Artificial Intelligence, or AI for short, is redefining the nonprofit sector and revolutionizing how fundraisers plan and execute their day-to-day fundraising operations. Investing in AI is becoming paramount for organizations looking to reduce costs, improve efficiency and build stronger relationships with donors.
While the necessity for adoption may be apparent for gift officers and fundraisers attempting to uncover major donors and convert more one-time donors into recurring givers, the same can’t always be said for nonprofit board members.
Your board members may have doubts about the ethics of AI, the cost of adoption, and the level of training required to do. This makes it challenging to garner their engagement and support.
However, as with any long-term investment, it’s crucial to understand the importance of nonprofit AI—beginning with the board—to enable full adoption. By doing so, organizations can benefit from a highly engaged board and an aligned strategy that harnesses the power of AI to reach the right donors, raise more money and have a greater impact.
Before discussing how fundraisers can communicate this impact with board members, let’s establish what AI is and review some examples of how nonprofits are taking advantage of AI.
What is Artificial Intelligence for Nonprofits?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defined as the ability of a computer to perform tasks that would typically require human intelligence and cognition. It is the process of using a computer to automate tasks previously done by humans.
While AI is the broad term for computer algorithms automating various functions and tasks, the underlying process here is called Machine Learning.
Machine Learning is the process that allows machines to analyze data and learn from it to self-improve, identify patterns in data and predict outcomes. Through machine learning, computers can find trends that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and get smarter with every interaction.
Traffic predictions while commuting, or ‘People You May Know’ features within social media apps, are prime examples of machine learning at work, as algorithms learn from data available to them to refine and improve users’ experience.
Here are a few AI tools being used by nonprofit organizations today:
- Kids Help Phone uses a chatbot AI to use word and pattern recognition to identify users in more urgent need.
- PAWS uses modeling and machine learning to give park rangers information to predict and stop poachers’ actions.
- eBird, a citizen-science birding organization, is using AI to identify hundreds of thousands of species crowd-sourced by their community of scientists, a task that would take decades to do manually.
- Crisis Text Line used AI to analyze 65 million text messages to determine what words were most statistically associated with a high risk of suicide.
- Global Fishing Watch analyzed 22 billion messages from fishing boats to uncover illegal industrial fishing vessels.
- Your organization itself may use Google Analytics, CRMs, or other analytics programs that rely on AI to automate the collection and analysis of data
The Impact of AI for Nonprofits
AI-powered fundraising enablement tools, like KIT, can be used to streamline your nonprofit’s operations, identify prospects and run targeted fundraising campaigns. Specifically, here are five benefits to using AI tools in your organization:
- Save Time and Money on Data Analysis: With KIT, you can analyze your nonprofit CRM data in seconds. This way, you don’t have to spend time or money hiring a team of data analysts. KIT can get the job done for you in less time and with better accuracy.
- Workflow Automation: With the right AI tools, you can automate time-consuming tasks within your database that would usually take hours to complete, such as running reports and conducting background research.
- Personalize Donor Communications: Segmentation is key to building donor relationships and with AI tools like KIT, you can tailor messaging for specific donor segments. More so, you can use AI-powered chatbots to automate responses to queries.
- Discover Fundraising Opportunities: You can uncover patterns and trends within your data that would otherwise go unnoticed. From these patterns, AI algorithms can present you with opportunities, as they are uncovered within the system—ensuring you never miss a chance to acknowledge a donor or reach out to a donor in danger of churning.
- Get Donor Insights: KIT can give you predictions & insights on your donors, so you can anticipate future donor behavior and tailor your strategies accordingly. These predictions can even go as far as telling you exactly how much to ask from your individual donors, when and how to do it.
By doing this, fundraisers are relieved of so many of their mundane day-to-day tasks that would normally take up a large portion of their day. Instead, they can prioritize their efforts on the highly engaged, or in some cases disengaged donors that AI algorithms uncover, better steward them and ultimately have a greater impact for their cause.
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The Role of A Nonprofit Board
Before delving into strategies to communicate this impact with board members, it’s important to understand exactly what the role of a board member is for a nonprofit, what motivates them, as well as the challenges fundraisers may face in seeing adoption across the board, and organization as a whole.
