Nonprofits Turn to Data for Value Generation

Use Cases & Projects, Scaling AI Joy Looney

In a recent Dataiku Product Days session, we captured an intriguing conversation between Tom Brown, who is one of the most active users in the Dataiku Community (with fellow ambassador users, the Dataiku Neurons) and Christopher Shanin, Cascade Bicycle Club Technology Manager. In this blog, we hit the highlights of their discussion of the nonprofit space at large, common data management challenges faced by nonprofit organizations, and data-oriented solutions to these respective challenges. 

→ Watch the Full Session Here

The Unique Challenges Nonprofits Face

Building a solid data infrastructure for insight-generating analytics pipelines is not a cost-free endeavor and often nonprofits are undercapitalized. They face a significant challenge in mustering the resources to support these initiatives. Not only do they face this challenge to supply their projects with leadership and talent accustomed to advanced analytics, but they are also simultaneously competing with for-profit organizations that have much greater resource pools.

As a result, nonprofits must work more effectively, eliminating silos and aligning internal teams with external, volunteer teams for a united effort on high-value, common projects. When data and analytics platforms produce a point solution, it is hard for the receiving organization to adapt that solution to the quickly changing data input. Dataiku combats this challenge by providing a collaborative environment that makes insight sharing a fluid process, with multiple touchpoints, even incorporating visual components.

What Can Data and Analytics Platforms Do for Nonprofits? 

The extent to which Dataiku adapts to specific needs with organizations’ existing frameworks and plugins makes managing problems that nonprofits often face in data workflows (such as contact duplicates) easy. As a result of Dataiku’s agile nature, combining new workflows with existing programming language and dataflows is simple. It is easy for new teams to pick up where previous teams left off and utilize the tools and techniques of their choice within the platform without losing time or business value. Reusing and leveraging previous work is a key strategy to reduce expenditure. Also to note: This is particularly beneficial for nonprofits that use volunteer talent as it gives teams the freedom of working with familiar tools.

The central, common platform provided by Dataiku makes it easy for volunteer teams to join in, share work, capture insights, and collaborate with other volunteers. The extensibility and accessibility of Dataiku allows organizations to get the most from their available talent and resources to capitalize on data insights in a timely and affordable manner.

In order to keep up with the best practices in data management and modeling, leaders in the nonprofit sector should evangelize the use of scalable data platforms that can provide value quickly, such as Dataiku. For data management in nonprofit organizations, considering these factors when choosing a platform is critical for the sustainability of scaling efforts. With the effective use of data platforms, we see that the higher levels of collaboration, clear pathways for stakeholders, and easily captured visual insights ultimately bolster value generation for nonprofits in a lasting way. 


Access to Analytics Empowers Cascade Bicycle Club

Cascade Bicycle Club (Cascade) is the U.S.’s largest statewide bicycle nonprofit. They cater to 10,000 bike riders of all ages and abilities throughout the state of Washington, with various projects across the country. Amidst the global health crisis, Cascade realized an opportunity existed to better understand their customer base. They reached out to a team of pro bono data scientists to brainstorm methods of bringing together their nonprofit initiatives and values with advanced analytics tools and strategy. With the scientists, Cascade developed a plan to analyze historical information and reveal how the health crisis might impact customer behavior moving forward, looking into variables and factors such as  income diversification and churn predictions. 

Following a recommendation and aware of the sensitive but also highly valuable information within their data repository, Cascade was keen to reach out to Dataiku’s AI for Good program, Ikig.AI. With Dataiku, volunteer data scientists at Cascade have been able to reach valuable insights on projects such as rider segmentation, rider retention, churn minimization, and CRM. The data science teams at Cascade now have an efficient method to discover and validate new business opportunities through advanced data analysis. 

Another point worth noting is that the Dataiku platform has addressed confidentiality concerns of data scientists at Cascade by providing a safe and secure way for insights to be quickly shared among the data analysis team. Not only has Dataiku allowed Cascade to protect their data, but it has also introduced the ease of setting up a pipeline with plugins for specialized project analysis. 

To read the full story of how Cascade became a data-driven nonprofit, check out this article.

Looking Ahead 

Whether people realize it or not, data is a part of everyone’s job every single day, and nonprofit organizations are not an exception to this reality. Platforms like Dataiku that allow organizations, such as Cascade Bicycle Club, to take advantage of their data, develop new roles and upskill employees, and boost value-generating projects propel nonprofit organizations forward and help them maintain pace with for-profit organizations. 

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