Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. If you don't see a question or topic that you're interested in, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions About Volunteering with SWB
How do I get involved with SWB? How can I start contributing?
You can join SWB by filling out our Volunteer Application. Once you are a member, you will recieve our emails, including emails with project information.
What kind of commitment is involved in volunteering? How much time does it take?
Volunteering for a project is a serious commitment, both to the client and to your fellow SWB members on the project team. Please volunteer for a project only if you feel that you can take on the workload. The time commitment is variable, and depends on the project or volunteer opportunity.
What are the different types of volunteer opportunities?
At SWB, we have volunteer opportunities to work on projects as they come in, or to work in non-project volunteer positions that independent of projects. If you are interested in non-project volunteer opportunities, see our open list of positions here. Emails are sent to our members when a new project is started, and members can volunteer to work on projects as these positions become available.
Can I volunteer if I'm a student or retired?
Of course! If you are a student and are worried about your skills when volunteering for a project, just include that information in your response. We try to match up volunteers with a long history of skills and volunteers who are just starting out in their careers.
We also hold networking events and host speakers to give talks on their careers and areas of expertise. Emails are sent out about these networking events. If you are interested in speaking at an event, please email MarComm at email@example.com. You can also see our videos of previous networking events and talks on our youtube channel.
Is there volunteer onboarding documentation?
Yes! Please read our Volunteer Handbook, SWB Volunteer Code of Conduct, and our volunteer policies. We are also hosting new volunteer onboarding events in August. Please email Volunteer Management at firstname.lastname@example.org to register for onboarding sessions.
If I don't volunteer for a while will I be removed?
No. SWB memberships reactivate every year, and if you do not choose to reactivate your membership then it becomes dormant. If you would like to be removed from our volunteer database, please email Volunteer Management at email@example.com.
My work/home institution allows me to volunteer for a specific percent of my workweek. Does SWB provide some sort of notification or record of my time spent for my boss/institution?
We can provide an email or a certificate of volunteering on an individual basis. Please email Volunteer Management at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange this.
Do the volunteers have an opportunity to meetup in person or virtually?
We host regular networking events online. The SWB annual meeting is held during the second week of August. Additionally, we usually host a panel presentation and discussion at JSM, and a relaxed socializing time during JSM. Please email MarComm at email@example.com to register for the annual meeting if you would like to attend.
Questions About Working on SWB Projects
How often do new projects come in?
This is highly variable and the rate at which new projects come in is not steady. It depends on many factors, including economic factors outside of our control, such as COVID. The number of projects SWB completes has increased year-over-year since we were founded, and we anticipate that this number will continue to rise.
How are SWB projects chosen?
SWB projects are not so much “chosen” but rather requested by the client. We evaluate each proposed project individually to see if the client and the project meet our policies before accepting the project.
If I have a potential project, where do I post it? Are there any requirements that must be met?
I know of a group that would benefit from skills like mine, but they do not think that this would be helpful. Can SWB choose THEM as partners, or do they need to initiate contact with SWB?
If you know of a group or of a project where SWB may helpful, please email MarComm and the New Client Acquisition committee at firstname.lastname@example.org, or have the client fill out the New Client Questionnaire.
How do I know when a project becomes open? How do I get assigned to a project?
We send out an email called the "call for volunteers" for each project. This is the initial project annoucement, and it includes details of all of the skills needed and requirements for working on the project. Interested volunteers simply need to reply to the email and answer any questions in the call for volunteers. If you are selected, you will recieve an email with more information.
What is the average project timespan? How much time commitment does a typical client project require?
Every project is different, and the project timespans are variable. A project may be as short as several days and as long as several months or longer. The per-week commitment is generally in the 5-10 hour range, although that can vary based on the specifics of the project.
What statistical skills are required to volunteer for a project?
This will depend on the project. Some projects require very specialized statistical knowledge, while other projects only require general ability to manipulate and analyze data. When a project is announced, we will specify the type and level of expertise required. Please read the call for volunteers email carefully before responding.
How do I know if I'm a good fit for a project? If I am relatively inexperienced, should I still reach out to volunteer and learn alongside teammates with more expertise?
The requirements for volunteers for each project will be specified in the call for volunteers email. You should evaluate your skill set against what is needed for each specific project.
