Nonprofit Analytics with Nicholas Pylypiw from Cape Fear Collective

If you are a fan or follower of the How to Get an Analytics Job channel you have probably heard John David mention nonprofit analytics work. Getting involved with a nonprofit allows you the opportunity to get your hands on data in a way that adds experience to your resume all while making a positive impact. The How to Get an Analytics Job podcast sat down with Nicholas Pylypiw, Director of Data Science at Cape Fear Collective to discuss how non-profit data is analyzed to measure impact and drive value in communities.

Cape Fear Collective deals with nonprofit data in an eight-county region in Southeastern North Carolina around the city of Wilmington. Nicholas works to help nonprofits and government organizations address poverty, racism, health and education, and socio-economic disparity that affects the people in the region. Nicholas described how Cape Fear Collective uses cutting-edge data science to help marginalized communities make the most of the resources they are provided. Here are some of the main takeaways of how an organization like Cape Fear Collective uses data.

For their main framework for analytics, Cape Fear Collective uses a cloud-based community data platform (CDP) which is a public-facing aggregation of impact indicators. Their CDP contains community metrics across nine categories—health, social support, housing, justice, environment, economy, education, demographics, transportation—and is updated and maintained by Cape Fear Collective.

Nicholas outlined their 3-prong approach to how they work at cape fear collective:

Community engagement

Cape Fear Collective recognizes the value in community locals working in sectors outside of data. These people in the community that work in different sectors, like housing or healthcare, help analysts see the bigger picture when working with nonprofit data. Even if these people are not trained in data analysis or statistics it doesn’t mean they can’t add value to an analysis. Cape Fear Collective focuses on making sure to include community people’s domain knowledge and expertise to reach a well-rounded data analysis they can report to decision-makers.


Lived Experience

Nonprofit analysis work is about more than numbers and statistics, it’s about people. It can be easy to dehumanize the analysis if you are looking at dozens of graphs and tables and that is why personalizing the data story is vital. Personalizing a data visualization with a face and a story helps the audience contextualize and aid in hypothesis generation. If the audience can put a face and body to the data, it is easier for them to think about the data deeper which leads to increased engagement and better questions and ideas for analysts to dig into. Qualitative data and research can also validate model output and inform future data collection and modeling efforts. For example, Cape Fear Collective has a reporter on their crew to get details about the community experience that they can include in their analysis and data story.


Meet them in the middle

In nonprofit analysis work, much like other analysis work, communication is key. Therefore, when telling a data story, Cape Fear collective focuses on meeting their audience in the middle. Too often when communicating their findings data analysts will either be too technical or oversimplify the data. It’s difficult to communicate technical material to an audience that might not understand the technical vocabulary or the skillset to interpret your work. Meeting an audience in the middle means, to Cape Fear Collective, slightly simplifying the content, but leaving enough in there to still challenge the audience. They achieve this by empowering and educating their audience interactively, teaching them how to read charts and tables so that they are truly understanding the analysis and can make their own questions and decisions based on the data story.


To watch a use case with nonprofit data watch the full interview below