Communicating Benchmarking Project Data Internally

Thomas Duggan CFRE, Head of Fundraising, Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia & Medecins Sans Frontieres New Zealand

Fundraisers are fascinated by the results that come out of the Benchmarking Project.  We can spend hours or days going through the minutiae of how our average gift compares to the market across different channels. However, our colleagues in executive and board positions may not be as enthusiastic.  This is certainly their loss.

Even if they are not keen to dig into the Power BI filters, it’s important and useful for us fundraisers to present the benchmarking results to the directors of the organisation.  They ultimately have responsibility for signing off on our strategy and budgets.  Demonstrating that our planning is based on empirical data helps us get buy in. This article provides tips for how you can bring senior executive and governance functions of your organisation across the results of The Benchmarking project.

What do you want to say?

Before you show anyone anything, it’s important to determine what narrative you want to tell.  This needs to be grounded in the reality of the data – otherwise your strategy will not work. Based on the data, you need to tell a story about what it means and how your organisation should respond. For example: ‘In 2022, regular giving increased after a decline the previous year’ – I use this data to tell the narrative that it remains a resilient product and we should continue to invest in it. When you have two or three things that you want your senior leadership to know, you can highlight the data that backs up your narrative.

You don’t have to show them everything.

The leadership of your organisation is time-poor and focused on many things that have nothing to do with fundraising. This means that you want to keep focused on the things that really matter and remember. Less is more when you want to get your point across.  I focus on showing them:
    1. What the key trends are – using the Total Income by product graph on the Income page.
    2. Where we sit in the sector – using the Income by Charity page.
    3. One or two more detailed slides that reinforce my narrative.
Although I might show some comparison graphs which filter for things like my organisation’s sector or size, I don’t want to overwhelm senior leadership with information. It could dilute my key messages.

It’s great to start with the Total Income graph on the Income page. This shows the audience that fundraising is growing. Growth is important as it reminds those controlling the budget that fundraising is a good investment. In 2021 income went down year on year as the huge amount raised during the 2020 bushfires wasn’t repeated.  The coding on this graph showed that (and that 2020 has been a blip).

The Income By Charity page reminds your board and executive where you sit in the scheme of things. This is an especially important reminder if you’re not a large organisation. It offers a good sense check that you will not have the same level of resources that others might. It’s also great for demonstrating what fundraising models other organisations use. It’s difficult to get bigger with an overreliance on one fundraising product.

To demonstrate the other points I want to make, I may use one or two other pages from the report. This year one of my key points is about where major donors come from and the importance of a strong single giving program in building the pipeline.  I was able to use the HV Value Migration page to show that most people who donate $10k or more, started off giving us less, and most substantially less.

Final Tip

One last point to make is that using The Benchmarking Project data is a great way to show off your values as a fundraiser. It says that you look carefully at what is going on in the sector and you base your strategic decisions on real world data and rigorous investigation rather than guesswork. It demonstrates your skill, savvy and strategic thinking to the people in charge – which is always a good thing!