Monday, November 1, 2010

The Importance of Benchmarking

When I’m out visiting chapters, one of the most popular questions I get is, “how is my organization’s fundraising doing compared to the rest of [insert region, state, province, country, world?]”

It’s a natural and logical inquiry. We all want to see how we’re doing compared to others and determine if we need to be doing better, and if so, in what areas. But to be able to tell you how your organization is faring, fundraisers and nonprofits need as accurate and as precise data as possible—as soon as possible.

That’s where the new 2010 Nonprofit Fundraising Survey comes in. It’s a joint project by AFP, the National Center for Charitable Statistics, Guidestar, the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, The Foundation Center and Blackbaud. Now those are some pretty heavy hitters in the nonprofit world, and almost all of us have done separate surveys in the past about the state of the sector, state of fundraising and how giving and volunteering are faring each year.
But in the interest of compiling the most complete, detailed and accurate date ever, we’ve decided to partner together and essentially create a united, comprehensive report. And even better, instead of one big survey at the end of the year, the project involves three surveys conducted throughout the year, which means that you’ll be receiving data more frequently. Each survey will be asking different questions and focusing on different aspects of fundraising, philanthropy and nonprofit operations.

But even as good as the new survey is—and I think it it’s a big step forward for the whole sector—it’s not going to be helpful without YOUR participation. The best, easiest and most thoughtful questions are not much good if no one answers them.

So, please, I hope you’ll take part in the first survey and others surveys that will be conducted in 2011. The current survey should take about five minutes to complete and covers changes in giving you’ve seen over the past year or two. While you will be asked to identify your organization, your specific figures will be kept anonymous, and all data will be reported in the aggregate.

Accurate benchmarking is the starting point for nearly any plan—strategic, fundraising or otherwise—especially as it’s unclear just how much the economy and fundraising are improving in 2010. You’ve got to have good data to figure out where you are in the scheme of things and what you need to improve. The new Nonprofit Fundraising Survey will help, and I urge you to participate!

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