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Case Study: Nellie’s Shelter


Who is Nellie’s Shelter?

Nellie’s shelter is a community-based feminist organization that operates within an anti-racist, anti-oppression framework. They are committed to social change through education and advocacy, to achieve social justice for all women and children.

Nellie’s Mission is to operate programs and services for women and children who have and are experiencing oppression such as violence, poverty, and homelessness.

Problem statements

Data for Good hosted two virtual back-to-back data nights for Nellie’s shelter, bringing together participants with a diverse skill set to provide data-driven insights for the following questions:

  1. Identify the demographic of the individual donors
    1. most-probable age-group of donors
    2. Gender of the top 10% of donors
  2. Understand donor patterns
    1. most common day/week/month of donation 
    2. Preferences for the type of donation

Participants utilized anonymized constituents, donation and gender data sets to find answers for Nellie’s shelter.

Data and Insights – What did we learn about Nellie’s shelter donor demographic

On average, the ratio for Female-Male donors was 70/30 across all years. However, there was a significant increase in male donors from 19% in 2018 to 28% in 2020

The majority of the donors were identified as around the age of 40.

Ontario is identified as the major donation region in Canada. The largest total donations came from affluent, predominantly Caucasian neighbourhoods in the GTA.

Women were more likely to donate and give higher donations in the downtown and central Toronto and North York region. Relative to female donors, male donors’ participation was higher in downtown than central Toronto.  

The retention rate calculated as a “proportion of donors from the previous year that donated in the current year” was pretty consistent over the years. For example, 29% of the organizations that donated in 2014 also donated in 2015.

Analysis of overall donations and time of the year:
December seems to be the peak time, as it accounted for 29% of overall donations. 

Here is what we know about the top 10% of donor:

72% are female

Education background predominately post-secondary, almost 71%

Widows or single women form most of the donor base, up to 78%

Brainstorming highlights with participants

Q: Based on the Demographic identified, what are the important KPIs that Nellie’s Shelter should focus on in the next 5 years in order to increase their donation trends?

For better tracking of annual donation amounts:

  • Fundraising ROI 
  • Average donation amount [annual donors] trend 
  • Year over year growth in donation 
  • Donation seasonality trend

For better understanding of the donors: 

  • Annual donor acquisition and retention rate
  • Census data: monitoring donation hotspot areas (e.g. by donation amount) to conduct local advertising

To obtain digital marketing/footprint measures: 

  • Conduct precise targeting to send the most relevant messages to the different donor groups
  • Analyze on social media presence e.g. through google analytics


Q: What are some easy-to-implement data-collection tools/strategies that could be used for collecting data, going forward?

Strategy: To expand current fundraising channels 

    • Potential options: walkathon/marathon; 50-50 raffle similar to Toronto humane society; 
    • Partner with other organizations to provide career counselling, e.g. YMCA

Strategy: To increase Digital Presence 

    • Collaborate with marketing partners for digital survey 
    • Increase social media presence (e.g. focus on Instagram to attract younger donors/volunteers)
    • Starting to build digital wallet options to collect donation online from individuals along with campaigns

Strategy: Employ tools to understand Donor Demographics  

    • Similar to personal donors, also collect data on organizational donors, such as postal code, % of women employees, major field of services, etc.

Q: What other data should Nellie’s Shelter be collecting in order to improve operational efficiency and storytelling methodologies?

Census (by FSA) population demographics, political(provincial, federal), employment and economy: to conduct precise targeting campaign

Canada’s Federal Electoral Districts: to connect with donor postal code stats

City of Toronto Open Data

Charitydata.ca: to understand financial situations of other charities and conduct benchmark analysis 

Namsor: to link donor name with an estimation of their gender and ethnicity 

HousingNowTO: to understand housing market in Toronto and available rental units 

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation: to obtain housing research and market data 

CityPlanTO: to understand Toronto city planning status

TO Housing Secretariat


“The information from Nellie’s data night was so insightful and lots of the data was a surprise. I know other organizations will benefit from going through the exercise.”
Ingrid Graham , Director of Development, Nellie’s Shelter


Interested in working with Data For Good? Get in touch with us! contact@dataforgood.ca

Case Study: Nellie’s Shelter2021-03-06T15:14:04+00:00

Case Study: East End United Regional Ministry

Who is the East End United Regional Ministry?

