Nonprofits Can Drive Impact by Unleashing the Power of Data Science


June 08, 2023


Key insights

Data science is a multidisciplinary field that uses statistical and computational methods to extract insights and knowledge from data with wide-ranging applications.

Data science can help nonprofits foster stronger relationships with donors, increase fundraising effectiveness, and improve grant applications.

Nonprofits can use data science techniques to help mobilize resources, focus advocacy efforts, and design effective conservation strategies.

Learn what data science can do for your organization.

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It’s an exciting time for data science. From the rapid evolution of large language models (e.g., ChatGPT) to deep learning for computer vision (e.g., facial recognition technology), we have never had such formidable tools at our disposal.

Many nonprofit executives may feel a sense of eagerness and anticipation for this extraordinary and powerful instrument, but may not quite understand how they can actually use it. Let’s use an example to illustrate the potential applications for nonprofits.

How can nonprofits benefit from data science?

Data science is a multidisciplinary field that uses statistical and computational methods to extract insights and knowledge from data with wide-ranging applications. Data science helps enhance the work of data analytics and business intelligence teams by discovering profound insights from data — identifying intricate patterns, relationships, and correlations that could otherwise have been overlooked.

Imagine an organization called WidgetAid — a nonprofit that aims to improve people’s lives by providing access to high-quality widgets and education on using them effectively. Conveniently, organizational leadership and IT have invested in the digital space; with a data lake (centralized repository for diverse data), they can seamlessly build reports and dashboards from their customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning systems.

WidgetAid’s data analytics and business intelligence group assisted its donor marketing team in creating a social-media dashboard. This dashboard tracks social media performance across platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and displays metrics tracking the number of followers, engagement rate, and click-through rate.

While this dashboard has been handy, Ava (the donor marketing team lead) can’t help but think they can do more to create engaging campaigns. She approaches WidgetAid’s growing data science team to brainstorm and explore how data science can help connect with donors and better support their clients. Together, they build the following solutions.

Data-driven donor segmentation

With the help of data science, WidgetAid’s donor marketing team can now segment their donors based on various criteria, such as donation amount, frequency of donation, geographic location, and age. This segmentation helps them connect with donors through tailored communication strategies based on the donor’s needs and preferences.


Using data science techniques such as large language modeling, WidgetAid’s marketing team now creates personalized communication strategies for each donor based on previous donations, interests, and communication preferences. This tailored approach helps foster stronger relationships with donors and increases engagement with their organization.


By analyzing historical data, WidgetAid’s data science team uses statistical modeling, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to forecast donor behavior and identify potential donors who are likely to donate in the future. With this information, they can focus efforts on the most promising prospects, increasing their fundraising campaigns’ efficiency and effectiveness.

Grant applications

Using large language models helps WidgetAid improve grant applications by generating compelling proposals, improving readability, enhancing keyword optimization, and automating parts of the application process.

WidgetAid now has unprecedented donor engagement, efficient business planning, and effective resource allocation — and their grant applications have never been more successful.

Where else can nonprofits apply data science?

Not only can data science create value within the organization, it can help nonprofits accomplish their specific missions. Here are a few examples.

Disaster relief planning

Nonprofits focusing on disaster relief and emergency response can use data science to identify vulnerable populations and better plan relief efforts. By analyzing data from previous disasters, including weather patterns, infrastructure damage, and population density, data scientists can inform and create strategies for mobilizing resources and reaching affected communities.

Social justice advocacy

Nonprofits working in social justice can use data science to gather and analyze data on issues such as police brutality, housing discrimination, and income inequality. Then, using machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and trends, nonprofits can make more informed decisions about where to focus their advocacy efforts, which policies to advocate for, and which communities to target.

Environmental conservation

Data science can be used to track the impact of climate change and other environmental issues on ecosystems and wildlife. Analyzing data from satellites, drones, and other sources, data scientists can help nonprofits identify areas where conservation efforts are most needed and design more effective conservation strategies. For instance, by tracking the movement of migratory bird populations and developing conservation plans protecting critical habitats along migration routes.


Headshot of Alexander White

Alexander White

Data Scientist Manager

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