The Point of Comparison

March 10, 2016

Whether it comes from our trustees, governors, institutional leaders, or from our own team, sooner or later someone asks:

“So, what are other similar organisations raising?”

Or, “Who should we be benchmarking ourselves against?”

Or, “How can they raise X when we only raise Y?”

There is an increasing drive to benchmark our fundraising performance in order to understand, through comparison with others, whether we are raising as much as we can, and whether we are investing enough in fundraising. With increasing interest in fundraising amongst trustees and governing bodies, this appetite for benchmarking data will ever increase. How can trustees be assured that their organisation is getting the return on investment that it should? How can they know if their fundraising team is performing well? Can they only truly know through the insight that comparative data brings?

At this point, fundraisers can instinctively feel nervous. We all know that you can’t compare apples and pears. We all know what a blunt tool benchmarking can be. If trustees simply look at the amount raised and amount spent, then the comparison is meaningless. One organisation may have an entirely different ‘constituency base’ from another organisation. They may have been fundraising for a shorter or longer period. They may be employing different fundraising techniques, they may have different projects to focus on, different leadership, and so on. For benchmarking to provide real insight, it must take into account these variances and enable an ‘apples to apples’ and ‘pears to pears’ comparison, and truly allow you to compare what works and what doesn’t work.

The ROSS CASE survey has gained an admirable track record in providing high-quality data to inform Higher Education fundraising. Fundratios run by the Centre for Interfirm Comparison has provided similar data to the charity sector – and is often cited in investment proposals for investment in fundraising teams.

With the increasing interest and investment in schools fundraising over recent years, IDPE has been developing school fundraising benchmarking. I am delighted that Graham-Pelton will be working in partnership with IDPE on their latest benchmarking survey. The survey will launch in November 2016, and the report will come out in Spring 2017.

As a consultancy firm, we have a passionate commitment to data-driven fundraising. Benchmarking data is an invaluable tool for strategic planning and fundraising performance management, and can empower trustees and governing bodies to invest with confidence. Put simply, it provides part of the answer to those questions:

“How much can we raise?”

“What do we need to invest in fundraising?”

“How are we doing?”

So if benchmarking provides only part of the answer, how do we provide a complete answer? To complete the picture, we must combine benchmarking with a high-quality assessment of the potential of our unique constituency base. Then we should overlay this quantitative data with high-quality discussions with our donors and potential donors, our trustees and leaders, and with our fundraising team.

In summary, the answer to how much we can raise is found in insightful benchmarking data, in a careful analysis of our own constituency data, and in the views of those who care most about our organisations.

-Susie Hills, Managing Director

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