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Are benchmarks useful or not?
18 September 2008, by , in Data Management, No comments

At a recent ASAE Technical Section Council meeting, there was a lot of talk about benchmarking. One participant said his executive director is always asking for benchmarks from other organizations, to see (for example) if they’re spending the right amount of money in the right places.

In other forums, I’ll see people asking about membership retention rates or benchmarks for direct mail effectiveness. I’m here to tell you: stop asking that question. Benchmarking against other organizations doesn’t serve any purpose, because their goals may be different from yours.

Having said that, I do think you should have some form of benchmark (I prefer the term metrics) to measure where you are against where you want to be. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know where we want to be and thus don’t know what metrics we need to measure our progress.

For example, my clients will often ask what percentage of their budget they should spend on a new data management system. My response is always the same: that depends on what you want to accomplish. In this case, the metric is not some arbitrary percentage of the budget, but rather what your business objectives are for a new data management system. Once you know what you want to accomplish and price out a new system, you can then make a decision if the return justifies the investment.

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National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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