Benchmarking Data You Can Use: Live from #BBCON | npENGAGE

Benchmarking Data You Can Use: Live from #BBCON

By on Oct 1, 2013


BBCON Benchmark Data for Arts and Cultural Organizations

Blackbaud hosted its annual conference for nonprofits from September 29 through October 1 in National Harbor, MD. Nonprofit experts from around the country presented best practices to over 2000 attendees.

It’s easy to host a benchmarking session and just present data. The audience is able to take notes on numbers and try and gauge their organization’s success, but it’s more difficult to make those data points actionable or to provide insight that people can leverage. The goal of this session was to provide the data but also provide analysis and insight that would help organizations take action when needed.

Why benchmark?

Jay Odell, Vice President of Altru at Blackbaud, discussed why benchmarking data is important. Most organizations aren’t lacking in opinions on where to focus, but benchmarking data tells you where you need to focus. If you have an objective number you can prioritize your focus. Additionally, once you’ve prioritized your focus a benchmark helps you set a realistic and applicable goal.

The data discussed in this presentation was pulled from 200 Altru customers, which are organizations in the arts and cultural vertical of the nonprofit market, and is from the last 12 months ending in Q1 2013.

So what data was discussed?

Membership Data

  • The median for membership retention is 50% and the median growth in membership revenue is 14%
  • There is a lot of emphasis on moving people to higher membership levels resulting in these higher membership revenues.
  • Julia Kennard, CFO at EdVenture, offered insight on the negative impact that using Groupon has had on EdVenture’s retention rate because it relied on a discount to drive a membership sale. They saw a spike in membership revenue, but a decrease in general admission ticket sales and a lower retention rate. Julia’s advice was that Groupon should only be used when you have additional capacity: particular days that are slow, seats to fill, etc.

Fundraising Data

  • According the Blackbaud Index, overall giving is up 1.8% for the three months ending in July and Online Giving is up 14.5% for the same period compared to last year.
  • Large organizations are now growing at the same rate as smaller organizations.
  • Historically, smaller organizations were growing faster than larger organizations because of online tools. This has leveled out because everyone has now caught up with the technology.

Admissions Data

  • The average growth in attendance is up 11% YOY
  • This is probably attributable to an improving economy.
  • Jennifer Kilmer, Director at Washington State Historical Society, highlighted that her attendance has grown 23% YOY and it is a result of increased rotation of exhibits, a wider variety of exhibit themes, and increased marketing budget.

Online Transactions

  • About 3% of all transactions are now happening online. The upper quartile of organizations is seeing 10% of transactions happen online.
  • This trend is because orgs are now able to market for online purchases and eliminate or minimize transaction fees.
  • Why is it a benefit to offer online transactions? Encouraging transactions online allows your organization to repurpose staff members that were handling transactions in person and increase efficiencies.

Email Addresses

  • Typical nonprofits have 20-30% of their records with email addresses. Of the data presented, these arts and cultural organizations have 55% of their records with email addresses. The upper quartile of organizations has an email address for 75% of their constituents.
  • On average, organizations in the dataset saw their email house file grow by 17%
  • The increase in email address attachment is attributable to organizations recognizing the importance of email address, running “go green” campaigns, and offering online ticketing.
  • At Jennifer’s organization, 49% of her constituents have email addresses. She captures email addresses from a guest books people sign when they visit. The important thing to remember if you capture email addresses in this fashion is to sync your records with your database.

What do these statistics mean for your organization? Are you using benchmarks?

Jay Odell is the Vice President and General Manager of Altru, Blackbaud’s General Admission Ticketing Solution. Jay has worked with arts and cultural organizations for the past three years monitoring industry trends and leading efforts to enable organizations to have the tools they need for growth and success.

Jennifer Kilmer is a director at the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma, WA. During her tenure, Jennifer has helped Washington State Historical Society put an emphasis on fundraising and understanding the value of leveraging quality data.

Julia Kennard is the CFO at EdVenture Children’s Museum in Columbia, SC. She has been with EdVenture for 10 years and created a data driven culture that has allowed them to make successful strategic growth decisions.


Ryan King is the Senior Channel Marketing Manager for Arts and Cultural Organizations. Ryan has over 5 years experience working with nonprofits to increase their revenues via fundraising, ticketing, and online marketing. Follow Ryan on Twitter for tips on fundraising and marketing: @wryan_ki


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