Monday, August 16, 2010

Benchmarking. Not just for NPOs.

Over the weekend I reviewed all of the links in the Process Improvement section of the Tutor/Mentor Connection library.

I found three to web sites that talk about benchmarking.

In this one, they say "Benchmarking is a practical tool for improving performance by learning from best practices and understanding the processes by which they are achieved."

In this one, they say, "Benchmarking is the process of determining who is the very best, who sets the standard, and what that standard is. In baseball, you could argue that seven consecutive World Series Championships made the New York Yankees the benchmark."

In this one, they say "... benchmarking ...[is] ...'the process of identifying, understanding, and adapting outstanding practices and processes from organizations anywhere in the world to help your organization improve its performance.'"

In much of the evaluation and planning information I read, there is an emphasis on building programs based on "evidence based practice". If non profit tutoring and/or mentoring programs are applying the benchmarking lessons of the three web sites I am pointing to, it seems to me each would be finding ideas to make their programs consistently better.

However, I wonder the businesses, foundations, colleges and others who want the same goal as we do at Cabrini Connections and other tutor/mentor programs, are benchmarking what they do against what competitors do to constantly innovate better ways to help youth move from birth to work.

For anyone to do effective benchmarking, they need to have the time to constantly look at what others are doing. It would help if each city had a list of youth organization web sites like the Tutor/Mentor Connection offers Chicago. If you don't have a list of programs to benchmark against, it becomes an even bigger challenge to adopt this process. We break our database down by type of program, and age group served, so benchmarking can compare programs focusing on similar populations. We even offer a set of questions organizations could use to compare their web sites against those of other tutoring/mentoring programs.

How would faith groups, or accounting firms, or engineering companies compare what their volunteer and philanthropy programs do to support tutor/mentor programs in their communities? Do they have teams of volunteers focused on this? I don't know of any web site that is aggregating links to different businesses, hospitals, faith groups, etc. with a goal of providing information for this type of benchmarking.

We do collect some links to business, hospitals, and math/science groups, that you could look at and compare your own efforts, to their efforts.

However, this is insufficient. Is anyone collecting this information? How can others who share the same goal of mentoring kids to careers improve on what they are doing if they don't have anything to benchmark against?

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