Benchmarks – what they are and why you want them

by Sonja Wiencke

by Twine

1st May 2018

The reason Twine is more useful to you than most data-related tools in the social sector is that benchmarking is built into every feature. So what does that mean and how can you use these benchmarks to serve your community better?

Benchmarking is a data geek’s word for comparing quantitative data points. Within Twine, benchmarking happens both against the other organisations using Twine, and against national datasets where possible. For example, we compare an organisation’s average salary per staff FTE against the national minimum wage, and we show your organisation’s level of grant dependence in comparison to that of other Twine users.

Benchmarking is useful because on their own, most of the numbers don’t mean much. If you ask me about intercultural cohesion in my community, and I tell you it’s 70%, is that good or bad? There would be no way of knowing unless we compare it to an appropriate datapoint.

In this case, we can compare it to the national Community Life Survey dataset, because the survey question on Twine is the exact same as the one in the government survey: “To what extent do you agree or disagree that your local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together?” You can therefore see whether people in your community agree with this more or less than the national or regional average, which indicates whether 70% is good or bad*.

To make it even more useful, you can compare both of these over time: 70% may be not very good, but is it better or worse than the scores from the survey we ran half a year ago? If our community’s scores are improving even minimally compared to the national or regional average over the year(s), we are doing really well!

The next step is of course to figure out what to do with that knowledge. That comes from looking at all your different datapoints, compared against the relevant benchmarks, and seeing where you could improve. If you can see within Twine that your share of grant income is significantly larger than that of most Twine users, you can discuss that with your directors and board members, and you can also see the income streams that similar organisations rely on within Twine for inspiration.

On the next level, benchmarking becomes truly powerful when you can make connections between the different indicators. Our team at the Power to Change Research Institute can do that – we can for example look at all the survey data on customer satisfaction, and on marketing spend and volunteer activities, and then feed back to you what spending and volunteering looks like at organisations with the most satisfied customers.

As you will have noticed by this point, everything useful about benchmarking relies on a large number of participants. We currently have 114 organisations signed up to Twine, and are set for considerable growth in both users and data produced. So, on your marks, get your volunteers signed up and send some surveys – every bit of data you put in will pay back multiple times!   

*We are working on some pretty visualisations for this - watch this space and collect some data in the meantime!

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