30 August 2016
strategic planning
Association Management

Every board should strive to be data driven. This is not a new concept. 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t was published ten years ago! In that book, the authors found that remarkable associations are constantly gathering quantitative, qualitative, formal and anecdotal information about their members and their industry that is then analyzed to evaluate association performance and make decisions in strategic and operational planning.


With so much data available to us today, it can often seem like an overwhelming task to be a data driven organization. What data should we be measuring? That answer varies by organization. In the case of data, less is often more. What data is most important depends on the strategic goals of the organization. Only measure what’s most important to assess progress on the goals.

A data driven organization digs into the data to truly understand what it means and then uses it to make strategic decisions. It shares the data with leaders, staff and stakeholders so there is transparency around goals and how they will be measured. 

A data driven organization is not scared of the data, even when what the data is revealing isn’t positive. It doesn’t try to explain the data away, it analyzes it and figures out how to move forward. It doesn’t waste a lot of time discussing “what if” scenarios because it has the information it needs to make well informed decisions.   

The simplest way to monitor and present data is through a dashboard. This can be used to present the strategic data to volunteers and staff in an easy-to-read format that enables transparency and keeps the goals top of mind. 

Again, your dashboard should capture the metrics most important to the strategic goals. Some ideas are:

  • Membership
  • Financial performance
  • Sponsorship/Fundraising
  • Meetings and Education
  • Certification
  • Awareness and Reach
  • Board and staff development’

You can create the dashboard in Excel or one of the many business intelligence (BI) platforms that are available (Domo, Tableau and Qlik being just three of them). A BI tool eliminates the potential for human error and is more efficient because it can pull data directly from multiple data sources (e.g. Association Management System, Accounting Software, Salesforce, etc.)

Finally, a BI tool allows real-time data reporting, giving volunteers and staff an up-to-date look at strategic metrics so that informed decisions can be made.

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