August 27, 2021
Membership dashboards are important tools for monitoring and analyzing the overall health of your association or membership-based organization. Membership dashboards provide essential data and KPIs that can be used for decision-making purposes.
Dashboards help all critical stakeholders stay aligned and informed of an association or organization’s progress on its goals. Depending on who the dashboard is designed for, each dashboard should include different metrics and be delivered at different times.
Read on to find out which key metrics your membership dashboard should include, as well as the different types of dashboards every association should have.
Kristin Clarke, CAE, is a former association executive director and president of Clarke Association Content, where she creates marketing and communications content and strategies for association and nonprofit clients. According to Clarke, an association membership dashboard should include the following core metrics:
In addition to these metrics, Clarke said associations are increasingly tracking and reporting progress on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives to understand how people are identifying and ensure diverse voices are a part of the conversation.
Associations’ needs and priorities change and evolve over time. For that reason, Clarke said it’s important to regularly revisit the membership dashboard to make sure the association is tracking and sharing information that matters.
“The membership dashboard is not meant to be set and concrete. It should be looked at at least once a year,” Clarke said. “If there is something disruptive, like a pandemic or a racial reckoning, those are very good prompts to go back and ask, ‘Are we measuring what matters? Are we sharing the information we have currently around what matters? Where are the gaps, and what don’t we know?’”
After all, what people care about over the course of 18 months can change dramatically.
In addition to regularly evaluating the membership dashboard, it’s important to remember that every association and every board upholds different priorities, so membership dashboards aren’t one-size-fits-all. The key, however, is to make sure the dashboard provides the KPIs that each audience finds most valuable.
For example, some associations’ membership dashboards may break down memberships by city or region and compare that to target regions. Others may track member engagement; the percentage of members who renew after the first year, compared to the percent of members who renew after the second year and beyond; dues; and other metrics. It all comes down to what is most important to your association.
Dashboards should be clear, simple, and targeted to a specific audience so they are able to access the most important data points for their decision-making needs. Clarke emphasized the importance of creating different dashboards to serve the different needs of each audience, starting with the highest level, then breaking it down into micro-level details to make sure everything is on track.
“One master dashboard is not always going to get you to the goal everyone needs to get to,” Clarke said. She recommends creating distinct dashboards for the board, committee, and staff level.
This is a macro-level, strategic-level view for the board. It should contain an overarching view of the big picture. The key for board-level dashboards is to provide clear and easy-to-digest top-level insights. This may include an overview of the overall budget and how close the association is to making or exceeding the budget; and how many members there are, and whether that value has increased or decreased.
Additionally, the board-level dashboard should be shared at strategic time intervals, Clarke said. For example, a monthly dashboard for the board likely won’t be a wide enough time period to base a decision on.
The committee-level dashboard should present the larger strategic number with key breakdowns, Clarke said. For example, in terms of member renewal, the committee-level dashboard would likely include the overall renewal rate, plus a breakdown of the renewal rate by segment, such as retirees, young professional members, student members, and regular professional memberships.
The staff-level dashboard typically contains the most micro-level data. This could include data like membership numbers, revenue and expenditure breakdowns, DEI initiatives (though this is being elevated to committee- or board-level dashboards in many associations, Clarke noted), and much more, depending on what metrics the executive director sees best fit.
The staff dashboard could also track website visits from Google Analytics, phone calls, and other more minute data that can help guide the staff’s day-to-day activities and priorities. For example, if the staff’s membership dashboard reveals a drastic drop in traffic to the association’s membership landing page, this would prompt an important action for the staff to look into.
Because staff-level dashboards are a micro-level snapshot of association health and performance, they should be monitored and updated on a more frequent basis.
Again, since every association and board is different, the executive director should identify which pieces of the dashboard belong on which level.
Data is not meant to overwhelm or confuse, but to inform. The more data associations collect and visualize, the better they can use it to better serve their members and communities.
“I have seen a lot of associations surveying more, holding more focus groups and one-on-one interviews, and really trying to collect data in different realms so that they can rebuild personas … and at least have a better sense of what the different member groups care about so they can adjust their KPIs and make sure their services and products are realigned,” Clarke said. “Almost always, it reveals new opportunities to better serve your members.”
Overall, data collection and data visualization are critical to not only educating and aligning association leadership, but also for ensuring your association is addressing the things that are important to your members. We would love to hear from you about what your association’s membership dashboard looks like, and how it varies on the board, committee, and staff level. Get in touch with the Sidecar team today!
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Emily Herrington is a New Orleans-based digital marketer specializing in SEO, content, and pay-per-click advertising. She can usually be found at her desk obsessing over data and rankings, or in the kitchen covered in flour.