Use Good Benchmarking Data to Your Advantage

Benchmarking April 4, 2018

Association executives need meaningful benchmarks to understand their organization’s performance in key areas. Ongoing ASAE Foundation benchmarking research supports decisions and planning across a variety of organizational metrics and functional areas.

Benchmarking data is a valuable resource, allowing leaders to evaluate where their organizations stand in comparison to others. This knowledge can serve as a powerful starting point for strategic discussions and planning. Data also enables association leaders to make informed decisions—and to show others why those are the right decisions.

To support leaders in these activities, the ASAE Foundation regularly collects benchmarking data across a variety of areas, including compensation and benefits, operating ratios, investments, and functional area policies and procedures. The foundation’s purpose is to provide valuable benchmarks for associations of all types and sizes, so that every association leader can make informed decisions.

Benchmarking is the practice of comparing your organization’s data against data from other organizations. Benchmarks are most meaningful when the data set includes enough information to produce useful peer groups based on organizational characteristics. 

A benchmarking survey needs a large number of responses, but if nearly all responses are from similar organizations, the value of that data decreases for other people or groups. Trade associations need to benchmark against other trade associations; large organizations need to know how they compare to other large organizations; CEOs find the most value in benchmarking salaries against other CEOs in organizations similar to their own.

Benchmarking data enables association leaders to make informed decisions—and to show others why those are the right decisions.

Using Benchmarking Data

Benchmarking data can be applied in various ways, depending on your goals and the characteristics of your association. Organizations often use benchmarking data to make comparisons in key performance areas, enabling leaders to assess and either reaffirm current practices or identify potential areas for change.

Benchmarking also contributes to organizational transparency, particularly in financial matters. Using reliable industry data to guide your investment reserves policies shows stakeholders and the public why certain decisions are made about the organization’s resources. As volunteers continue to play a role in managing their associations’ financial well-being, benchmarking resources like Association Investment Policies, Practices, and Performance—2017 Edition help them fulfill their fiduciary duty and ensure the long-term fiscal health of the association.

Share Your Data

How can you ensure that benchmarking resources, including those from ASAE, provide you with meaningful information? If you’re contacted to participate in a study, consider whether you will look for this information to make informed decisions about the future of your organization. If you need good data, others do, too. By participating, you broaden and enrich the pool of data that association leaders use to guide their organizations.

To find out more about ASAE Foundation benchmarking resources on compensation and benefits, operating ratios, and investment reserves, and to provide data for upcoming surveys, visit AssociaMetrics.