Top 3 Things to Track on Your Financial Dashboard

Do your financial reports make peoples’ eyes glaze over? If you want to make your financial reports come alive, a dashboard might do the trick. You’ll find with the visual tool that the people who previously ignored the stacks of numbers you gave them will start to engage and understand your organization’s financial situation.

What’s a Dashboard?
Typically, a one-page document that uses graphics to illustrate an organization’s most important data.

What Should You Include?
The things that speak the loudest and clearest to your organization’s financial health. While that will vary from one organization to the next, it’s hard to go wrong with these:

1. Cash on Hand

Taking your end-of-month cash balance and putting it into a line graph can illustrate when things are on track (or not).

Cash on Hand

In this example, it’s typical for this organization’s cash to rise as it receives prepayments and sponsorships for their big spring event. Then cash drops in April when they have the event and have to pay associated expenses. This visual, with year-over-year data, can give more comfort to the board member or new executive director who are concerned about the cash drop in April than simply hearing, “trust me, this happens every year.”

2. Months of Cash on Hand

This is a similar concept, but based on your operating reserve (unrestricted cash divided by monthly expenses). If the same nonprofit from above went from spending an average of $100,000 per month in 2016 to $150,000 per month in 2017, suddenly cash doesn’t look as good as last year. Even though it’s more cash, it won’t last them nearly as long.

Months of Cash on Hand

3. Budget vs Actuals

Executive directors and program staff have responsibility for their budgets. With this graph, how long does it take you to figure out which income area is struggling, and by how much?

Fundraising Budget

You can create similar graphs with program expenses, net income, or whatever else is most relevant to your organization.

Other Financial Indicators

Your nonprofit may have other key financial data it should keep a close eye on. This might include:

  • Overdue Accounts Receivable: if you do a lot of billing, this can help keep an eye and perspective on this.
  • Cost Per Unit: If it costs your organization $100,000 to deliver 50,000 hours of volunteer time for your mission, was that a good return on a donor’s investment ($2/hr)? If you can deliver 60,000 hours next quarter for the same money ($1.67/hr), what does that say about your program?
  • Income Summary: This can be as simple as year-to-date income and expenses versus budget.
  • Unusual Balance Sheet Items: this could be capital campaign results, volatile assets, an active line of credit, or the like.
  • Net Income by Program/Department: If you have multiple programs, it might be helpful to show year-to-date net income versus budget. Just those two numbers, with green/yellow/red coding, can illustrate which programs are strong financially and which might require special attention.

Mission Key Performance Indicators

Each nonprofit has a unique set of program data it uses to track impact. Whether meals served or kittens placed with loving homes, these are what you use to measure your performance and success. Frequently, financial dashboards will include one of two of these, especially if they have a clear and direct impact on the bottom line.


In this example, if this nonprofit’s goal was to train 100 veterans per month for a year and its May, that tells a good story. If its November, it’s a different one. Either way, it paints a quick picture.

Other Key Performance Indicators

What measures the health of your organization or your key efforts or programs? If these don’t get their own, stand-alone report, your financial dashboard might include these sorts of things a few times each year because they can speak to things that sooner or later will impact your financial bottom line.

Some might include, marketing and social media, philanthropy, staff turnover and satisfaction, board performance, project backlog, revenue by type, or net promoter score.

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