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4 Common Problems Data Measurement Can Solve

Jasmine Jones
Published:  01/16/2019

Problems and solutions illustrationBased on an adaptation of “Using AHP’s Benchmarking Data” webinar featuring AHP members Nancy Gregovich, foundation operations officer at Intermountain Healthcare, Tamra von Schroeck, senior director of operations and finance at Dignity Health Philanthropy, and Carrie Boardwick, CFRE, vice president of philanthropy operations at MedStar Health.

Benchmarking describes the process of comparing one set of data to a standard. Yet, every organization’s standard can be different depending on the outcomes they want to achieve. Is benchmarking really needed in health care philanthropy? How does an organization decide what standard they want to compare themselves to and how can they apply their results to their own operations?

Here are four of the most common problems an organization may face and how benchmarking and data measurement can be used as a guide to solve each issue.

1. Lack of performance measurement and management

Having a solid plan for internal benchmarking is crucial to a foundation’s overall performance, to set goals for a team and to hold them accountable for desired outcomes. Carrie Boardwick, CFRE, vice president in philanthropy operations at MedStar Health, helped her team integrate personal dashboards into their tactics for measurement.

“We heard from our own team that they needed to know what their individual expectations were,” Boardwick said. “They knew what their goals were at the individual hospitals/entities, but not necessarily their own performance metrics.”

Using this as a baseline for internal benchmarking is an integral part of an operations strategy because it allows you to monitor specific areas that best support an organization’s overall performance. Boardwick recommends implementing individual benchmarking as a standard best practice for any organization with a strong emphasis on major gifts.

2. Concerns about merging with another entity and maintaining data integrity

Even outside of the world of philanthropy, data integrity is a huge concern, especially considering the increased amount of access we have to information. No two organizations are alike, further complicating the issue.

“I’ve been in this industry for probably 15-17 years,” said Nancy Gregovich, foundation operations officer at Intermountain Healthcare. “And each shop I have worked in has had a different way of counting and accounting for money.”

Benchmarking against another entity that you’ll soon be merging with provides you with more comprehensive definitions and makes your data more reliable. It’s also helpful in those conversations you may have while planning to target problem areas and create an effective and cohesive strategy for improvement.

“Many of us are either acquiring new hospitals or health care entities,” Gregovich said. “In order to become more relevant to our system’s strategic plans, we think that having more reliable data will lend itself very well to us gaining credibility.”

3. Difficulty increasing credibility with your C-suite

Communication with the C-suite is already a difficult task for many foundations, considering the effort it takes to ensure your goals and expectations align with each other and your organization’s mission overall. Using data as a common language can make this task a bit easier.

“Data-driven best practices and performance measurement are imperative to our success if we want to have credibility with our c-suites” Gregovich said.

Dignity Health uses a form of external benchmarking through The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “Philanthropy 400” recognition, which identifies the top 400 nonprofits that raised the most in private donations for each year.

“While it’s not impact- or efficiency-based, we do find value at Dignity Health and we found it’s helpful from several perspectives,” said Tamra von Schroeck, senior director of operations and finance at Dignity Health Philanthropy. “The first being the national visibility that it offers. Second, our board, hospital and foundation leadership love the data. They love how it supports further investment in FTEs and it also supports our recruitment efforts.”

This is a great tactic to use for benchmarking, especially if your organization is similar to those high performing organizations. Not only does this narrow your cohort to those that are comparable to you in performance, but it also can be used as a motivator for your leadership to show them the work you are investing in is paying off.

4. Barriers in advocating for additional funding for your FTEs

Every foundation’s case for resources is different, but many participants in the Report on Giving use their data to make changes to their staff, whether it’s rearranging their staffing mix or advocating for more fundraising FTEs. With the latter, von Schroeck spoke about the similarities within her operations.

“We’re a Catholic-sponsored organization, so there are a couple similarly Catholic-sponsored organizations out there that we know very well,” von Schroeck said. “So we do share info with each other, as well as with other local health care organizations that just happen to be in our markets.”

Creating a group of organizations related to your own is an important first step, whether it’s by similar entities, those who are local to you or by the number of beds you support. Considering the characteristics of your cohort will help you better define a group that you’d like to measure your performance against.

“We find that the information supports investment in additional FTEs,” von Schroeck said. “The correlation is definitely shown there, and we can glean information regarding increased fundraising per FTE. As newer FTEs mature over time, we can see the proof is in the pudding that the longer a fundraising FTE is around, fundraising revenue does come to fruition.”

The 2019 Report on Giving data collection cycle will be announced toward the end of January with instructions on how to sign up for this year’s survey. If you would like to learn more about benchmarking or are interested in how AHP’s benchmarking tools can be used in the context above, please contact AHP’s Research Specialist Jasmine Jones at jasmine@ahp.org or visit www.ahp.org/reportongiving for more information.

To learn more about using benchmarking data from an operations perspective, check out the full webinar on this topic here.

Meet The Author

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Jasmine Jones
Research Specialist
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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