AI For Nonprofits: Five Tips for Using AI Technology

By Jodi Buchholz | February 20, 2024

AI for nonprofits

Looking into AI for nonprofits could help you and your organization streamline day-to-day tasks and work smarter.

There is a lot of noise about AI in the tech sphere right now, and it can be daunting to try and cut through the noise to determine what exactly AI can do for your nonprofit. It's not as simple as just implementing an AI system and using it. There are things you need to do to prepare your organization to use AI such as:

  • Setting up a solid and identity access management strategy
  • Ensuring your data is classified properly
  • Establishing a governance framework to manage security, privacy, and compliance
  • Deploying and configuring your AI system so it works for your organization
  • Educating your users about AI so they know how it can help them streamline their workdays

Luckily, it's relatively simple to do this with a bit of foresight and patience! Stoneridge Software offers envisioning sessions and can help you establish a framework on how to move forward with AI.

AI for Nonprofits: What You Need to Do

Recently, Microsoft Philanthropies CTO Erik Arnold wrote a blog with five best practices for nonprofit organizations considering AI. Here is a summary of those best practices:

1. Establish a Plan For How to Use AI in Your Organization

AI-powered solutions took off when ChatGPT and OpenAI came into existence. According to Arnold's blog, 100 million users adopted those AI technologies in record time. Chances are there are people within your organization who have used those tools to help with their jobs already.

While it might be tempting to just register your team members and start using AI every day, you also have to be very careful about what data and information you are putting into these public tools. Getting the lay of the land in your organization and establishing ground rules on how to use AI is a very important step you should take before widely using any AI technology. Our recommendation is to go through the steps outlined above to make sure your data is classified properly and that your team members can only access the data they need to do their jobs. This reduces the risk of putting sensitive or private data into a public tool.

Microsoft Copilot is a great tool that comes equipped with security features in place that are managed by the Microsoft cyber security team. It also implements well with other Microsoft solutions.

2. Educated Your Team on AI

The benefits of AI are wide-ranging within your organization, and pretty well every team member can use it for one or more tasks. Setting up education sessions to inform them about what tools you are using and how to properly use them will help you get ahead of any potential issues. You should also set up feedback sessions and get perspectives from every area of your business. Not only does it give everyone in your organization a voice, but it might uncover some things you didn't realize you had to address.

Simply put, do the necessary prework to ensure you and your team are all on the same page when it comes to using AI.

3. Get To Know Your AI-powered tools in a Test Environment

Letting your team explore AI capabilities in a test environment - sometimes referred to as a sandbox - can help them get a sense of what they need to do or learn to use these tools to maximum effect. It provides them with a safe environment where they can input data and experiment with new ideas and tools. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect!

4. Develop an Internal Framework and Guidelines on How to Manage Your Data

Once you determine how to best implement and use your data in AI tools, create a physical internal framework and set of guidelines that your team can reference. Establishing a data management system that categorizes your data and comes with user-based permissions ensures that team members are only accessing the data they need to do their jobs properly. For example, a person working in marketing doesn't need access to any financial information in your system. The last thing you'd want is for someone who might not understand what they are looking at plugging sensitive data into a public tool. While some AI tools come with guardrails, many don't. Setting up data governance makes sure your most sensitive data is protected and does not interact with any AI tools unless a person with the authority deems it necessary.

5. Train Your Team and Keep Communication Open

Education is key. Ensure your team is trained on how to properly use AI is important. Not only that, ensuring there is an open line of communication between experts and team members is also important. Your users will have questions and like any process, there will be bumps in the road. Ensuring open communication makes getting past those bumps much easier. Everyone in your organization should know about your AI system's capabilities, benefits, and even risks. Fortunately, there are a lot of training resources on the internet you can use to help with this.

Remember, AI is just a tool to help humans (AKA, your team members) work more efficiently and automate time-consuming day-to-day processes. Training your team, doing the pre-work, and staying on top of AI trends are three ways you can ensure that this evolving technology continues to work for you.

Want to Learn More About How AI for Nonprofits Can Help You?

Get in touch with us! Stoneridge Software can help you do a top-to-bottom review of your data and your systems to ensure you are ready to implement AI technologies like Microsoft Copilot and more. Once that's done, we can help you implement and support your system now and in the future.

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