Every year, Sainsbury’s Analytics donates their skills and expertise to help charities gain insights from their data.

We’ve been doing this since 2012, and each year we work with different charities to understand their challenges, what data they have and how we can help them draw insights from it.

This year, we worked with 7 charities, seeing over 100 analysts and charity members get involved. We used data to answer questions like, ‘Which location should we expand to next?’, ‘How effective are our outreach activities?’ and ‘How can we use analytics to speed up our programme acceptance process?’

Why we do it

Interpreting data for charities

Most charities collect data but don’t always have the people or skills to interpret it.

That’s where we come in. By lending a hand, we help charities:

• Increase their impact
• Make programmes and services more efficient
• Prove impact to gain funding
• Understand and target their donor base
• Attract and retain volunteers

And our analysts get to do some rewarding charity work that expands their skills. Plus, working with analysts from different parts of the business brings our teams closer together.

“I enjoyed helping out a charity, meeting and collaborating with people from the wider analytics community that I hadn’t met before as well as learning one or two new skills.” Andrew Ensten, Lead Analyst

Who we worked with

Food & social mobility charities

Sainsbury’s is committed to helping everyone eat better and combatting food poverty. So, we chose to support charities that are food focused:

  1. City Harvest – Distributes food that would otherwise be wasted
  2. Magic Breakfast – Provides healthy breakfasts to school children
“The output from the programme will enable Magic Breakfast to make efficient and effective decisions on where to target our finite resource which long term will mean more children and young people at risk of hunger are able to start the day fuelled for learning, allowing them to achieve better life outcomes.” Katie Freeman, Magic Breakfast
We also worked with charities that increase social mobility and help people support themselves and their families:
  1. Social Mobility Foundation
  2. Career Ready
  3. Youth Futures Foundation
  4. Catch22
  5. UpReach
“… we’ve really been able to use this work for our future local work in Birmingham and other cities. I wish we had more than one day!” Andrea Barry, Analysis Manager, Youth Futures Foundation

Project prep

How we organised the day

A team of 10 from the Data and Analytics started planning the day in March!

We spoke to charities about their data and discussed how we could help. After completing interviews, we selected charities to work with. Each selected charity was given an ambassador, who acted as a liaison. They worked with their charity representatives to understand its data, plan our approach and clean the data ready for the day.

“Learning about each charity’s challenges and discussing how analytics can help solve them is always so interesting – even the charities we don’t end up working with often come away with a lot of inspiration.” Laura Pugh, Lead Analyst & Head of Data Philanthropy

Getting to lead these mini-charity projects is a unique opportunity for our analytics ambassadors. Many analysts don’t develop these skills until later in their careers.

“It gave me the chance to manage a project and support a charity that’s doing great work at the same time.” Amir Al-Jumaily, Data Scientist

What the event involves

We created teams of 10 volunteer analysts with varied skill sets that worked on each charity project during a hackathon-style day. Throughout the day, the ambassadors lead their individual teams.

The day after, the charities and wider Analytics and Data teams came together to listen to the ambassadors present their findings. We finished the event with a trip to the pub!


“It was a fantastic event doing something different to the typical day at work and was for a good cause. Really liked the wrap up session where we saw each charities findings.” Tauseef Rehman, Analyst

What we used

Software, languages & techniques

  • Software – Tableau, PowerBi, Microstrategy, Excel and spatial analytics software
  • Coding languages – SQL, R and Python
  • Analytics techniques – Logistic regressions, creating random forest algorithms, factor analysis, correlation analysis, trend analysis, interactive maps and many modelling techniques!


What we delivered

Skills donated & projects created

  1. 560 hours of time donated
  2. 3 dashboards​
  3. 4 models​
  4. UK regional rankings​
  5. Maps, pivot tables & insights

Example projects

  • Building a model that can predict whether an applicant will be eligible for the charity’s programmes. Enabling the charity to focus their time on assessing applicants most likely to benefit from their services.
  • Using modelling to suggest the most effective driver routes for volunteers to deliver goods, depending on their home location and the locations of donation pick up and drop off points.
  •  Grouping donors based on the amount of money they have given, how frequently they donate and how recently they made their last donation. Enabling the charity to target them with emails personalised to the individual donor type.
  • Analysing survey data and volunteer/participant profiles to understand what factors make a successful mentor-mentee relationship. Improving the charity’s matching process and boosting the success of the scheme.


Looking back on the day

What our team and charities had to say.

What the team said

Knowing you’re helping charities to be more efficient, so they can generate more support and keep growing and ultimately help more people is very heart-warming.

“I liked having the chance to work on other data, meeting and working with people I hadn’t met before from around the business and helping a charity find key insights from their data that they may never have had access to without Sainsbury’s help.” Matthew Borg, Associate Analyst

It’s also a brilliant opportunity to learn new things and expand data skills. You get to know different teams and all while helping worthwhile causes. It’s collaborative and fun, with an overwhelming sense of achieving a lot together in a day.

“I enjoyed meeting new people outside of my team and department. It was great to work closely with other people that I don’t have day-today contact with. It was really rewarding being able to help solve the charities research questions and being able to ease their own analytical workload.” Skarlett Schubert, Analyst

What the charities said

“One of the most impressive factors was the way in which the analysis was approached, which resulted in some really interesting insights such as the fact that if a service user reported an improvement in their physical health, they were most likely to also report that they were more able to enjoy life, as a result of interventions…The analysts are obviously passionate about what they do and it was a pleasure to be part of the experience.” Jack Goldman, Data Officer Catch22
“The programme was well structured and organised which ensured that we were able to achieve our objectives on the day. Everyone we met was so knowledgeable and personable and were excited by the additional learning opportunities around data analysis and visualisation that we had access to through the programme.” Katie Freeman, Magic Breakfast

Work with us

Are you a charity who’d like to get involved with our next data philanthropy event? Get in touch with Mark@thegivingdepartment.com for more info.

If you’d like to work in the Analytics and Data team at Sainsbury’s, apply for our latest roles via sainsburys.jobs