but overwhelm the user. The individual design of the display should depict the underlying data in the most efficient way while still being visually appealing. A few handy concepts include:
    1. Limiting the dashboard to one screen.
    2. Carrying a consistent color palette through all visualizations.
    3. Cutting down on extra elements.
From reviewing existing data sources to collecting new data, Westat’s Center for Association Services (CAS) has extensive experience in developing a complete ‘data picture’ of important elements of association and non-profit activities such as member/donor recruitment and engagement, events and programs, community and industry trend reporting. We can create a dashboard tailored to your organization’s needs, with backend processing for easy updates, that will become an invaluable element of your organization’s success. Contact us at to learn more and to set up a complimentary consultation about dashboarding for your association or nonprofit.