”We will live out our mission to be a sustainable social justice and faith seeking spiritual community.”

East End United Regional Ministry Mission statement.

The East End United regional ministry came about in 2018 as a partnership between the Cosburn, Glen Rhodes, and Eastminster United Churches. These three charges chose in June 2017 to chart a new path that would allow them to define the legacy of their individual churches and become an agile, creative ministry that is responsive to opportunities arising from the relationships built within our neighbourhoods.”

“A progressive, vibrant, welcoming, and supportive Christian community in the east end of Toronto.”

Problem we were asked to solve.

Identify the neighbourhood profiles around the United churches

  • To understand the public common space needs of the neighbourhood 
  • To strategize what type of public space is needed for the neighbourhood 
  • Overlay current public events around the region to understand the public events needs and popularity 

“As a development manager leading a multi-sectoral partnership expanding the use of large urban churches as locally responsive innovation hubs, I was very excited about the opportunity to work with Data for Good Toronto.

A deep understanding of neighbourhood context and community need would be essential to the success of any of our projects.”

Jordana Wright, Welcome Project development manager, East End United Regional Ministry

Data Sets

The data used in this DataThon came from non “first party” sources. This is unusual for our DataThon’s as most NFP will bring their own data to supplement publicly available or Open Data sets. The quality of the insights from this event are a testament to the creativity of the volunteers in finding data sources and combining them in interesting ways.

The data came primarily from two different sources, open data such as the 2016 Canadian Census Data set, and social event organization sites such as Eventbrite and Meetup. The goal of course being to determine which type of public events around the three church-spaces are popular and consistently attended

The following tables show the FSA codes for the areas surrounding the three churches. The FSA codes are used to cross index data from event locations with Census data. 

Eastminster United
310 Danforth Av, Toronto, ON M4K 1N6
M4K, M4J, M4W

Cosburn United
1108 Greenwood Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 4E8
M3C, M4B, M4H, M4K, M4J, M4C, M4K, M4J

Glen Rhodes United
1470 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4L 2A3
M4J, M4C, M4L, M4E, M4L

What are FSA Codes?!?!?!

A bit more information about FSA codes. From https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/bsf-osb.nsf/eng/br03396.html 

Each character in an FSA code provides information:

  • The first character is a letter that identifies the province or territory (although Nunavut and the Northwest Territories share the letter X). For Ontario and Quebec, this first character further identifies a particular part of the province: for example, G identifies Eastern Quebec, H Metropolitan Montréal, K Eastern Ontario and M Metropolitan Toronto.
  • The second character is a numeral that identifies whether the area is urban or rural. A zero indicates a wide-area rural region, while all other digits indicate urban areas.
  • The third character is a letter that, in combination with the first two characters, identifies a more precise geographic district—a specific rural region, an entire medium-sized city or a section of a major metropolitan area.

Tools and Analytical Methods Used to Help

Multiple tools were used, including Tableau, R, Python / Jupyter Notebooks, PowerBI and Excel. 

Several different approaches were used to analyze the data. Each group of Data For Good volunteers chose their own approaches. Some of the models put into use are listed here:

  1. Logistic Regression 
  2. Lasso & Ridge Regression
  3. Random Forest
  4. Support Vector Machines
  5. Naïve Bayes

Data Analysis Highlights

Types of Events

Based on the categorical break-down of the most popular types of events in the neighbouring areas, it appears that there are primarily two times of day when events are held. 


‘Country of Origin’ in the FSAs surrounding the three church-spaces

The data heavily leans towards populations from South-East Asian countries immigrating to the neighborhood we are interested in.


Overview of Language Distribution in the FSAs M4K, M4J & M4L

Note: The language distribution does not take English/French knowledge into account, since these languages skew the results widely 

Key Findings and Recommendations

Event Types

Almost 80% of the meetups cater towards Business, Wellness or Hobbies related categories. Following the 80-20 rule, focusing on welcoming meetup hosts of these events into Eastminster United or Glen Rhodes United to organize their events will pave the way towards these spaces quickly becoming potential multi-purpose hotspots. 

Conversely, the following categories are the least popular and likely not to be in demand.

  1. Politics
  2. Fashion
  3. Reading

Socio-economic and Demographic Insights

There is a general high concentration of higher-income earning immigrant families belonging to the First Generation, surrounding Glen Rhodes United. Most of these families also tend to be South-East Asians speaking predominantly Indo-Aryan Languages like Hindi, Urdu, Tamil & Bengali. Renting out the church-space for live sports-event streaming or other South-East Asian cultural events might attract more foot-traffic and help establish Glen Rhodes United as a multicultural space.