As defined and outlined by the National Council of Nonprofits, “nonprofit board members serve as the fiduciaries who steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure the nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission.”
Board members provide foresight, oversight, and insight, by guiding and contributing to the organization’s culture, strategic focus, effectiveness, and financial sustainability. They also serve as ambassadors and advocates. Beyond fulfilling legal duties, board members can be important resources for the organization in multiple ways.
The board of directors of a nonprofit has three primary legal duties known as the “duty of care,” “duty of loyalty,” and “duty of obedience.”
- Duty of Care: Take care of the nonprofit by ensuring prudent use of all assets, including facility, people, and goodwill;
- Duty of Loyalty: Ensure that the nonprofit’s activities and transactions are, first and foremost, advancing its mission; Recognize and disclose conflicts of interest; Make decisions that are in the best interest of the nonprofit corporation; not in the best interest of the individual board member (or any other individual or for-profit entity).
- Duty of Obedience: Ensure that the nonprofit obeys applicable laws and regulations; follows its own bylaws; and that the nonprofit adheres to its stated corporate purposes/mission.
Communicating The Impact of AI To Your Board
To effectively communicate the impact of AI, it’s important to understand your board.
Fundraisers must learn what motivates board members and the metrics that are important to them. By doing so, you can use that information to help board members can get a better sense of how AI can transform the lead to reduced costs, a happier workforce, and greater return on investment.
Here are some of the ways you can communicate AI’s impact with your board.
1. Define the Problem AI Solves
While AI has been prominent in many of the world’s largest companies for some time, it is still relatively new within the nonprofit sector, and, like any new technology, there may be skepticism and misunderstanding around its function and capabilities.
However, many resources are available online, such as Pwrdby’s ‘The State of Artificial Intelligence in the Nonprofit Sector and KIT’s Guide To Artificial Intelligence For Fundraisers, that highlight AI’s benefits to fundraisers. You can use these resources to get ideas on how to specify or define the challenges in your nonprofit that could be resolved by using AI.
2. Specify How AI Can Contribute to Your Mission
A recent article by Gideon Rosenblatt & Abhishek Gupta for the Stanford Social Innovation review claims that “using AI in a mission-driven context could supercharge the capacities of the social change sector. Specifically, it has the potential to lower costs, improve quality, and broaden the impact of social change organizations.”
Understanding your nonprofit’s goals, from an executive level to your day-to-day fundraising effort, is crucial. These goals keep your board members and team members aligned. By communicating the direct impact of AI on your organizations’ goals and mission, you show how investing in AI can move your team forward and boost your results.
3. Highlight the ROI of Nonprofit AI Tools
It’s your board’s responsibility to ensure that your nonprofit is operating in a financially secure manner and allocating resources accordingly.
Therefore, it will be helpful to illustrate the financial benefits of adopting AI in your nonprofit organization. Evaluate your past fundraising campaign performance, then schedule demos to learn more about AI tools so you can find out how much it costs to invest in them and how they can directly impact your fundraising outcomes.
Remember, nonprofits’ ROI doesn’t always mean donation revenue, so consider the different activities that lead to better financial outcomes for your organization.
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4. Understand Board Members’ Concerns
As much as you want to convince your board members about AI, you need to understand their concerns.
Data privacy and ethics are a huge concern among executives. 83% of nonprofits believe an ethical framework needs to be defined before fully adopting AI in the sector. As expected, nonprofit leaders don’t want to lose their donors’ trust; they also want to ensure they comply with data protection laws.
Therefore, you need to address their questions about how data is collected, stored, and shared. Refer them to research materials, FAQ pages, and knowledge bases that can alleviate their concerns and reassure them that these tools are safe and legal to use.
More so, with a tool like KIT, which integrates seamlessly with your organization’s existing CRM, the transition to AI for nonprofits is easier than ever. If you would like to learn more about how AI can optimize your fundraising campaigns or get more helpful resources that you can share with your board members, you can speak with a KIT team member today to get started.