Use to Support Your Nonprofit’s Metrics Needs [Tech Tips]

Use to Support Your Nonprofit's Metrics Needs

As competition for donors’ attention becomes stiffer, savvy nonprofits are realizing the value of clearly defined metrics to help track and develop both operational and programmatic success. Metrics are extremely useful — if not entirely necessary — for every department at your organization, but are only worthwhile if they are accurate, actionable, delivered to the right people, and quickly understood. Following are a few tips on how to prioritize and place your data in, a common database platform for nonprofits, to effectively support your organization’s metrics.

Getting the Right Data to the Right People

If any of your nonprofit’s metrics are sensitive, consider your audience when displaying them. For example, you may not want your volunteers entering data and then seeing their own volunteer rating score! Take advantage of’s highly customizable interface to either make private fields visible only to certain profiles or set them up as part of permission sets.

Location, Location, Location

Display your metrics in a place where they will tell the most meaningful story.’s page layouts can be customized almost any way you like. Are there key data points that a user should be able to glean within 5 seconds of landing on a record? Put those in a specially labeled section smack dab at the top of page. This is especially helpful for executives that don’t need to see supporting detail and just want a few points quickly. Other users may appreciate a more integrated approach and holistic view. For these users, place your metric fields in the sections they summarize. You may also have metrics used exclusively in reporting. In this case, avoid placing these fields on the page layout at all — you’ll only add to the scroll time for your users and clutter valuable page layout real estate.

Defining Metrics allows you to add help text to a hover box over your fields. This is a great first step to quickly remind users what each metric means and, character limit permitting, how it is calculated.

More information about the metrics can be created as a glossary of metrics document and shared with a select audience or all users via Documents, Content, or even a custom VisualForce page. Put this document at the forefront of users’ attention. Adding a custom link to your organization’s home page will ensure it won’t be overlooked.

Creating a glossary of metrics allows you to easily resolve any issues and serves as a starting point for adoption. Keeping a “living” version of the glossary in ensures that users are not printing or saving old copies and that there is a single version of the truth. There’s no limit to the detail you can include, but be sure to provide at least the following headings for each metric, sorted alphabetically for easy reference:

  • Name – This is exactly how the metric’s field name will appear on the page layout, dashboards, and reports.
  • Calculation – Detail exactly how the metric is calculated, including any fields used.
  • Department – Is this metric used by just one department or will others be referencing it? If more than one department uses the term, be sure to include a definition and fields for each “version”.
  • Use – Is this field for internal use only? Is it used for a certain report or just internal reference? This can help users understand the placement on page layouts as outlined above.
  • Last Updated – As your organization develops, your metrics should as well. Be sure to include a date for when each field’s purpose and calculations were last updated. For example, a donor’s “score” calculation may have changed a few years ago. If reporting on trends, understanding the recency of the data will save you some explaining down the road.

It’s easy to get caught up in the many flashy dashboards and apps available in, but your staff should spend time digesting metrics and making traction toward your goals, not being overwhelmed by color coded donut charts. Keep your approach to displaying metrics simple, especially if metrics are a relatively new concept to your organization, and you’ll be well on your way to using metrics effectively.

Do you have any metrics tips? Please share them in the comments section below.


The Connected Cause is a place for experts in the nonprofit online space to share perspective, offer guidance and promote best practices for using today’s technology effectively. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive source of collaborative thought leadership for the nonprofit industry.


  1. Bran Scott

    Ah, metrics! The suggestion to create a glossary of metrics is golden – and, make sure you keep it updated. The only time I’ve had trouble creating metrics in Salesforce was when there wasn’t enough time spent up-front defining terms with all the relevant parties. My advice – allocate as much (or more) time for those initial conversations as you do for the technical work.

  2. Susie Saxten

    This is such an important point about page layouts! Where fields appear on a page is often the last thing that organizations think about, but clean, logically organized page layouts can do amazing things for user adoption. It’s also useful for users to know that they can collapse little-used sections of the page layout in Salesforce. The system will remember your preference and leave that section collapsed the next time you are viewing that type of record.

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