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How non-profit organisations benefit from data science

Data science has allowed humanitarian activists to curtail the spread of viruses, even the likes of Ebola. Here's NGOs have come to benefit.

Did you know that data analytics has played a crucial role in the fight against the Ebola virus? Data science has allowed NGOs and humanitarian activists to curtail the spread of the virus, anticipate outbreaks and much more. Beyond preventing the spread of a deadly virus, NGOs have to tackle many challenges.

Some of the challenges of a non-profit include, but are not limited to, coordinating activities in a crisis, fundraising, as well as managing their funds to make the most out of their money. However, with the rise of data analytics or data science, it is now possible for NGOs to work better and operate faster than ever before.

Here are four ways data science benefits NGOs


A significant challenge for many NGOs is managing their budgets. For most NGOs, budgeting means recording all activities on different spreadsheets. The process might be acceptable for much smaller NGOs, but for larger organisations, it becomes unruly and impractical. It is impossible to properly budget and forecast expenses if the information is in separate spreadsheets.

NGOs can use data science to integrate different spreadsheets and churn out comprehensive reports to see larger trends that they otherwise might have missed. However, NGOs can take it a step further. With predictive analytics algorithms, NGOs can forecast expenses for a project to streamline financial management or improve fundraising activities.


Fundraising is one of the most important activities of an NGO. If they invest too little resources, they cannot fund their projects. On the other hand, if they invest too much, the high costs will cut into their revenue and any gains made will be underwhelming. NGOs need to find the right balance – data analytics is the perfect tool to help find that balance.

Data science allows NGOs to work smarter and create more targeted outreach efforts. Predictive analytics algorithms allow NGOs to identify the people most likely to donate to their cause. Thus, they can create more personalised outreach efforts that will be more effective in garnering donations. Personalised marketing efforts are more effective than generalised outreach efforts because they are likely to encourage more donations. Thus, with targeted marketing, NGOs can streamline fundraising efforts, cut costs and improve donation rates.

Monitoring activities

When disaster strikes, like the Ebola virus outbreak or the earthquake in Nepal, NGOs have to be at the frontlines to effectively manage the crisis. Managing a crisis is challenging, but what if there was a way to monitor and coordinate activities in real time? NGOs can use real-time information to improve management and coordination across the board. Data analytics platforms take data from different sources to churn out real-time information. Data science and analytics algorithms provide the real-time insight an NGO needs. Furthermore, analytics can generate visual reports for improved coordination of personnel and resources.

When the Ebola virus outbreak happened, a mobile carrier in Senegal provided anonymous access to cellphone data. Analytics took this information and reports from the World Healthcare Organisation (WHO) to track the movements of those who might be infected but didn’t realise it. The information allowed NGOs to effectively focus their activities from curtailing the spread of the disease. Data analytics is invaluable because it draws from different sources of information, ranging from social media posts to cellphone towers. We discuss this point in detail in another post.

Streamline operations

Any organisation, be it for-profit or non-profit, needs to manage their operations efficiently to minimise costs. One way to manage operations efficiently is to streamline fund management. The reporting capability of data science provides NGOs with deep insight into their operations, allowing them to cut costs, without sacrificing the breadth and depth of their operations. As an example, India-based NGO, the Akshaya Patra Foundation, reduced the cost of its mid-day school meal program by using data analytics to find the best delivery routes.

Key takeaways

The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that the world will generate over 163 zettabytes by 2025. The growth of data is a treasure trove for NGOs because the information can be used to improve efficiency, budgeting, fundraising efforts and more. However, the only way for NGOs to take advantage of all this information is to invest in powerful data analytics capabilities. NGOs lacking the resources to integrate data science into their operations have several cost-effective options at hand, like hiring data scientists on a temporary basis.

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