I’ve always had a mind for data and statistics, so I’m very interested in the benchmark reports that come out for the nonprofit sector. A co-worker and I even presented our own benchmark findings for Minnesota based organizations [PDF] at the 2011 Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Annual conference. (We also found that databank clients have equal or better numbers across the board as compared to the number in the 2011 NTEN Benchmark study!)

A similar benchmark [PDF] report was put out by Blackbaud several weeks ago. In looking over that report, I was curious to see how thedatabank’s clients’ data would compare with the findings in the report. Despite the fact that the companies are markedly different, the results were almost exactly the same. The similarity in the data results shouldn’t come as too great a surprise because the end target audience is the same: supporters of nonprofits and their missions. Regardless of the software tools used to interact with those constituents, their behavior is largely the same.

What’s important then, is making sure you have the tool set that maximizes your “benefit ÷ cost ratio” (BCR).

Whether you are a databank user, Blackbaud user, or using another vendor for your CRM, what’s most important is making the most of the tools available to you. Part of making the most of your tool set is knowing what all is at your disposal, and understanding why that’s important.

What’s also important, after you know what’s in your toolbox, is actually using what you have! For example, I’ve had a gym membership for about 6 months now, but in the past few weeks I’ve been very reluctant to make the most of the gym equipment (“tools”) I’ve paid for. Was my 3 trips to gym this month really worth $40? (…no).

The same consideration should go into your choice of tools to accomplish your mission.

Are you paying for tools you are not using?
–eliminate cost: BCR goes up

Are there valuable tools you are already paying for (or are free) that you should be utilizing more?
–increase benfit: BCR goes up

Do you have the right set of tools at the right price?
–re-evaluate the whole ratio: end up with a higher BCR

The right tools help you to be efficient and effective. If there are processes or workflows that you know are inefficient and eat up precious staff time, you probably are in need of a better or different tool. Your nonprofit muscle isn’t going to get any stronger unless you are working out with the right equipment.