5 Questions That Should Guide Your Performance Benchmarking
Data can be scary, but it’s become an integral part of our lives—inside and outside our professional lives. It’s too easy to get bogged down by masses of information and comparisons and even more difficult as organizations are increasingly pushing to become more data driven. The good news is there are a couple of useful actions you can take that will keep you in control of your data while comparing yourself to industry benchmarks and transforming your organization’s decision-making processes.
Here are five quick tips to keep in mind when you’re starting out using benchmarking data.
1. What is your purpose for benchmarking?
What are you trying to get out of benchmarking data? Are you advocating to build capacity with more staff? Are you trying to illustrate budget gaps that a capital campaign could fill? There’s often a sequence of complex tasks coming from many different directions, so how do you address each one?
To set yourself up for success, set a straightforward goal of what you want to achieve through benchmarking. Use clear objectives that align with your strategic goals and maintain transparent communication with all involved contributors (including your staff) to cultivate a path for progress. In a recent issue of Healthcare Philanthropy, author Steven A. Reed, president of Performance Advantage N.A., reminds us that “remembering the ‘why’ is critical to what we do, although it can easily get mired among day-to-day tasks. Keep the ‘why’ of your organization front and center.”
2. Who are you providing benchmarking data to?
You wouldn’t want to present data trends to your CFO using the same approach you would implement with your donors. Having a solid set of data is a great start, but identifying who you’re presenting that data to will push you to craft your message in a way that better represents your goals. Customizing dashboards to what your audience is looking for is key to narrating the story you want to tell. For more information on how to make this happen, check out this webinar on how three operations professionals use benchmarking dashboards. Using data is also a great way to build relationships with your donors.
3. What metrics are most important to your audience?
Once you have your audience established, you can figure out which metrics should be used as evidence in your case. Consider how your audience will interact with this data: do they want a report with graphs and trends for key metrics or just a clean spreadsheet with the areas of their concern highlighted?
AHP provides a set of key metrics in fundraising in the annual Report on Giving that are a good starting point when you’re first digging into benchmarking data, including return on investment, cost to raise a dollar, net fundraising revenue, total expenses, and total endowment. Stepping on the scale and seeing where you stand with these data points can help you better understand what information would best suit your audience’s needs. Learn more about AHP's benchmarking study from Jory Pritchard-Kerr, FAHP, a long-time participant, in this webinar.
“You don’t know what’s effective until you find your starting point,” Pritchard-Kerr says. “How do you know for sure and how do you know whether you’re improving if you’re not measuring the same thing year over year over year?”
4. Who are you comparing yourself to?
Are you benchmarking internally or externally? Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Internally, benchmarking can be helpful if you are looking to make more centralized changes with your executive team, such as budgeting for the fiscal year or allocating staff time. External benchmarking data is helpful in conversations with executives and boards to make administrative decisions, including things like increasing staff in a particular area or demonstrating stagnation in a particular activity.
You will likely be looking at a mix of these data sets, so understanding which metrics you want and highlighting your objectives throughout the process will encourage you to stay on track. Reviewing internal metrics with your executive team will help all engaged stakeholders maintain transparency with one another and encourage a collaborative atmosphere.
5. I’ve already gathered the data…now what?
One of the more exciting (and simultaneously painful) parts of data analytics is sitting down to look through the results and draw well informed conclusions based on data trends. Most shops have some sort of data visualization tool that helps them create dashboards for benchmarking (e.g., Tableau and Power BI), but it may not always be easy to drill down to get the fundraising performance metrics you’re looking for.
AHP’s benchmarking platform, which gathers data annually through the Report on Giving survey, offers a free scorecard for all participants as a springboard to explore other performance areas.
Data continues to be an attractive yet intimidating part of the work we do. The struggle with the healthcare philanthropy industry is standardizing practices and understanding the metrics that drive all outcomes. AHP strives to stay up to date with the ebbs and flows of the industry—especially around data analytics—by updating the Standards Manual and modifying the current Report on Giving survey and benchmarking reports that come from it. Getting involved in this data collection now is the only way to ensure you’ll reap its full benefits as it evolves. You can participate by answering as few as five questions. Visit our Report on Giving and Benchmarking page to find out more information on the data collection process and how to sign up.