We try to mix senior-level volunteers with less experienced volunteers on project teams so that junior volunteers can be exposed to projects while giving those with more experience an opportunity to coach others. In addition, some projects require different skill sets that allows us to put together a diverse team. Unless explicitly stated in the call for volunteers, we encourage you to respond regardless of experience level, provided that you possess the required skills.
Note that there are some projects for which this is not feasible or practical. Examples of such cases include when inexperience has a high likelihood of impacting project execution and delivery (e.g., a very short turnaround time) and when the client requires specific skill sets and/or experience level. Therefore, the appropriate mix of the volunteers is highly dependent on the project scope and the client.
I signed up, but haven’t heard about getting on a project yet. Why?
Many of our members are excited about volunteers for a project and we get many responses to a call for volunteers. We do our best not to repeat volunteers on multiple project per year. If you have not yet been selected, please continue responding to the project emails.
What software/programs/programming languages are usually used? What if a project requires a licensed software (e.g. Tableau) - do volunteers need access to the software themselves? Can I volunteer without access to statistical software of my own?
This is highly dependent on the project. We have seen projects that use SAS, R, SPSS, and Tableau, as well as projects done strictly in Excel. There are some projects that require no specific tools. Some projects have specific requirements, which may or may not be openly available tools. Other projects leave the tools at the discretion of the volunteer teams. In addition, access to Microsoft Office Suite (or equivalents) is generally required to create client deliverables. Remote conferencing is used by both SWB volunteers and clients.
If the project requires a specific software with the commercial license, you will need to have access to a commercially licensed copy. SWB is not able to supply licenses for its volunteers. For others, cloud-based licenses are available (for example, Tableau Public); however, most free cloud resources have no privacy and security provisions, so they are inappropriate for projects that require data security and privacy. If a project requires access to proprietary software and/or entails specific data security/privacy considerations, these will be communicated before the project starts.
SWB does not have licenses to any analysis software or tools nor does it provide technology infrastructure (servers, workstations, etc.) for volunteers. Volunteers are expected to have access to the necessary analysis tools.
Are we allowed to publish our work? Or post the results on the web?
SWB encourages publication of our work, as it helps us get the word out and showcases our capabilities, while providing an opportunity for the volunteers to add to their project portfolio. Permission from the client is generally required to publish. Journal articles and white papers have been published by SWB volunteers, especially in collaboration with the client. If you are interested in publishing your work, please contact MarComm at statisticswithoutborders@gmail.
Why are volunteers necessary for some of these projects? Why do we work with big international agencies (like the UN)? Can't they afford statisticians?
Generally, our focus is helping organizations who have limited access to professional resources in statistics and data science. This limitation to access does not have to be strictly financial; in many cases it is situational. Furthermore, we may help educate and train large organizations to understand how statistics and data science can help them, as well as assist in building their own capacity in statistics.
What if I'm assigned to a project at a busy or inconvenient time?
Please let your project PCM know immediately if you think that you may not have enough time to work on a project. Volunteering is something that we are all passionate about, but there are times when it can be difficult to volunteer due to being busy. This is normal for all volunteer groups and we understand. If this is the case, it is important to communicate with the project PCM about how to handle the situation.
Questions About Becoming a Client of SWB
What types of projects does SWB work on?
SWB works on projects that are of public benefit and that promote welfare. While our clients are from all parts of the world, our focus is on helping developing countries. However, as a matter of policy and as stated in our charter, the client must be an organization and not an individual, the project goal must be non-religious and non-political. We strive to make a difference in the world by applying our statistical expertise.
Our projects have covered a wide range of groups and interests. Some projects are assisting in crisis situations (e.g. Haiti earthquake recovery, Syrian refugee crisis), some are dealing with less pressing but more long-term situations (e.g. animal welfare in shelters).
How can I tell if my group should contact SWB for help?
If your group is an organization that is not-for-profit, non-religious, and non-political, and you are looking for help with statistics, you can fill out the SWB New Client Questionnaire and we will be in touch with you to discuss your project and if SWB is a good fit for your needs and our skills.
Can SWB projects include education and/or economic subjects?
Yes, as long as they meet the criteria for SWB projects. SWB started off doing survey projects, reflecting the expertise of the people who started the organization. We have since diversified significantly and have handled many other types of projects, including educational and economic subjects. Feel free to ask us if your project is a good fit for SWB!
Can I see the projects that SWB has worked on?
We have examples of several of our projects here.