Financial Dashboards: Making Sense of the Deluge of Data

Posted by Matt Berringer on February 5, 2015

6 Key Questions Financial DashboardTo put it simply, school finances are complex.

Piles of spreadsheets and account codes can seem daunting to those who operate outside of the school business office. Yet, we live at a time when community members demand more transparency about the state of a district’s financial health.

A financial dashboard is a tool that can provide a clear, visual snapshot of a district’s finances at any moment in time.

What are Financial Dashboards?
Much like a vehicle dashboard, a district’s financial dashboard offers a graphical summary that can be used to monitor and evaluate the organization’s performance. It can provide context for understanding those piles of spreadsheets.

The dashboard should be simple enough that any visitor to a district’s website or any community member who attends a board meeting can read one and understand an overview of the district’s finances.

They should be visual. They should highlight and illustrate the information people most want to know, such as how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and how much the district is spending on each student.

Building your own Financial Dashboard
A district’s financial dashboard can and should be tailored to its own individual needs, a refreshing departure from mandated budget and audit documents. Officials must first decide what information is most important to its particular community, considering the district’s unique strategic goals.

Jeff Feyerer, business manager for the Fairview South School District in Skokie, Ill., created such a dashboard. He offers up the key questions he compiled before creating a financial dashboard for his district:

  • Are we spending more money than we’re bringing in?
  • How do the actuals compare with our budgeted amounts?
  • What percentage of our revenues and expenditures is allocated to each fund?
  • How have our budget and actuals changed over time?
  • Are our district demographics changing?
  • What data matter most to our community?

From that list of questions, Feyerer was then able to assemble a list of metrics for his financial dashboard:

  • Budget vs. actual
  • Total revenues vs. expenditures
  • Fund balances as a percentage of expenditures
  • Education fund revenues/expenditures
  • Debt
  • Tax rates
  • Financial profile score
  • Per-pupil expenditures
  • Enrollment
  • Projected revenues/expenditures

Dashboard decision-making
Not only are the dashboards essential for communication with the school community, they can also support data-driven decision-making.

A dashboard’s visual snapshot helps provide context for recommendations from the school business officials to the board and the community. It offers a clear, easy way to analyze past performance, compare it with current performance, and set goals for the future.

Schools district’s using eFinancePLUS will have access to the solution’s dashboard. The eFinancePLUS dashboard is a convenient place to simply pull data for the dashboard you want to share with your community.

Topics: efinanceplus