Why aren't you benchmarking?
23 February 2019 By Tobin Aldrich
I've written before about my slightly weird preoccupation with charity benchmarking. Edited version, I'm a data geek and there's nothing someone like me loves more than comparative charity fundraising stats.
But more pertinently, I think it's very hard to judge how well any charity's fundraising programme is doing without looking at its direct competitors. How do each of your main activities compare with other charities, how efficient are they and what can you learn from what others are doing better than you? Our sector doesn't have market data that is reliable enough to use a yardstick for most charities. So it makes sense to look at comparing the performance of charity programmes at a more granular level.
But benchmarking is hard to do well. The individual circumstances of organisations in our sector are so different that general comparisons are effectively meaningless. Getting hold of information is difficult. Charity annual reports are not much help, there isn't enough consistency in how fundraising income and costs are recorded. Only the broadest conclusions can be reached.
So I've always been an advocate for proper, detailed benchmarking exercises that make a real effort to standardise how data is collected across charities. As a fundraising director, I always signed my charities up for both the Fundratios and Donorcentrics studies (as soon as I left, the charity would always stop participating, something that can be interpreted in a couple of ways).
Sadly these two studies seem to be no longer being carried out, the last Fundratios was in 2014 I think. They struggled to get participants as both were pretty exhaustive affairs involving real commitment from the charities who were members. I think the lack of such robust data is a real loss to our sector.
I was thus delighted to hear that my friends in Open Creates were introducing a Fundraising Benchmarking product last year. I used the results for a client last year and it was really helpful. Open are redoing the project this year and are looking for participants. This is the best available comparative fundraising data in the UK so I'm really hoping that as many organisations as possible take part. In fact, I don't understand how anyone running a good size fundraising programme wouldn't want to.
Why wouldn't you want to know how well you're doing?
PS if you're interested in Charity Benchmarks 2019, contact Alex Baker at Open Creates