Balanced Scorecard in Nonprofit and Government Organizations

Review an example of the non-profit scorecard: learn how nonprofit organizations can use the Balanced Scorecard framework, find out what objectives and indicators should be mapped in the financial perspective.

Recently I was approached by an executive director of a nonprofit who asked me about the possibility of the Balanced Scorecard implementation in their organization. His biggest concern was about the financial perspective; and for sure, most standard financial indicators were not applicable in their case.

My answer was short:

“If you have a strategy and you want to execute it effectively, then you can design and implement a BSC for your nonprofit.”

Non-profit strategy map
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In this article I’d like to show how government and nonprofit organizations can adapt the Balanced Scorecard approach, and what to do with the financial perspective of the BSC. As always, a good example will help to illustrate my points.

Why a nonprofit need a Balanced Scorecard

Why do nonprofits need the Balanced Scorecard?

There are two reasons for this.

1. It helps to describe and execute strategy

First of all BSC helps to describe a strategy, focus actions on what matters, and finally execute the strategy successfully.

For sure, some nonprofits might face problems with an articulation of the strategy, and so following the Balanced Scorecard approach helps to frame thoughts about strategy in the right way.

2. It helps to talk in the same language with those who make donations

Many donations to the nonprofit organizations are made by for-profit companies. Executives from these companies use BSC for their strategic planning.

In this sense, non-profits that have a strategy described with a Balanced Scorecard have more chances to get funding, as they are talking with financial donors in the same business language.

Here is a short video where Professor Robert S. Kaplan, co-author of the Balanced Scorecard concept, summarizes some key benefits of this framework for nonprofits:

Where should nonprofit place a Financial perspective?

In most cases, for-profit organizations agree (see the workshop exercise) about the order of the BSC’s perspectives: 1. Finance perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Financial, 2. Customer perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Customer, Internal processes perspective of the Balanced Scorecard 3. Operational, 4. Learning and growth perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Learning. Within the nonprofits, there is no such agreement yet.

The logic here is to put the most important long-term outcome (which, in the case of nonprofits, are not financial outcomes) on the top of the diagram.

  • Robert S. Kaplan in his article[1] recommends nonprofits putting long-term mission objectives (like “reduction in poverty, diseases, pollution”) on the top.

What’s goes next?

As it was explained above, for-profit business are those who frequently invest into the social programs of nonprofit organizations. They see financial indicators on their own scorecards, so they like to have a similar way to track the performance of their social investments in nonprofits. Probably for this very reason many nonprofits choose a standard order of their perspectives:

Standard order:

  • 1. Finance perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Financial
  • 2. Customer perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Customer
  • 3. Internal processes perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Operational
  • 4. Learning and growth perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Learning
In some scorecard I saw financial perspective was located on the bottom of BSC diagram.

Managers in such organizations treat finance as a resource and don’t want to have it on the top. The problem with this approach is that it will be hard to track the cause-and-effect logic of such BSC.

Finance on the bottom:

  • 1. Customer perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Customer
  • 2. Internal processes perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Operational
  • 3. Learning and growth perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Learning
  • 4. Finance perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Finance

These are two most popular approaches to the BSC diagrams for non profits. There are a number of others as well, like renaming “Finance” perspective into “Success” or “Stakeholder interests”[2], or putting it on the same level with Customer perspective[3].

  • A test question that one need to ask in these cases is whether the cause-and-effect logic is still trackable on such strategy maps or not.

Who are the customers?

When we were talking about Customer perspective of the Balanced Scorecard Customer perspective of the for-profit’s BSC, it was mentioned that customers are not only end-users of the product/service, but partners and other 3rd parties that work with a company. Such classification helps to define more specific goals for each group of the customers.
A nonprofit organization deals with at least two groups of customers:

  • Paying customers (customers that make donations)
  • Receiving customers (those who benefit from the existence of nonprofit)

Also, there might be mixed cases. Let’s take any professional community as an example with an annual membership fee, its members are both paying and receiving customers at the same time.

An example of nonprofit scorecard

Now, let’s build a Nonprofit Balanced Scorecard that will take into account the nuances described above. I’ll use BSC Designer Online as an automation tool. You can re-use the template that I’ll create to build your own scorecard.

Adding strategic themes

Nonprofits deal with two type of customers – financial donors and recipients. On the respective strategy map we might need to distinguish goals related to these two groups.

For this purpose our team used a “strategic theme” function.

Strategic theme in non-profit BSC for financial donors

Instead of a one “Customer intimacy” theme we created two:

  • Customers – Financial Donors (blue color on the map)
  • Customers – Recipients (green color on the map)

A strategy map legend for non-profit strategy scorecardTwo other standard schemes – Operational Excellence and Product Leadership remained unchanged.

Preparing perspectives and nonprofit mission

On the next step, we prepared four BSC perspectives with proper descriptions.

On the top of the diagram there is a long-term mission objective (like reduction in poverty or pollution).

Mission statement for non-profit

Mission for nonprofit is on the top of BSC diagram

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Objectives and cause-and-effect links between them

We have added some generic objectives to the strategy map. Each objective was assigned to a strategic theme, and cause-and-effect connections were specified.

Initiatives and KPIs

Finally, we aligned some initiatives and metrics with business goals. Let’s take the “Stability and Growth” objective from a financial perspective as an example to review.

  • An initiative “Balance income / expenses” was aligned with this objective (we chose to visualize this initiative on the map)
  • A lagging indicator “Net amount of funds raised” was aligned with this objective (we chose gauge chart and progress bar as the visualization means for this indicator)
  • A leading indicator “Financial donors” is the result of the connection of this goal with the “Financial donors” goal from the Customer perspective (the lagging part of the Financial donors goal contributes as a leading indicator to the “Stability and Growth” goal).

Check out this article to learn more about leading and lagging metrics.

Stability and growth goal on non-profit scorecard
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Here is the strategy map that we had as a result:
Non-profit strategy map
View View Nonprofit Balanced Scorecard online in BSC Designer Nonprofit Balanced Scorecard online - sign-up with a free account for immediate access to 16 scorecard templates.
Here is an example of a BI dashboard for a non-profit:
Non-profit BI dashboard
View View Nonprofit Balanced Scorecard online in BSC Designer Nonprofit Balanced Scorecard online - sign-up with a free account for immediate access to 16 scorecard templates.

I believe we have reviewed the most important nuances about nonprofit BSC – the rest is very similar to what we discussed talking about classical BSCs.

If you want to go ahead with your research, I’d recommend:

Feel free to share your thoughts and ask your questions in the comments.

Sign up with a free trial account at BSC Designer OnlineUse View Nonprofit Balanced Scorecard online in BSC Designer Nonprofit Balanced Scorecard discussed in this article as a starting template for your own scorecard!

Sign-up with a free account for immediate access to 16 scorecard templates.

View Nonprofit Balanced Scorecard online

References

  1. ^ Strategic Performance Measurement and Management in Nonprofit Organizations Robert S. Kaplan, Jossey-Bass, A Publishing Unit of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2001
  2. ^ Financial Perspective of the Balanced Scorecard, Aleksey Savkin, 2014, BSC Designer
  3. ^ Implementing A Balanced Scorecard In A Not-For-Profit Organization,  Michael Martello, John G. Watson, Michael J. Fischer, Journal of Business & Economics Research – September 2008 Volume 6, Number 9
  4. ^ Balanced Scorecard Step-by-Step for government and nonprofit agencies, Paul R. Niven, 2008, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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