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Full Assessment Benchmarking Guidance

At Full Assessment your organisation has the choice of different ways of working with the toolkit, depending on which best suits your organisation:

Benchmarks organised by the Principles of International Development, under the following headings:

  • Accountability
  • Sustainability
  • Learning
  • Governance
  • Partnerships

Benchmarks organised by Operational Areas, under the following headings:

  • Leading the organisation
  • Working with key partners
  • Managing projects
  • Working with volunteers & staff
  • Managing money
  • Communications

The cross-cutting themes of gender, inclusion, do no harm, human rights & climate change are woven into all the bench-marks at the higher ratings.

Either way, your organisation will assess itself against the same 40 benchmarks in total. You will already have worked on 17 of those at the MOT stage – only 23 to go!
All the benchmarking gradings from the MOT will be automatically transferred to the full tool.

If you decide that you want to change between Operational Areas or Principles approaches, then you can do that at any stage by using the option at the top of the full assessment page.

Which principle should we start with?

It will help to go back to the Star Diagram that you did at step 2 of the MOT. bit of report & identify the areas of your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s probably good to start by tackling a principle that your organisation thinks it does well by documenting your good practice as individuals, or by working together as a group. This will be motivating for everyone and you will get some quick wins.

After that, you might wish to work on an area which you know needs to be tackled. We recommend that you work in realistic chunks and do not attempt to do a full assessment all in one go.

Eventually, you can work through all the principles/operational area to get a complete picture of your organisation. The benchmarks under the principle/operational area are in a self-contained set, so you can work on each whenever it suits you – you don’t have to do everything at once!

Moving Forward

This is a good moment to take some time to consider how you want to move forward and what your aims are at full assessment:

  • You might want to look over the full Effectiveness Tool to see what’s involved & have a discussion within your organisation before starting
  • You might want to get going straight away on the areas where the MOT Action Plan shows your organisation is weaker
  • You could build on the strengths that were shown in your organisation’s MOT report
  • You could decide to ensure that your organisation is at ‘Should Have’ level on every benchmark

Whatever you do, make sure you only do manageable chunks of work, allowing yourselves plenty of time

Who should we involve?

  • The board needs to drive the whole process, and ensure that adequate resources are put in place so that it works well. Different board members might wish to take the lead on different operational areas or principles.
  • It’s important that time is freed up for any staff and volunteers who could usefully help the process. You might want to arrange an away-day in a relaxed setting if you want to work face-to-face

Any participants will need a briefing about the process, its purpose & expectations from your organisation.

How do we choose a rating level? see our advice page from the MOT


What do we do if we disagree in our organisation about what the rating level should be?

This is a great opportunity to have important discussions about why and how you work. It’s important, though, to move away from opinions and assertions and help each other to be more objective and look for evidence of meeting each indicator.

Supposing you are considering Operational Area 'Managing Money' and are considering the following benchmark:

'We have good financial management sytsems and meet our legal financial requirements and minimise fraud and other financial risks'

You might all be in agreement that you have, as an organisation, achieved all the indicators upto and including those under 'Good'.

However, when you’re discussing the indicator “Our financial systems are periodically reviewed to make sure that they are effective & secure & that controls are being implemented” there is disagreement. The way forward is to examine real-life case-studies from your projects. If it’s true now, but wasn’t in the past then you’re probably there. If it sometimes happens or happens with some projects [but not always] you’re probably not there yet, but well on the way. If you can’t agree what “periodically” means [after all, different projects might last more or less time than others], then agree a definition and examine the evidence against that. This discussion is an important part of identifying what good practice looks like. It also gives a clear pointer to which improvements are needed.

Do we have to reach Excellent or Outstanding?

Not at all! It’s entirely up to each organisation what level of good practice satisfies them. We would, however, encourage organisations to reach for ‘Good’ gradings wherever possible and to consider stretching themselves more in the future. It’s always helpful to have goals when thinking about improvement. We recognise that small organisations may never have enough resources to reach the higher gradings but still be effective in the work that they do.

What if a benchmark doesn’t seem to apply to us?

If, for example, you have no staff and no premises, then there will be some benchmarks that don’t apply – as long as you’re clear why that is – then just skip those. However, should you be in a position in the future to appoint a member of staff or take on premises, you will have ready-made indicators to help you set up properly.

What if we struggle with the process?

Don’t get downhearted!

  • On our web site you will find a full list of NIDOS services, including facilitators and mentors who could help (NIDOS Members only – if not a member your organisation can join NIDOS here
  • You’ll find examples and case-studies that might help you to get going. Link to NIDOS website
  • Come to our peer networking sessions - you may find that you’re being over-critical of your organisation when you start to look at how other organisations have tackled the self-assessment challenge and you will pick up good ideas from other organisations on how to appraoch a problem you are having.
  • You could link up with directly with another organisation to compare notes and support each other - to see where you might start have a look at the NIDOS Member Directory

Saving Information as you go

On most pages (such as the benchmarking and the actionplanning), the page will save the changes as they are made. You can come back to the page at any time to continue using the toolkit - your input will have been saved.

And a few more tips...

Decide who is going to collate on-line responses and ensure there’s a clear deadline for completion

If you decide to work in a group - which we would strongly recommend -  [for example to look at indicators, or to discuss the results of on-line assessment], then some organisations might wish to use a facilitator or consultant to manage the time, tasks & participation. NIDOS members can contact NIDOS for help, mentoring or suggestions. If your organisation is not a member find out about joining NIDOS

You might wish to involve other partners, other organisations, or communities in the assessment if this is possible - as the toolkit is on-line your partners or members of the community can set up their own log in and you can add them to your organisation's record and they can take part online and see your records.
It’s best to capture any points for the action-plan as you go, even if you haven’t finished a whole principle or operational area

If you are a larger organisation you might be interested in looking at the Bond 'Health Check'  as it is more comprehensive than this toolkit including guidance for more complex organisations that work in multiple countries or with multiple areas of work.

Go to NIDOS website for examples of how other organisations have used the tool