Third Sector Performance Dashboard

Primary purpose
Potential benefits
Who can use the tool?
What resources are needed?
Development, ownership and support
Third sector examples
Further sources of information

Primary purpose

Social Firms UK has developed a performance management tool called The Third Sector Performance Dashboard. 1 It grew out of the Social Firm Performance Dashboard that was originally designed for Social Firms and emerging Social Firms to use as an internal performance management tool for their own business improvement. The current version is designed to enable any organisation within the third sector, ranging from small voluntary sector organisations through to social enterprises and Social Firms, to monitor their progress against objectives and report as appropriate internally and externally on actual performance. The tool acknowledges that organisations in the third sector are typically short of time and resources and for that reason it has templates and samples for organisations to use as they are or adapt if they have the time. It is designed to be practical, user-friendly, easily implemented, and realistic for an organisation like a social enterprise to use within a busy business.


The Third Sector Performance Dashboard is a CD-Rom tool that is based on the Balanced Scorecard 2 whereby organisations attempt to achieve a balance across the main areas of their business. It has been designed to help social enterprises, small voluntary organisations and Social Firms to manage and improve their performance by providing a template of typical key objectives (which can be altered to suit particular organisations) and typical measures for each of those objectives (which likewise can be edited) allowing an organisation’s management team to set targets to improve current performance supported by an appropriate action plan.

Under headings such as governance, finance/funding and people and work-life balance, third sector organisations can either use the templates that are already provided for them within the software or set their own objectives and measures. Using the tool as an integrated way of running their organisation enables users to monitor their progress against their objectives (using a red, amber, green ‘traffic light’ system) and report to stakeholders accordingly. It can also be used for individual projects or programmes that need to achieve certain outcomes.

The licensed software can be saved to a server for multiple usage and is promoted as being user-friendly, accessible and adaptable. It holds a significant number of resources in the Resource Folder including template policies and procedures, distance travelled questionnaires, flexible working policies and a range of internet links to other resources and sources of information

Potential benefits

  • The Dashboard is simple. It can focus users’ minds on the types of things they should be placing importance on as a third sector organisation. The customer perspective helps the organisation to focus on the quality of products that the organisation makes (goods) or provides (services).
  • Although there is no accreditation or validation associated with the Dashboard, it provides a useful framework for organisations that are following the Star Social Firm Quality Standard developed by Social Firms UK.
  • As an internally driven self-assessment tool it can help third sector organisations to check their performance against key objectives in clear and measurable form. Records are kept by the organisation itself, without having to report externally, and they can therefore be used honestly and frankly as a gauge of good practice.
  • Although a primarily internally driven and orientated tool, the Dashboard will allow an organisation to adapt and print out reports including the Dashboard information for external audiences.

Potential limitations

  • One of the benefits – its simplicity – can also be one of its potential limitations. It is essentially a template of quantitative indicators, which doesn’t explore the longer-term outcomes or impacts of meeting these objectives.
  • The Dashboard on its own doesn’t offer its users any external recognition such as an accreditation, a mark or a brand.
  • While it may be reassuring to external stakeholders that the organisation has a management system in place, the Dashboard will not be directly visible or useful to customers, procurement officers or funders.

Who can use the Dashboard?

The Dashboard can be used by any sized third sector organisation that may edit the objectives accordingly within the software to meet their own purposes.

What resources are needed?


As data is collected and entered internally, anyone within the organisation can be nominated or volunteer to complete this task. Social Firms UK recommends that one individual have overall responsibility for ensuring that data is entered regularly.

Proficiencies or skills

No specialised skills or prior knowledge of ‘proving and improving’ are necessary. It will help if data for some of the indicators are already being collected (e.g., finance information).

Staff time

Social Firms UK estimates that the first use of the Dashboard can be completed over the course of two to three days in which the person responsible collects and inputs data for the various measures in order to be able to create meaningful reports. It may take some time to get accustomed to the software and methods of data collection and to set up data collection systems if they aren’t already in place.

Courses, support, and information

The CD-Rom is free to Social Firms UK members; there will be a charge to non-members and a discounted rate for members of the Social Enterprise Coalition (SEC) and National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Every user of the CD-Rom needs to apply to Social Firms UK for a license in order to be able to operate the software. Although the CD-Rom offers help menus and tutorials designed to make it as self-sufficient as possible, the Social Firms UK’s Quality Support Manager and a range of associates may support the product on a one-to-one basis at an additional charge.

It is also available to national third sector support agencies in other countries that wish to make it available to their members respectively. For this purpose, the initial cost is £400 for the first 10 licences and then £200 per 10 licences thereafter. Users will need to obtain their licence number from Social Firms UK, irrespective of which country they are in.

Development, ownership and support

Social Firms UK developed the tool, with EQUAL funding as part of the Social Enterprise Partnership Quality & Impact Project. The licensed software is jointly owned by Social Firms UK and ADA Assessment Solutions Ltd, the software developer.

Third sector examples

  • Pack-IT, a Social Firm in Cardiff developed the ‘typical dashboard’ sample that is included on the CD-ROM.
  • The Tool Factory
  • Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC)
  • Canterbury Oast Trust

Further sources of information


1 With the support of I’SE and the EQUAL Adjust the Balance project.

2 For more details on the Balanced Scorecard see the website for the Balanced Scorecard Institute at


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