Frequently Asked Questions

Our nonprofit clients often ask us:

I represent a nonprofit. Is this really free???

  • Yes. Neither INFORMS Pro Bono Analytics (PBA) nor the PBA volunteers charge for their time. It is not entirely without cost, in the sense that you do have to commit some staff time to the project.

I have some questions about what Pro Bono Analytics can do for my organization and how. Whom can I ask?

  • Please send an email to or submit the contact form on our site. We will be happy to answer questions either by email, over the phone or via video chat.

I'm from a nonprofit and need analytics help. How do I get started?

  • If you would like to discuss a potential project, please follow this link to our project submission form. A Pro Bono Analytics committee member will contact you to arrange a discussion.

Is my organization limited to one project with Pro Bono Analytics?

  • No. We are happy to do multiple projects with an organization, and have done so in the past. Usually projects are done sequentially, but if you have the bandwidth we are happy to entertain parallel projects.

Do I need to have data in order to get started?

  • Not necessarily. Not all projects require data, though most do. It is common for clients to begin with a project in which volunteers help ascertain what data is needed and how to set up a collection mechanism for that data. Once you have data in hand, analysis of it can be a second project.

Do I need to have an analytics person on my staff?

  • No. Most of our clients do not have internal analytics expertise. If you do have an expert on staff, we are of course happy to work with them.

How much staff time would we need to commit?

  • This is very much project-specific. You can expect to spend at least a few hours if not more working with a Pro Bono Analytics (PBA) committee member to specify the project and then sorting through the PBA volunteer applications to pick a team. Once the project is launched, your time commitment is difficult to predict, but at minimum you should expect someone on your staff to spend an hour a week in a call with the volunteers, discussing project progress and answering volunteer questions.

How much volunteer effort can I expect to receive on a Pro Bono Analytics (PBA) project?

  • The desired timeframe of the project and the amount of effort is up to the nonprofit, but a typical project length is about 3 months with 1-2 PBA volunteers each contributing about 5-10 hours per week.  We do have projects that last longer and/or involve more PBA volunteers.  A PBA committee member will assist you with scoping your analytics needs into one or more appropriately-sized PBA projects.

Who owns any intellectual property stemming from the project?

  • This is subject to negotiation between client and volunteers on a case by case basis, and should be decided at the outset of the project.

Our volunteer analytics experts often ask us:

If I volunteer for a project, how much time per week am I expected to spend on it?

  • It is up to you how much time you are willing to commit. As part of the application process, we ask you to indicate a figure for that. Most volunteers commit between 5-10 hours per week, but during the course of the project, you are free to adjust your availability as circumstances require, and if necessary you can drop off the project.

Will I be working on the project alone?

  • This is to some extent up to the client, but we strongly encourage clients to form teams of volunteers.

Do I need to be a member of INFORMS to volunteer?

  • No, membership to INFORMS is not a requirement.

I am in the U.S. on an H1B work visa. Would volunteering jeopardize my status?

  • No. If you are on an H1B visa, you can volunteer for a nonprofit or local organization as long as the work would not otherwise be paid.

I am an international student in the United States. Would volunteering on a project qualify as Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

  • No, volunteering is not considered OPT.

Can my (friends, coworkers) and I volunteer as a team?

  • Yes, it is acceptable for a group of people to volunteer as a team.

Will I face any out-of-pocket expenses as a volunteer?

  • No, we are careful to ensure that volunteers do not incur any expenses other than their time.

Will I need to travel to the client’s site?

  • In almost all cases, no. Our consultations are generally done remotely. If you happen to be within convenient travel distance of their location and if you and they feel a face-to-face meeting would be beneficial, there is precedent for doing so, but that is entirely up to you and the client.

Who owns any intellectual property stemming from the project?

  • This is subject to negotiation between client and volunteers on a case by case basis, and should be decided at the outset of the project.

I am currently a student. Can I use this consultation as a class/capstone project?

  • Subject to prior approval by both your instructor and the client, yes. That said, we do not typically recommend using pro bono engagements as projects for two reasons. First, the project timeframe may not conform to your academic calendar, meaning in particular that there is no guarantee the engagement completes before the deadline for your project. Second, if problems occur during the engagement, they may prevent you from completing your project.