The neighbourhoods around Eastminster United consists mostly of a higher-income/senior Asian population, and hence organizing regular events catering to seniors above 60 years might help transform this space.

“Data for Good helped create an evidence-based strategic approach to analysing relevant local service, event, and facility needs by combining demographic data and data from popular social platforms – a creative approach we had not previously considered. The resulting analysis identified a number of viable hub uses and user groups. It also to introduce data-driven approaches to a century-old institution setting out to tackle a modern challenge. We are now better equipped to identify impactful hub residents along with participating stakeholders.

It was a great experience overall!”
Jordana Wright, Welcome Project development manager, East End United Regional Ministry

Case Study questions? Ask stephen.boyd@dataforgood.ca

Interested in working with Data For Good? Get in touch with us! contact@dataforgood.ca


Case Study: East End United Regional Ministry2019-09-06T18:21:24+00:00

DataNight: A Greener Future

On March 27, 2019, Data For Good held a DataNight at the offices of our host, Integrate.ai.
The goal was to explore data from A Greener Future and look at ways to analyze and visualize the impact that AGF has made through their amazing work.

Who is A Greener Future?

A Greener Future works hand-in-hand with local communities to promote environmental preservation through organized litter cleanups, educational programs, and events. Our expanding family of volunteers are committed to creating a clean, healthy environment that can be sustained for generations.

Rochelle Byrne founded A Greener Future in 2014. Since then, they have run cleanup programs all across Canada.

Some recent highlights:

  • In 2018, A Greener Future picked up their 1,000,000 pieces of litter!!
  • The 2018 Butt Blitz picked up 239,339 cigarette butts off the ground. This was accomplished by 171 volunteers in 20 locations across Canada.
  • Cleanups have been run in 105 unique cities at 276 different locations
  • There are 61 different sponsors

You can learn more about A Greener Future here: https://www.agreenerfuture.ca/

From Rochelle, “By picking up all that litter, I see what I’m picking up, things that people use on a daily basis that people don’t consider litter. Bandaids, Q-tips. It has changed me and how I live my life. I live almost a waste free lifestyle now. By changing one thing at a time I don’t feel like I’m missing out.”

What data are we talking about?? What is it’s lifecycle.

AGF volunteers collect data to document what kinds of litter are collected at each event.

“We still use a data sheets and binders. That works better than an iPad/Otterbox. They’re too much work. Volunteers that are regulars can use data sheets really quickly. After the events, the data sheets are transferred by hand to Google sheets. This allows realtime updates for whole team. Afterwards the Google sheets are transferred to a main database. It’s useful because so many events close are together. Nice to be able to look at data and see if we’re picking up more or less, same stuff as last year.”

Here’s an example of data collected from a 2018 event.

Date May 28, 2018
Latitude 43.816643
Longitude -79.03187
Location Rotary Park
City Ajax
Province Ontario
Country Canada
Event Love Your Lake
Coordinator Rochelle Byrne
Volunteers 17
Strange items Peppa Pig loot bag, tiny doll, hookah tweezers
Cigarette Butts 1056
Tobacco Packaging 16
Lighters 2
Plastic Grocery Bags 7
Other Plastic Bags 10
Paper Bags 3
Food Wrappers 339
Plastic Beverage Bottles 3
Plastic Bottle Caps 40
Plastic Lids 16
Paper Cups/Plates 4
Metal Bottle Caps 5
Glass Bottles 5
Straws 21
Utensils 13
Personal Hygiene 25
Clothing 14
Construction 16
Fishing 7
Plastic Pieces 158
Paper 92
Glass 62
Foam 703
Syringes 2

“…that’s what I want our data to show other people, that small changes in your daily life make big changes over time.”

AGF separates data about the litter they clean up into 30 different types.

Analyzing Litter Types Over Time

Looking at Volunteers

Audience Questions, Ideas and Discussion

Do smaller towns have different types of litter than larger towns/cities?
Prince Edward County has a lot garbage that travels on Lake Ontario currents. It is not litter from local litter bugs.

Does AGF have desire to get into policy changes?
We do work with municipalities in any area they work. They help promote events.
Volunteers leave feeling inspired. They know they can reduce their own waste and educate others, find local solutions, start petitions etc… We don’t need to wait for municipalities.

Are there ‘glory’ shots of all litter cleaned up at an event? Can that be used as a motivator for volunteers as well as a data viz of impact?Yes, However, litter is collected, sorted and recycled or reused so not actually that much garbage.
Still powerful to show total amount collected.

Comment: You can use data to prove a point or predict but you’ll need a lot more data. You can’t draw conclusions with current amount of data. Too many variables, geography, weather, seasonality, etc…

Is it possible to use app during a litter clean up to facilitate data collection?
We still use a data sheets and binders. That works better than an iPad/Otterbox. They’re too much work.

Idea: Imagine AGF has an app already. What kind of data could it collect?

Idea: Can you partner with Uber to detect street level trash. Train their models to perceive more than just cars and people?

Discussion: Could access to infrastructure (trash cans) be an issue rather than just a behavioural issue of throwing garbage on the ground?

Do you know how do your volunteers hear about you?
Lots of cleanups aren’t public. Rochelle works directly with schools.
Twenty people is a good number for teaching a cleanup group. Highschools with kids in Ecoclub or Environmental Program in the school.

What portion of waste is recyclable/reusable?
We try to recycle as much as possible. The tricky part is plastics. If its too dirty then it can’t be put into the recycling stream. AGF has overloaded Terracycle with more plastics than they can use. Part of the issue is to find places that will use collected plastics.

Suggestions of organizations to work with:
Cycling clubs, rock climbing clubs, hiking organizations, sailing clubs, etc….


A big thank you to our sponsor for this DataNight!

We want to send a big thank you to Integrate.ai for their space and hospitality. They have been very generous with the use of their space.

DataNight: A Greener Future2021-03-06T15:37:04+00:00

CASE STUDY: Youth Without Shelter

“We have never stopped with our vision. We want to end youth homelessness one youth at a time and that is our focus. The people that come through our doors are individuals and we treat them as such and we want to help them overcome the struggles they are experiencing.”
– Steve Doherty, YWS Executive Director

Who is Youth Without Shelter?

Youth Without Shelter’s Mission statement is, ”Empowering youth facing homelessness to reach individual potential.”

Youth without Shelter (YWS) was founded in 1986 by a group of teachers and guidance counsellors who were frustrated with the lack of safe, emergency housing and support programs for their students. YWS has now helped more than 15,000 homeless youth to build their confidence and life-skills and to find long-term stable housing and jobs.

An impressive 87% of every dollar donated is directed to youth programs and related support (remaining 13% for admin and fundraising).

YWS has been nationally recognized for their work and most recently as Charity Intelligence Top Charity Pick and as a Money Sense 2019 Top 100 Charity.

Problems we were asked to solve.

There were four primary questions YWS asked us to tackle during the datathon.

  1. Generate a map of segmented donor profiles of current YWS donors using geographical data from StatsCan and existing donor data.
  2. Validate the hypothesis of whether volunteering is a gateway to donating by matching volunteer data to donor data and if there are any insights about these volunteers who do become donors. E.g. Do they donate more?
  3. Identify the most loyal and consistent givers in the past 5-10 years such as those who have given at least 7 times in the past 5 years; and those who have cumulative giving of $1,000 over the past 5 years to aid in major gifts program launch.
  4. Identifying the profiles of lapsed and new donors. For lapsed donors find a pattern of why they have lapsed and who would likely return. For new  donors find a pattern of what channel they first became a donor and any patterns for repeat donations.

What did the dataset look like?

YWS provided an extensive set of donation and volunteer data spanning 20 dimension and close to 100,000 rows of data. The earliest records date back to 1989!

After cleaning and preparing the data from YWS, the resulting tables including the following data types:

  • Unique Constituent ID
  • Key Indicator
  • Gender
  • First Gift Amount
  • First Gift Date
  • Last Gift Amount
  • Last Gift Date
  • Largest Gift Amount
  • Largest Gift Date
  • Total Gift Period (days)
  • Donor FSA

  • Donation_approach
  • donation_designation
  • gf_type
  • volunteer_hours
  • volunteer_events
  • is_volunteer
  • is_constituent
  • Is_donor
  • Days_between_donations
  • was_Volunteer
  • Volunteer_TotalHours
  • Volunteer_MostRecentDate

Next, StatsCan Forward Sorting Area tables were used to associate postal code information with their geographic areas in Canada. This allowed us to readily add socio-economic and demographic information for each FSA. The data included details such as total population, number of people in each income bracket, age breakdowns, etc…

To assist Data For Good volunteers, several data dictionaries were created to provide metadata about each dimension of the data provided by YWS for analysis.

“There are 2000 youth experiencing homeless every night in the city of Toronto and less than 400 shelter beds and transitional housing beds. It is a challenge we continue to experience and it is going to take imagination and people like yourselves to help make a difference so thank you for making a difference.”
– Steve Doherty, YWS Executive Director

The tools and analysis we used to help

Multiple tools were used, including Tableau, R, Python / Jupyter Notebooks, PowerBI and Excel.

Several different approaches were used to analyze the data. Each group of Data For Good volunteers chose their own approaches. Some of the models put into use are listed here:

  1. Logistic Regression
  2. Lasso & Ridge Regression
  3. Random Forest
  4. Support Vector Machines
  5. Naïve Bayes

Key Findings and Recommendations

Some of the most interesting findings came from analyzing donor profiles and creating segments to better understand who YWS’ most loyal donors are.

Donor Distribution by Gender

Donor vs Volunteer Location

Total Donations by FSA Code

Recommendations included focusing fundraising efforts around donors with the following attributes:

  • Female groups in urban, middle-income areas who are recent joiners
  • Potential campaign days: Mother’s Day, International Children’s Day, Donor’s Birthday

Other significant findings looked at volunteering and how it correlates with donations.

  1. 5% of Constituents are Volunteers and 4% of them are Donors
  2. Volunteers donated 28% of the overall amount
  3. Organizations tend to volunteer and donate more than individuals
  4. Volunteers and donors come from the GTA

Volunteers Donate more, and Donors also Volunteer more




These events are made possible by the support of amazing sponsors. Data For Good and YWS are very grateful to Capco who generously volunteered the use of their space, resources and most importantly food!!

Case Study questions? Ask stephen.boyd@dataforgood.ca

Interested in working with Data For Good? Get in touch with us! contact@dataforgood.ca


CASE STUDY: Youth Without Shelter2019-09-06T18:25:12+00:00

Workshop Series: How to use Canadian Census Data for Good

Data for Good hosted a workshop in collaboration with Statistics Canada and the City of Toronto. Paul Laffin from Statistics Canada outlined the different methods that are used to collect and store the Census information. Whereas Heath Priston from the City of Toronto spoke to the value to the community of having this data readily available. In attendance were representatives from various local NFPs and data enthusiasts.

Statistics Canada gathers data through the census every five years, directly from Canadians. This data provides information on the demographic and the socio economic conditions of the population. The “geographic hierarchy” of the census data is divided into various administrative and statistical geographic areas which adds value by allowing better use of the data. In December 2017, Toronto city council adopted a policy framework to guide how it would work with community based NFPs and made a commitment to pursue a more consistent and a clear policy. This gave the city more access to data and data management capacity that could assist with strategic initiatives within communities by analyzing vulnerabilities.

Statistics Canada Resources

Paul shared details on how to access the open census data via the website and an extraction tool (Beyond 20/20) Note, Beyond 20/20 only works on PCs. Data extracted from the website can be downloaded in CSV, TAB, IVT, XML format as data tables or full extracts.  Statistics Canada also has a monthly newsletter, list of webinars and information sessions, individuals and organizations are encouraged to join the distribution list for updates to census data and other tools that may assist in using the data in a meaningful manner.

Workshop Discussion

During the workshop, NFPs in attendance voiced some of the data gaps they had and how Statistics Canada or City of Toronto could help in filling these gaps.

In particular, City of Toronto provided some details on some successful partnerships between the two entities such as:

  • Data, research and maps portals
  • Neighbourhood level profiles that represent local trends from Census data, at a smaller level than the Dissemination Areas in Census data
  • Statistics about community well being across Toronto neighbourhoods
  • Community data programs and participations

Participants agreed that increased access to this data assists for effective policy making as it helps identify trends and address gaps. However there are limitations to this – the data can only be used as a secondary source of information that will help validate hypothesis/ideas.

Written by Anam Mazhar & Eunice Lo

Workshop Series: How to use Canadian Census Data for Good2018-07-04T01:33:12+00:00
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