Many of the topics that come before the board of directors start with a simple statement: "I have a good idea."

From there, passion takes over. An idea for something that sounds good might pass without much knowledge-based discussion. Or "group think" presides, with people supporting the idea because they thought everyone was in favor.

What's often missing in the discussion are key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and measure progress. These KPIs should be agreed upon by board and staff, they must be closely tied to the strategic plan's goals and priorities.

Nearly everything can be measured in an association. After all, why are we talking about it if we cannot measure it?

After selecting performance metrics, they may be transformed to dashboards — a graphic depiction of the data. A dashboard allows the board to monitor trends from quarter to quarter and identify strengths or weaknesses. This reduces the need for longer written and oral reports at board meetings.

Though there is software available to develop dashboards, most organizations rely on Microsoft Excel or the SmartArt feature in Word and PowerPoint programs.

Some common KPIs include:

  • Membership growth from quarter to quarter in each tier
  • Percentage of membership market share (number of members compared to potential or desired number of members)
  • Membership retention rate
  • Visitors to website and Facebook
  • Ratio of membership dues income to nondues income
  • Ratio of amount of ALI savings compared to the budget
  • Number of members enrolled or taking advance of key association programs
  • Number of visits or contacts with government to support lobbying
  • Number of mentions in the news media
  • Number of member calls to the office for technical assistance

Data supports knowledge-based board decisions. This can be the difference between a good idea and a bad program.