My side of town is doing better than people expect! Hip Hip Hooray!” In my opinion, this is cause for celebration because I live on the east side of Elgin, Illinois, which can come with a stigma or two according to some people (mostly those who live west of the Fox River). This morning I discovered an amazing online benchmarking tool from our friends at The Chronicle of Philanthropy that allows me to explore philanthropy in my state, city, and neighborhood.
So, all of my celebration this morning stems from the fact that I discovered my zip code (60120) is doing better than average in total charitable contributions compared all zip codes in the State of Illinois. We rank 3,976 out of 28,725. Woo Hoo! Of course, we’re still behind our west side neighbors who rank 2,347, but frankly I don’t care. I am thrilled to be doing this well!
I am also intrigued by all of the data that The Chronicle of Philanthropy is able to put at my fingertips with regards to philanthropy and demographics data. Here is some of what I learned about my side of town this morning:
- Last year we contributed a total of $10.2 million.
- The median level of contributions was $1,666 per household.
- Median household discretionary income is $41,310.
- Households in my zip code donate 4% of their income.
- 55.6% of households identify as Hispanic.
- 33.1% of people are under the age of 20 (which compares to 27% for the average zip code in the country).
- 32.8% of people don’t possess a high school diploma (which compares to 14.4% for the average zip code in the country).
I could go on and on with amazing little factoids about my little corner of the world, but I will stop here because I don’t want to take some of the fun out of you exploring this online tool.
Simply put, this online tool puts a powerful benchmarking tool in the hands of every non-profit organization in America. Powerful!!!
Again, some of you still might be scratching your head and asking the age-old question “Who cares?”
The following are just a few reasons why every non-profit organization regardless of their size or skill level should be looking at benchmarking exercises for their fundraising program:
- Benchmarking allows you to see where you stand in comparison to others.
- When your organization is faced with making a difficult choice between a number of different options, then benchmarking can help you make tough decisions.
- Benchmarking allows you to clearly see what you’re doing well and where you might need to improve.
Let’s go back to my hometown of Elgin, Illinois for a moment . . .
Elgin, Illinois is made up of four zip codes (e.g. 60120, 60121, 60123, and 60124), and the total charitable giving reported on tax returns filed from these four zip codes adds up to $39,582,326. If I operated a non-profit organization with $1 million per year in private sector fundraising revenue, then I would know that I am capturing 2.53% of the reported philanthropy in the area. With this knowledge, I can do a better job of measuring success and progress.
There are countless other ways to slice and dice this benchmarking data, and there are many ways it can be used. We’ve already made the case for how this information can be used to evaluate and assess your fundraising program. It could also be used to make decisions on who and where to target your fundraising efforts.
Does your non-profit organization do any benchmarking? If so, please share your success stories in the comment box below. If not, please weigh-in on some of the obstacles you encounter. If you took a moment to click around The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s online tool, please also share your comments or thoughts. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC