Business analytics provides companies with tools and techniques for goal-setting and achieving targets which are not only useful in the context of the private sector but are also useful in the nonprofit world as well.
In contemporary U.S. society, nonprofits are a vital part of civic life as they allow individuals with common pursuits to transform and better their communities as well as support noble causes that allow for the betterment of society. It is because of this that Zach Charat, member of the Foster Master of Science in Business Analytics Class of 2021, Student Ambassador, and “double dawg” wants to put his technical skills to good use in the nonprofit sector.
Seattle’s Thriving Nonprofit Industry
Though it is most widely known for its booming tech sector, Seattle is also a very civically engaged and charity-oriented city. A number of influential nonprofits call it home from Path to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to World Vision.
Zach has nearly a decade of nonprofit industry experience at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation prior to joining the current MSBA cohort. He uses his expertise to reflect on why business analytics is a useful tool in the nonprofit world.
“Nonprofits face all the same evolutionary pressures and challenges that for-profit companies do, but their decision-making process is further complicated since their goals are normally more arbitrary and often change over time,” Zach explains. “As a result, business analytics techniques can be particularly useful for them.”
How Nonprofits Use Business Analytics
For example, nonprofits use descriptive analytics to get specialized information on donors so they can better strategize fundraising efforts. Additionally, they use predictive analytics to distinguish key trends in their campaigns and outreach methods. Lastly, nonprofit organizations use prescriptive analytics to forecast future budgets, just like for-profit companies do.
According to Zach, the Foster MSBA curriculum sets individuals up to explore the real-world implications of business analytics theory. Students don’t just learn about important models like classification trees, but how they can be used and implemented to make better business decisions.
“It’s clear that the Foster MSBA program isn’t just trying to train people to be the data person in the room,” Zach states. “They want students to graduate as industry leaders with fluency in quantitative techniques.”
Realizing the Potential of Nonprofit Analytics
While the uses for business analytics methods in the nonprofit industry are endless, that doesn’t mean their potential is being fully realized.
“Historically, I think nonprofits have steered away from using business analytic methods because they have typically been priced out. However, as education in this field becomes more readily available, nonprofit organizations are starting to realize they can and should hire business analysts,” Zach stresses.
Once Zach graduates from the Foster MSBA program this June, he plans to continue working in Seattle’s nonprofit sector. Zach is particularly interested in using his data storytelling skills to make a positive impact by increasing equity in global health initiatives. Until then, he can be found hiking, zooming with his study group, and working hard on his business analytics industry capstone project with Tableau.
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