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20NTC Session

Best Practices in Building Data Science Capacity at a Nonprofit


Many organizations recognize the value of data and analytics, but few have experience building out an organization’s data science capacity in a way that supports all of its strategic goals. This session will discuss the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)’s analytics journey and explore critical considerations and best practices for nonprofits looking to better integrate data analysis into everyday decision making. We will cover topics including: setting realistic goals (and managing expectations); types of team structures (and how to pick the right one); skills and expertise needed based on specific objectives; how to address common challenges; the role of technology vs. people; and key organizational commitments needed to ensure success.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the different ways to structure data science capacity within a nonprofit
  • Identify common issues nonprofits face when incorporating data science (and how to address those issues)
  • Recognize what’s needed from the entire organization to enable data science success

Target Audience

Organizations exploring how they can better use data and analytics




Ben Kirshner

Applied Data Science Lead

Civis Analytics

Ben Kirshner is an Applied Data Science Lead in the non-profit practice at Civis Analytics. In his two years at Civis, he has worked closely with non-profit organizations on designing and implementing technology projects, including architecting Data Warehouses and ETL pipelines, that help advance their strategic goals. Prior to Civis, Ben worked at Politico Pro as a Data Analyst, where he ensured Politico Pro collected the right data and leveraged it for product and sales decisions. Ben holds a BS in Aeronautics and Astronautics and an MS in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.

Kate McKenney

Senior Director of Data and Digital Technology


Kate has been in the non-profit space for over 15 years and currently leads the data, analytics, and technology team at NRDC. For the majority of her career, Kate has focused on building scalable technology and teams to support mission-driven work. At NRDC she ties together her background in conservation biology and technology to drive digital strategy and measurement. She works across the organization to develop digital tools for audience engagement and helps set the KPIs by which the organization measures its work.





March 25, 2020


10:30am – 11:45am



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