Embrace AI to fuel nonprofit effectiveness

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In the ever-evolving landscape of nonprofit leadership, the tyranny of the present often blinds us to the emerging opportunities of the future. I write about this a lot because it’s so pervasive. Distractions abound, from dwelling on the past to feeding anxieties about the future. As leaders, navigating these distractions is paramount. It’s easy to let fear rather than curiosity drive our responses. Today’s newsletter is an invitation to choose curiosity to open up opportunities for greater impact.

Exploring AI in Leadership:
Amidst these distractions, I’m drawn to exploring the intersection of AI and leadership. Recently, I’ve found myself in conversations with folks in our sector who don’t want to talk about AI. With debates about its moral implications and transformative potential; my focus is on understanding how AI can uplift and enable our collective mission to make the world better. While I lack technical credentials, I work with many leaders who strive to make the world better for people and the planet—and so I’m challenged to envision how I can help leaders make sense of AI as a tool for good.

Empowering your team through AI

As a leader who is constantly being asked to do more with less (less money, fewer resources, fewer people) while delivering more impact, more value, more access, and the list goes on, AI could be a game changer for organizations who are being challenged to get lean. I personally appreciate the skeptic’s voice, and I imagine we’ll see plenty of snake oil being peddled. That said, here’s my take, and I’m not alone. In a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article, the head of Google’s philanthropic arm, Brigette Gosselink, advises a spirit of experimentation. As AI becomes more accessible, lean in, she says.

I get it. ChatGPT, for example, isn’t a great writer—more like an intern. It requires supervision, guidance, and collaboration. and experts agree that the best uses of AI require a human touch.

Empowering our teams to embrace AI presents challenges, disrupting the status quo and requiring adaptation. However, organizations can better fulfill their missions by harnessing AI’s potential to enhance productivity and expertise. Whether in writing, data analytics, or service redesign, AI offers opportunities for efficiency and innovation.

As leaders, our role in embracing AI is proactively enabling, training, and supporting our teams in its use while maintaining the humanity inherent in our organizations. By fostering a culture where human judgment complements AI insights, we empower everyone to make better decisions. In doing so, we pave the way for higher performance, improved decision-making, and greater agency, ultimately contributing to a better future for all.

Now what?

There are some forward-thinking orgs that are becoming AI-focused nonprofits, often working closely with tech companies (yes, many of those companies are looking for the “halo effect” and putting a positive spin on technology). I was intrigued to learn in another recent Chronicle article that these folks have made AI central to their missions, leveraging technology to address significant social challenges, from legal support to conservation and mental health, to name a few. There are also plenty of options to consider for those just getting started, recently outlined in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, as well.

  • ChatGPT, my current go-to, is great for quick compositions, jump-starting ideas, and first drafts. I also use it to help me edit in conjunction with Grammarly, which gives nonprofits free access to its AI assistant that scans for spelling and writing mistakes. Remember, it needs supervision! (I’m also partial to pi.ai; it feels like a friendly assistant.)
  • Canva provides nonprofits with free access to its easy-to-use AI-powered design tools for crafting social media posts, flyers, and infographics. We like Mural for online collaboration and digital facilitation.
  • Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit rolled out a suite of new tools this year for analyzing giving trends and crafting personalized donor communications. The company is also testing a new AI model to help nonprofits identify the donors who are most likely to give. Microsoft also offers a comprehensive set of resources for getting up to speed with AI and ChatGPT and building an AI strategy.
  • Salesforce for Nonprofits and Amazon Web Services can produce AI-driven insights into the donor, programming, and grantmaking data that organizations already collect, alongside extensive guides for getting started. Just like on the financial side of things, protecting donor information is key. Write good policies now to ensure your supporters have confidence and trust that their data is safe with you. Nonprofits can also apply for cash grants and technical advising for custom A.I. projects through AWS Imagine Grants.
  • Descript offers discounted pricing to nonprofits for its suite of audio and video editing tools, which use A.I. to make podcasts or promotional videos far easier to create. Descript also has free guides for using its software to create videos and podcasts.

(See full article on the Chronicle of Philanthropy here.)

And if you’re interested in how other sectors are grappling with AI, check out this podcast.

So this month, put on your curious anthropologist hat, get out in the field, and explore and experiment to empower your team to perform better. Let me know what you discover!


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Hey there, I'm Kimberley

Welcome! I believe our social sector organizations are at the forefront of making here better. With more than 33 years of diversified fundraising and nonprofit experience, I partner with courageous organizations committed to building clarity and confidence. Let’s connect and chart your nonprofit’s path to thriving. 

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