Analytics has become a buzzword that newspapers, magazines, blogs, and even television advertisements talk about. But, what is analytics, how can it help your nonprofit organization, and how can you get started?

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), the world’s largest professional society for advanced analytics, defines analytics as “the scientific process of transforming data into insight for making better decisions.” INFORMS has recently launched Pro Bono Analytics, where we match analytics professionals who are willing to volunteer their skills with nonprofit organizations that would benefit from their techniques.

Our Pro Bono Analytics volunteers are experts at using data to create fact-based information to facilitate decision making. The types of problems we tackle include the following.

Improving operational efficiency and better utilizing limited resources

Nonprofits have so many things that need to be done with a limited amount of resources, staff members, and volunteers. The road to success can unfortunately be an overwhelming process. One way analytics can help is by analyzing the process of a nonprofit’s program and finding ways to improve it; i.e., make the program more efficient. This way, a nonprofit can get more “bang for their buck.” Recently, our volunteers provided analytics coaching to an organization that runs a day shelter for homeless women and children. This organization faced the difficult challenge of finding out the effectiveness of different programs and how the data they have can help make any necessary changes to better their programs. Our volunteers worked with this organization to use the data to make more informed decisions aimed at improving services for the women and children they help.

Strategic Plans

Nonprofits generate great ideas to help their cause, and implement programs that positively impact the lives of the people they serve. However, some nonprofits may be lacking a strategy to take it to the next level or to quantify the full impact of their programs. Through the Pro Bono Analytics program, our volunteers can help develop a strategic plan with goals of sustainability and equity rather than profit. They can also help develop a customized method that measures the outcome of the program to help the nonprofit communicate its impact to donors and to expand their already successful program. Our volunteers help organizations develop the strategies they need when it comes to launching a new program so they can move forward and turn it into the successful program they envision. Pro Bono Analytics helps all kinds of nonprofits, from those with high need people in high cost areas to those that only need an extra helping hand.

To get a better understanding of Pro Bono Analytics, here are a few examples of projects that we have completed or are underway:

  • Working with a nonprofit community development organization to design a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of their different programs.
  • Using decision analysis to help a therapy association assess proposed changes to credentialing of certified therapists.
  • Providing inventory planning to a store that provides free supplies to teachers at schools in underserved communities.
  • Applying process mapping to streamline and improve the intake process used by a nonprofit organization.
  • Assisting a Kenya-based organization to design a model that defines and tracks changes in human vulnerability.

The mission of Pro Bono Analytics is to apply operations research and analytics techniques to help nonprofits that work in underserved communities or with underserved populations. If your nonprofit has a problem that would benefit from an analytical solution, or if you would like to explore possible projects, then please visit us at to submit a project or contact the Pro Bono Analytics team at We look forward to hearing from you!