The State of Artificial Intelligence in the Nonprofit Sector

In this episode of Nonprofit Tech Talks, host Jack Showers talks to James Hodson, CEO at the AI for Good Foundation and Chief Science Officer at Cognism, and Tia Christopher, VP of Operations at the AI for Good Foundation. 

Jack, James, and Tia talk broadly about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the nonprofit sector, how nonprofit professionals can successfully implement AI, and the work of the AI for Good Foundation.

What Nonprofit Technological Innovations have you observed during the COVID-19 crisis?

James has noticed that corporate and technological innovation hasn’t slowed during the pandemic; organizations across sectors have found new ways to continue their work. This is true in the nonprofit sector, as organizations have found creative methods to deliver their programs virtually. 

James believes the pandemic was “the kick in the groin” the nonprofit sector needed to make programs accessible virtually. Moreover, as nonprofit employees began working from home, organizations were forced to transition their records, programs, and administrative processes online or risk being at a severe disadvantage.

How Can Small-to-Mid-Sized Nonprofits Implement AI?

According to James, only the world’s largest firms have seen significant financial returns from adopting AI within their core processes. What’s more, even within these firms, there haven’t been clear productivity gains. This demonstrates how difficult and costly it is to implement AI in everyday workflows successfully fully. 

However, nonprofits can take advantage of a few off-the-shelf AI products to improve their fundraising and marketing. Chief among these products are technologies that allow nonprofit professionals to segment communications and systematically perform appeals. 

For example, when nonprofit professionals take advantage of AI-powered systems to predict when a donor is likely to give, they will be able to time their solicitations better and raise more for their cause.

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Have You Been Impressed By the Impact of AI on Your Work

Tia is incredibly excited about the Foundation’s open-source data catalog project. The catalog will help increase progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by making critical data more accessible worldwide.

James finds the Foundation’s work with food security to be especially interesting. For example, the Foundation hosted a competition that spawned a solution to the stagnant growth of agricultural yield improvement in certain regions. The solution improved the selection of initial agricultural experiments run in the field. The solution double yield improvement by performing complex analyses to double the speed of the scientific processes that were occurring.

Ultimately, James and Tia, in their work at the Foundation, create impact by bringing together all sorts of individuals and organizations such as researchers, nonprofits, governments, and corporate actors to advance social change. 

If you take away anything from this interview, it should be that if we want to truly reach the full potential of emerging technologies, we need to do so in an inclusive way! 

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