Using Dashboards as Documentation of Tasks

How I have used a dashboard to help me repeat a recurring tasks more perfectly and efficiently. The real impact comes from those tasks that are annual and therefore more subject to the tyranny of forgetfulness.

Whew! I don’t know about you, but I just managed to finish the year end donation madness, and then I had to start a series of end of year receipt activities. And now I’m getting requests for annual surveys, data requests for annual tax filings, grant reports, and more.


Activities that I do monthly, I can pretty much remember in my head. Although I have tried very hard to create “How to” google documents for most of them to help me have a checklist to always do it right. Quarterly tasks are a little harder to always remember. But annual tasks! Arg! I almost never remember how to do every detail of them so I rely heavily on my “how to documents.” But last year I found a better way and tried it. And it has paid off big dividends, so now I’m ready to share it with all my NPSP friends out there using Salesforce!


Using Dashboards to Document Processes

It’s really not dramatic… unless it is. I use a dashboard for every task that I do regularly. I think about all the reports that I need and create them one by one. I need to check that the data is “clean” so I don’t get an egg on my face when someone questions the data. I create reports that help catch the errors. And then I think of the steps I need to go through and create reports that reflect those steps. Then I save them all on a dashboard with a handy naming convention and descriptive material so I can find them next year.

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Example: Quarterly Newsletter Process

I send out a quarterly newsletter. I’ve always had a Google document that says how to do this so I don’t forget important steps or simply waste time.

Preparation Steps of the Process

Before I do that, I need to make sure I have all the people signed up and who asked for it. This involves making sure that all contacts who have a particular value in a custom field are also on the master campaign. So I ran a report that does that and show it as a metric on my dashboard with a Title and note that makes it easy to see that it’s supposed to be zero. And if it isn’t, add them to the campaign. Great!

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Then I need to make sure the master campaign exists for our newsletter and each of the segment campaigns. So now, that’s a report of campaigns with a certain name (since we use a consistent naming convention). I added a little note to remind myself what to do if I don’t see what I need there. We have a little flow that creates all the sub campaigns for a newsletter.


Active Steps of the Process

Next, I need to run each report that finds the appropriate contacts for each campaign. Click on each and add them to the right campaign. Simple enough.


Them I’m all set to transfer the campaigns to my emailer and go. But wait….


Error Checking/Detection Steps

I can also do some error checking. Are there any people who have signed up for the newsletter but who aren’t going to get it? Are there any people who are receiving the newsletter but whose record of signup has somehow been erased? Those are reports I can create and run. They should be zero. So I put them on the dashboard as a metric with a note about what to do if they aren’t zero.


So when it’s time to send the newsletter, I have a nice dashboard to help me see what needs doing (adding contacts, creating campaigns), what the stats are going to be (segmented list sizes), and then any dirty data that might cause embarrassment later (those reports that ought to be zero).


Another Example: Annual Reports

So what other uses have I found for these “Task Dashboards?” I have one for sending out annual donor receipts. These are a nightmare because suddenly data entered all year about in memory, in honor, purpose and so on has to be 100% clean and accurate. If not, the donor is for sure going to feel slighted and that we don’t care for their individual contribution to our work together.


So I have a dashboard to help make sure everything is 100% as well as to help me catch errors and scope the size of the work. I can pull it up and easily see how many envelopes and stamps to buy, how many records need some attention to cleanup, and so forth. A lot can happen in a year, so the dashboard also helps me identify new purpose, new accounts, or things that have changed in my database that I may have forgotten about in the past 12 months.


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I have one for sending out all our volunteer annual thank you notes on Valentine’s Day. I have one for each newsletter. I have one for our annual report. It gives me all the data points that are needed for the annual report in one place. I can’t say how happy our editor was when I showed it to them. And I will this year create one for our annual 990 questionnaire that provides business statistics to our accountant. And I get at least three annual surveys a year that asks us to share fundraising data for the good of all. Each requires a little bit different thing. This year I will build a dashboard for each of them that exactly answers their questions. Next year… easy peasy!


Other Examples? Go wild!

Use these dashboards to make yourself more efficient, a admin super hero as you fix dirty data, a data guru as you show your organization where there are gaps in the process that need closing, and simply help yourself do repetitive tasks 100% accurate every time.

So far I have created them for annual donor receipts and annual project cost account data. I created the annual donor receipts last year and, boy, was the current me really grateful to the past me for setting that up! It really made it go faster this year.

I will create them soon for monthly prayer letter (every month), printed quarterly newsletters, volunteer letters (3 times a year), partner letters (3 times a year), our volunteer impact statement (every Valentine’s Day) and our annual donor gifts (every Thanksgiving). I will also shortly create them for how I respond to two annual nonprofit question-airs I receive every year. And I know my CPA will soon be sending me the annual form to fill out for our 990 supplemental information! We also have a “SYM At a Glance” brochure that we update regularly with some statistics. That is yet another. The future me will be really easy once these get documented.

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