DATA | Predictive Analytics for Nonprofits: Leveraging Data for Informed Decision-Making

publication date: Mar 16, 2023
author/source: Joanne Toller

Nonprofits have the unique challenge of balancing social impact with financial sustainability. In today's world, managing data has become increasingly important for organizations to achieve their goals. Predictive analytics is a tool that can help nonprofits make data-driven decisions and improve their operations.

What is predictive analytics?

Predictive analytics uses data, statistical algorithms, and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data. It involves analyzing data to identify patterns and relationships and using this information to predict future events or behaviours.

Predictive analytics typically involves four stages: data collection and preparation, data analysis, model building, and deployment. Data collection and preparation consists of gathering and cleaning data. Data analysis involves identifying patterns and relationships in the data. Model building involves developing predictive models based on the data. Deployment uses these models to make predictions and drive decision-making.

Finding and using data

Predictive analytics can help nonprofits make informed decisions about fundraising, program planning, and resource allocation, to name a few. By leveraging data insights, nonprofits can identify areas for improvement, anticipate future trends, and optimize their operations.

Donor Data: Nonprofits can gather data on donor demographics, giving history, and engagement patterns. This data can help identify donor preferences, anticipate future giving trends, and personalize their outreach efforts.

Program Data: Nonprofits can gather data on program impact, participant demographics, and outcomes. This data can help to evaluate program effectiveness, identify areas of improvement, and optimize program delivery and resource allocation.

Social Media Data: Nonprofits can gather data on social media engagement, such as demographics, click-through and engagement rates. This data can help nonprofits evaluate the effectiveness of their social media campaigns and identify the most engaging content.

Volunteer Data: Nonprofits can gather volunteer data to identify patterns and trends that will inform decision-making and help organizations anticipate and plan for future needs and recruiting efforts.

Government Data: Nonprofits can access public datasets from government agencies. These datasets can provide valuable insights into community demographics, economic trends, and health outcomes to assist targeted outreach.

Surveys: Nonprofits can conduct surveys to gather data from their constituents, donors, and volunteers. Surveys can provide valuable feedback on program effectiveness, donor satisfaction, and volunteer engagement.

Web Analytics: Nonprofits can use web analytics tools to track website traffic, user behaviour, and engagement metrics. This data can help nonprofits evaluate their online presence and identify improvement opportunities.

Financial Data: Nonprofits can analyze financial data to assess their financial health, monitor cash flow, and make informed decisions about budgeting and fundraising. Nonprofits can gather financial data from accounting software, financial statements, and internal reports.

By gathering data from these various sources, nonprofits can better understand their operations, constituents, and the external environment. This can help an organization to make informed decisions and achieve their mission more effectively.


Nonprofits can use various types of analytics to interpret their data and gain insights into their operations. Some common types of analytics include:

Descriptive Analytics: provide insights into historical data and helps nonprofits understand past trends and patterns. Descriptive analytics helps evaluate program impact, donor behaviour, and website traffic.

Predictive Analytics: use statistical models and machine learning algorithms to forecast future outcomes and identify potential risks. Predictive analytics help anticipate donor behaviour, forecast revenue, and determine program outcomes.

Prescriptive Analytics: provide recommendations on the best course of action based on predictive insights. They help to optimize resource allocation, improve program delivery, and enhance fundraising efforts.

Numerous donor management and marketing software tools have built-in predictive analysis capabilities. You can use statistical formulas and calculations to analyze data, such as mean, median, mode, standard deviation, correlation, and regression analysis.

Nonprofits can also use visualization tools to gain insights from their data. Graphs, charts, and other visual aids can make complex data more accessible and easier to understand. Data visualization can help identify trends, patterns, and outliers in the data and communicate insights effectively to stakeholders.


Creating a data-driven culture is vital to make the most out of predictive analytics. It requires you to promote data literacy among staff, to invest in training and collaboration with experts, and continuous learning from data insights. It also requires a concentrated effort from leadership, staff, and volunteers, including education on the importance of data and its role in decision-making, providing access to data tools and resources, and encouraging staff to use data to inform their work.

A nonprofit can invest in staff training and development to build the skills and expertise to analyze and interpret data effectively. Collaboration with data experts and other nonprofits can also be valuable by enabling learning from others and the sharing of best practices. Creating a data-driven culture requires a commitment to continuous improvement and a willingness to embrace data-driven decision-making as a core part of the nonprofit's operations.

Predictive analytics is a powerful tool that can help nonprofits make informed decisions and achieve their goals. By leveraging data from various sources and using analytics tools to interpret it, nonprofits can anticipate trends, identify areas of improvement, and optimize their operations. To effectively use predictive analytics, nonprofits must ensure data quality, create a data-driven culture, and overcome challenges they may encounter. With the right approach, predictive analytics can help nonprofits achieve more significant impact and sustainability.

Joanne Toller, CFRE (Ret.) has been a professional fundraiser for over 25 years. She is the Founder of The Cause Specialists, specializing in digital marketing and fundraising.

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