Headlines: September 28th, 2004

Voluntary bodies and charities are being urged to form benchmarking clubs so they can compare their experiences and share best practice. The recommendation comes in ‘Measuring Up’, the National Umbrella Forum’s study of benchmarking in the voluntary sector, which is published today by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.The report suggests that voluntary organisations working in similar areas, such as young people, health or social care, establish the benchmarking clubs. The Forum came to this conclusion following the success of a pilot benchmarking club of 22 organisations that carried out a detailed study of how they could learn from one another and set common performance measurements for areas such as communicating with their members and providing representation to government.

‘Measuring Up’, which is sponsored by Lloyds TSB Foundation, found there was little coordination between existing benchmarking initiatives and little information available about them. The forum recommends that the new Performance Improvement Hub takes the lead role in promoting and developing the initiatives.

Ben Kernighan, Director of Services and Development at NCVO hopes the benchmarking pilot exercise will open the way for similar schemes involving similar types of voluntary organisation. He said formal benchmarking clubs offered valuable opportunities to learn from other organisations’ positive and negative experiences. Benchmarking had the potential, he said, to become a key tool in promoting a more collaborative approach in the voluntary sector.

The National Umbrella Forum decided Last year to run its first ever benchmarking club for national umbrella bodies. It ran for seven months from January to July this year with the aim of throwing light on good practice and to provide a structured opportunity for better understanding of the complexities, strengths and weaknesses of national umbrella bodies. This summer the Government’s Change Up strategy gave the Forum the job of developing a framework for performance improvement in infrastructure organisations.