Building Tailored Dashboards
For and With Nonprofit Partners
LISC Chicago is a nonprofit organization that builds community wealth and catalyzes opportunities in communities across Chicago. Within their economic development initiatives, LISC Chicago supports nine Financial Opportunity Center® (FOC) partners, which provide employment and career counseling, one-on-one financial coaching and education and low-cost financial products that help build credit, savings and assets.
LISC Chicago has extensive experience in utilizing data and understands the significant impact it can have on the success of a program. Recognizing this, they are constantly seeking innovative ways to enhance their data systems. To provide improved support to their nonprofit partners within the network, they approached ResultsLab for assistance.
Searching for Innovative Data Solutions
LISC Chicago wanted to explore ways that would make data more accessible to their FOC partners by refining their tools and processes, making it easier for their partners to visualize and understand the data specific to their programs. While LISC has a comprehensive database and dashboards have been available at the market level, filtering that down to the partner level was a complex process that also needed a certain level of technical experience to create. This created a barrier for many partners. Additionally, the data dashboards at the market level were helpful for LISC to understand how partners were contributing to the larger community impact, however, they didn’t provide their partners with the details they needed to make actionable informed decisions.
Building Streamlined Data Dashboards and Processes
With a ResultsLab Impact Manager, we embarked on a data dashboard project that focused on creating a simplified process that would make it easier for the LISC Chicago FOC partners to update their site specific dashboard and use the insights to act upon.
Project Phase 1:
The project began by distilling the existing process that partners were already familiar with, leveraging the tools they were already using, including Excel and PowerPoint. We wanted to uncover what was working well already and then identify the steps in the process that could be simplified or automated.
In the first phase of the project, we created a semi-automated process using Excel, which integrated with a templated PowerPoint dashboard. This made it easy for data to be copied and pasted into the PowerPoint template, updating the dashboard automatically. This build proved to be instrumental in establishing the foundation for the next phases.
Project Phase 2:
Building upon the success of the first phase of the project, we started to transfer the process to Power BI, a data visualization tool that could further automate the process. We started with a slow rollout of the Power BI dashboard so that we could actively engage with the partners to gather their input. This helped ensure that the transition met their specific needs and capabilities, which was a priority of the project. To support the transition, we also provided support through office hours and documented Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This strategic approach allowed ResultsLab to manage the implementation smoothly and ensure that partners received the necessary guidance and training.
Improving Data Accessibility to Nonprofit Partners
The newly developed dashboards enabled LISC Chicago and their FOC partners to manage their site level goals effectively and analyze outcomes. Some of the notable benefits include the ease of sharing data with team members and stakeholders, the elimination of cumbersome data export and manual updates, the efficiency gained through a templated automated tool, and the ability to access data closer to real-time.
With the visual representation of the data, partners will be better equipped to identify anomalies, gain insights, and engage in a continuous cycle of improvement.
Learnings & Key Takeaways:
Tool and Software Misconceptions: Nonprofits often find themselves looking for feature-rich tools and software to help accomplish their project needs and goals. Yet, common tools such as Excel and PowerPoint can achieve the same results at lower costs, and with fewer complexities. With careful planning and thoughtful execution, organizations can make significant improvements in their data management and visualization processes.
Right Level of Detail: When creating dashboards, it can be challenging to know the right level of information needed that can lead to actionable insights. If it’s too high level organizations fail to capture the unique story and nuances at a site or program level, and it’s difficult to know how you can act on that data or to use that data to make decisions. Having multi-level dashboards can be extremely valuable for organizations like LISC Chicago who have multiple partner sites, or organizations with multiple programs and teams, as a generalized dashboard.
By leveraging the power of data visualization and empowering partner sites with customized tools, LISC Chicago has embarked on a journey toward greater efficiency, effectiveness, and impact in their mission to create positive change in their communities.