In July 2019, The Opportunity of Collaborative Benchmarking whitepaper was released in partnership between the Blackbaud Institute, NetHope, and NTEN. It focused on answering the question, “How do we as a sector improve by collaboratively sharing our data?”
The goal was twofold:
- To educate on the current value of benchmarking in the social good sector and
- To explore the potential value that organizations see in yet-to-be-benchmarked portions of their business
The whitepaper included a digital survey documenting the sector’s response to a series of questions on benchmarking usage and opportunity. Today, we are following up with your peers’ answers on how and why they use benchmarking as well as areas of recommended future exploration.
The hope is that this becomes a series of conversations regarding how the social good sector can digitally transform through the use of collaborative benchmarking.
Insights into the Collaborative Benchmarking Survey Results
Current State: What did organizations have to say about how they are using benchmarking practices today?
How does my organization identify peers (for benchmarking purposes)?
Organizations were asked to specify the primary methods they use to select “peers” to benchmark against. The top 3 answers (all within 5% of each other) were:
- Mission Delivery Model – How does this organization deliver its mission (e.g., grant funding, advocacy, project delivery)?
- Organizational Budget – What is the organization’s total annual revenue?
- Cause Focus Area – What is the focus of the organization (e.g., children, environment, housing)?
Where does my organization use benchmarking today?
Within this question, organizations were asked to specify which departments or organizational units currently utilized benchmarking services. The top 3 answers were:
What are the biggest barriers to our adoption of benchmarking?
If an organization is not currently able to benchmark successfully, why not? The top 3 answers were:
- Availability of Services – Pre-packaged benchmarking services or solutions are not readily available
- Lack of Resources – This is labeled primarily as a people problem (e.g., lack of people with an organization able to consume and use information)
- Reticence to Share Data – Organizational culture leads to fear of sharing data (even if anonymized) with other organizations
Need in Sector: What did organizations have to say about the potential need for benchmarking in the sector?
Where do we see the most unrealized opportunity in benchmarking?
Organizations were asked to rank the parts of their organization that could benefit the most from benchmarking. The top 3 answers (all within 5% of each other) were:
Feedback and Interpretation
The “current state” responses above reflect the complexity and history of the social good sector.
- It is difficult for many organizations to determine their peers for benchmarking purposes when the definition of “peer” contains many variables (e.g., organizational size, revenue model, mission delivery model, cause focus). Whereas one car manufacturer in the for-profit sector can reasonably benchmark itself against other manufacturers, the same cannot always be said in the social good sector.
- Seeing “Fundraising” as the top current benchmarking practice is unsurprising since fundraising benchmarking began in the late 1980s and has continued with solutions such as Blackbaud DonorCentrics. Program benchmarking is, in many cases, in its infancy. And, although much needed, it has yet to see the adoption of fundraising-focused services.
- Perhaps the most interesting response is the top selection regarding barriers to benchmarking adoption. Organizations choosing “availability of services” are stating that benchmarking is valuable but too hard to do on their own. If the benchmarking service they need (e.g., Finance, HR, Programs, IT) were available, that would remove a key roadblock.
The “future state” response reflects exactly what we were searching for within the whitepaper survey: Is there a benchmarking need that is unfilled within the sector? Compare, for a moment, how organizations responded when stating how they use benchmarking today vs. where they see the most unrealized opportunity:
|Current Usage||Biggest (Future) Opportunity|
Note the similarities between current usage and what organizations see as their biggest potential opportunity. Fundraising and Program benchmarking results remain the same, with both being ranked in the top 2 answers. So, what does this mean?
- Organizations see value in benchmarking. Many are currently using benchmarking services, and they see an opportunity for more.
- They are unable to meet their current needs completely due to a lack of available benchmarking services and resourcing.
- The survey data shows an opportunity within the social good sector for expanded Fundraising and Program benchmarking (e.g., new solutions, extensions to current solutions) as well as an unfulfilled desire for HR benchmarking (e.g., staffing models and allocation, 25% of organizations utilize today vs. 60% of organizations desire it).
What can I do now?
To help contribute to this survey and/or get started with your benchmarking practices, we encourage you to take the following actions:
- Read the whitepaper “The Opportunity of Collaborative Benchmarking”
- Take the survey to provide data on your organization’s current and potential usage of benchmarking
- Learn more about Blackbaud’s benchmarking solutions
- Take NetHope’s Digital Nonprofit Assessment survey to benchmark your organization’s Digital Transformation efforts
- Participate in NTEN’s Tech Accelerate benchmark assessment on staffing and technology investments
If you have direct feedback on what you see as potential new or expanded benchmarking services, please leave a comment below. It’s only through feedback such as this that we can understand and impact the need for benchmarking throughout the social good sector.