Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI Published Date, 2024

5 Cost And Time-Efficient Strategies For Nonprofits To Embrace AI

Created By: Terry Cangelosi and Bobby Hunter
January 10, 2024

2023 was a year defined by trends in emerging technologies, economic challenges, and shifts in workforce talent that altered the landscape for organizations across sectors. Among these trends, the prominence of artificial intelligence (AI) has become one of the hottest topics of the year, with organizations and industries embracing AI tools and witnessing the transformative power they bring to their operations. A testament to this phenomenon comes in the form of a recent working paper, published by the Harvard Business School, which shows improved worker productivity and quality by those using AI successfully. That said, while AI can be advantageous, it also comes with its fair share of challenges, especially when it comes to finding the time to learn these new tools.

As we strive as a company to catalyze the latest innovations and achieve the most efficient and effective results for our partners, this means we must also stay on the cutting edge when it comes to technology. This includes AI, and not only using it as a tool to improve our internal practices but to also share our learnings more broadly with the nonprofit sector. In doing so, we’ve analyzed more than 90 AI tools, conducted training sessions and published thought leadership pieces, and established an internal framework for continuous staff development.

To share this knowledge and help nonprofits overcome the challenge of time, we’ve distilled our findings into 5 cost and time-efficient strategies organizations can utilize to embrace AI.

1. It Starts with Leadership – Identify an Executive Sponsor

This task is easy if your nonprofit already has a CEO, COO, or other executive leader who is excited about AI. It is important to have someone in leadership who is willing to champion this effort and share their insights, successes, and challenges with other members of the C-suite. While they don’t have to be an overly active contributor, an executive sponsor can help strategize around time and money investments in your organization’s AI tool adoption and thus play a crucial role in advancing AI usage throughout the organization.

2. Gather the Team – Create a Task Force

Unless your nonprofit already has a dedicated team in place, you will likely need to find volunteers to form an AI committee that will drive this work. Consider bringing together a diverse group of staff from various departments who can find unique ways to implement AI tools toward achieving the organization’s mission and day-to-day work. Ideally, these volunteers are excited about the prospect of AI and may already have experience using AI tools. Once created, the committee should build and align on a mission to drive all initiatives, develop a meeting cadence, and set achievable goals.  

3. Set the Guidelines – Build an AI Usage Policy

As there is so much yet to be learned about AI, it is important that when conducting business, your employees use AI tools safely and responsibly. To help ensure this code of conduct, nonprofits should develop an AI usage policy, aimed at ensuring the privacy, security, and ethical usage of AI tools while maximizing the benefits for the organization. There are many templates available online that nonprofits can use as a starting point. Your organization’s policy should be tailored toward the specific data you work with, the deliverables you create, and how AI usage may interact with other organizational policies and agreements already in place. Creating this documentation should be an early initiative for the task force, while the executive sponsor can collect feedback and eventual approval of the new policy from leadership. (Note: While some AI leaders offer lawsuit protection for their users, this doesn’t address internal practices and Orr Group doesn’t recommend this as a suitable replacement for a policy.)

4. Do the Research – Analyze Tools

According to this August 2023 Medium article, there are “almost 7,000” AI tools; however, with the rate of innovation and access to plug-ins, that number is likely growing exponentially.  While most of these AI tools are likely not applicable to your organization’s workflow and mission, identifying and analyzing some of these can help identify key types of tools that can offer the most value. By setting a realistic timeline and building a basic comparison rubric, your AI Task Force can divide and conquer the analysis project to identify the tools that might have the biggest added value (pro tip – many of the tools out there offer free trials).

5. Train your Team

When Orr Group conducted an internal survey about how our staff thought they could use AI more effectively, 67% of respondents requested more training sessions and demonstrations. To build our trainings, we looked at what Microsoft, Google, and other tech leaders were sharing to help with AI adoption. This information helped drive an initiative to conduct internal training sessions on how to effectively and safely use AI tools in our line of work. These trainings were built off what had been learned during the tool analysis, such as effective prompt creation and daily life applications, and then simplified into short, interactive presentations.

By building baseline skills that apply to a wide range of AI tools, we’re enabling our staff to expand their usage of AI tools overall. For your organization, consider the work your team does and the areas where they could benefit from increased efficiency. Use this as a starting point to customize your trainings.

If your nonprofit hasn’t yet formalized its approach to AI, these steps can offer significant workflow improvements with minimal budget impact. Further, they provide a foundation for informed decision-making, helping you determine whether further investment in AI is warranted at your organization.

At Orr Group, we’re enthusiastic about the future of AI and hope to share that enthusiasm with our nonprofit partners. We are ready to assist your organization in brainstorming ways to seamlessly and safely integrate AI into your fundraising and other operational efforts. Contact us to learn more about how we can help elevate your organization to new heights.

Terry Cangelosi is a Senior Director and Head of Operations at Orr Group. Terry brings 10+ years of nonprofit operations experience to ensure the most efficient operations in Orr Group’s workflows, technology, and infrastructure. Terry is a member of Orr Group’s AI Taskforce.

Bobby Hunter is a Senior Associate Director supporting Operations at Orr Group. Bobby is responsible for providing leadership and oversight of the firm’s use of technology and internal systems to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Bobby is a member of Orr Group’s AI Taskforce.

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