The Importance of Collaborative Benchmarking in the Nonprofit Sector | npENGAGE

The Importance of Collaborative Benchmarking in the Nonprofit Sector

By on Jul 30, 2019


The importance of benchmarking data in the nonprofit sector.

The nonprofit community is always eager to do one thing: learn from each other.  Whether it’s via the Blackbaud Community, local networking sessions or even events such as bbcon, nonprofits readily collaborate with their peers on best practices.  However, there’s one thing they (like most of my kids) find much harder to share: their data.

The Opportunity of Collaborative Benchmarking whitepaper from the Blackbaud Institute explores just that concept: How do we as a sector improve by collaboratively sharing our data?  As we look across the industry, we know that demand for social good services is rising, and yet revenue is not increasing fast enough to meet it.  Underscoring these challenges, many organizations lack the measurement frameworks to answer questions like “How can my organization improve?” or “Where should I be investing next?”

Created in partnership with NetHope and NTEN, this whitepaper explores what organizations stand to gain by comparatively measuring their performance against their peers. By introducing collaborative benchmarking, organizations can not only generate new ideas for improving processes, approaches, and technologies, but also guide the creation of key metrics and drive measurable change.

The Opportunity of Collaborative Benchmarking explains the three common barriers why benchmarking has not been universally adopted yet in the nonprofit sector: fear, lack of existing standards or consistent data and the cost of getting started. In some cases, an entire organization might not feel comfortable with benchmarking for these reasons, while in other cases, a single team within an organization might be ready but the other departments are not. The whitepaper shows how to navigate these barriers by identifying common opportunities and examples of successful benchmarking.

Most importantly, this white paper is accompanied by a survey for organizations and social good professionals to share how they understand the value of benchmarking within their work.  The goal with the whitepaper and survey-based research is twofold:

  1. To help the sector understand the power of collaborative benchmarking
  2. To identify areas in which the entire sector can benefit from benchmarking services that may not even exist today!

My ask is simple.  If you don’t already see the value inherent in collaborative benchmarking, please take a moment to reach the whitepaper and reflect on how it can move your organization forward.  If you use benchmarking services or even simply have thoughts on how they can best serve this sector, please help our organizations (NTEN, NetHope, Blackbaud) by giving us your feedback on our sector-wide survey.


Linton is a 22-year veteran of the social good industry, having worked on digital, CRM, marketing and analytics technologies in the nonprofit, higher education, association & membership and healthcare markets. He is a former foundation director, grant writer, database administrator, business analyst and architect.

Comments (14)

  • Sage Evans says:

    I love how you called out fear as the top barrier. It’s totally true at most organizations!

  • Amy Wieck says:

    Thank you for the informative article on benchmarking.

  • Alicia Barevich says:

    Cool stuff, thanks!

  • KaLeigh says:

    I LOVE this idea. We are transparent about our data to donors, why not other sectors?

  • Nicole Holt says:

    Thanks so much! Looking forward to diving into the report.

  • Jose says:

    “Lack of existing standards of consistent data”

    This is a common issue, especially when there’s a change in staff. Every person develops their own standard of collecting and reporting data. The standard ends up changing when the new person in charge of the data starts working. When asking for a report that spans for over a year or two, pulling information can get especially tricky.

  • S. Watson says:

    Thank you!

  • Treva Kennedy says:

    Thanks for the article. There is definitely fear when it comes to benchmarking in peer groups.

  • Treva Kennedy says:

    Thank you for the article. There is definitely fear when it comes to benchmarking with peers. Our Business Manager has been cleaning up files getting ready for a conversion, so I’m hoping that once we convert we can benchmark.

  • Karen says:

    Great article Linton! Fear would be our top concern when benchmarking in peer groups. I think your points are on point and we will be looking at this in the future. Thank you. – Karen

  • Claudia says:

    Great points, thanks!

  • Claudia says:

    There is fear in benchmarking data, along with inconsistent data practice and an unclear idea of where to start. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sarah says:

    The barriers identified are so true, but working through them is so important!

  • JoAnn says:

    Thank you.

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