How to Uphold Your Nonprofit’s Values While Implementing AI

Julia Claire Campbell AI, Fundraising, Nonprofits

Guest post by Sarah Tedesco

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly popular in many areas of personal and professional life, including nonprofit work. Leveraging AI in your organization’s operations and fundraising allows you to provide better donor experiences and services while saving time and resources. Plus, AI tools can provide unique insights to improve and modernize your efforts.

However, if you’ve experienced pushback when trying to implement AI at your organization, you aren’t alone. There is still some hesitancy around its use in the nonprofit sector, particularly regarding how to maintain high ethical standards and ensure the focus remains on making a positive impact in the community.

In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the ways your nonprofit can leverage AI to support its mission and walk through a framework for responsible AI use that will help you uphold your organization’s values as you incorporate these tools into your operations. Let’s dive in!

How Nonprofits Can Leverage AI to Support Mission-Driven Work

Generally speaking, artificial intelligence is the ability of computers or machines to “think” in similar ways to humans. This involves analyzing information, recognizing patterns, and making suggestions based on the conclusions it draws. 

AI tools for nonprofits can be divided into two main categories: generative AI and predictive AI. Let’s look at each type’s functions and use cases in more detail.

Generative AI

DonorSearch defines generative AI as “a specific type of artificial intelligence that uses its pattern recognition and analysis capabilities to develop new, original content like written copy, images, and videos.” Common nonprofit use cases for generative AI include:

How to Uphold Your Nonprofit's Values While Implementing AI

  • Multi-channel marketing, including content creation, revision, and scheduling
  • Prospect reporting, which summarizes key information about potential donors for easy reference as you reach out to them
  • Donor cultivation material creation and moves management
  • Fundraising appeal development for major giving, year-end campaigns, annual fund contributions, and more
  • Donor stewardship and long-term retention efforts

ChatGPT is probably the best-known generative AI tool, and other widely popular solutions include DALL-E, Grammarly, and Synesthesia. There are also a few tools specific to the nonprofit sector, such as Momentum (a fundraising content generation tool) and ProspectView Online 2 by DonorSearch (an AI-powered prospect reporting solution).

Predictive AI

Predictive AI solutions use machine learning abilities to analyze and model data, project future trends, and make recommendations based on their evaluations. Nonprofits most often leverage these tools for:

How to Uphold Your Nonprofit's Values While Implementing AI

  • Donor prospect modeling, which provides deeper insight into your organization’s prospect research data and allows you to prioritize your outreach efforts more effectively
  • Engagement analytics that help you identify strengths and areas for improvement in your marketing, cultivation, and donation request strategies
  • Sector-specific fundraising needs for more niche organizations like healthcare or higher education institutions

Popular predictive AI tools include Google Cloud Smart Analytics, Tableau, and the nonprofit-specific machine learning solution DonorSearch Ai. To maximize your results, your nonprofit should leverage predictive and generative AI tools in conjunction with each other. For example, DonorSearch Ai integrates with Momentum so your organization’s prospect analytics seamlessly inform its fundraising content generation.

The Basics of Responsible AI for Nonprofits

If your nonprofit commits to using AI responsibly, staying focused on your values will be much easier as you implement these tools. Plus, you’ll dramatically reduce many of the risks of leveraging AI improperly, such as data breaches, noncompliance with legal regulations, and perpetuating harmful biases.

The Fundraising.AI collaborative has put together a framework of principles to help nonprofits like yours incorporate AI best practices into their strategies. We’ll just touch on a few of the highlights here.

Data Ethics, Privacy, & Security

AI tools process a lot of data, some of which likely include sensitive information about donors, prospects, or your organization. Here are a few tips to help your team maintain privacy, ensure security, and act ethically when managing this data:

  • Stay up-to-date on and adhere to any laws or regulations regarding AI use, data collection, and data protection that apply to the area where your nonprofit operates.
  • Allow donors to give their consent before processing their data with your AI tools, and respect their wishes if they say no.
  • Implement security precautions for your AI solutions—for example, Double the Donation’s donor data guide recommends restricting user permissions, enabling encryption, and regularly updating your nonprofit’s systems.

Additionally, be careful about which AI tools your organization invests in. Ensure you’re working with trusted providers that build privacy and security measures into their platforms and are committed to ethical data standards.

Transparency, Explainability, & Accountability

Your nonprofit’s donors and other stakeholders likely want to know how your nonprofit is using AI—to ensure you’re keeping their data safe and to see the mission-related progress your organization is making with its AI tools. This is especially true of younger supporters, who may have a greater interest in AI and tend to value transparency highly when it comes to engaging with nonprofits.

To promote transparency about your organization’s AI use, communicate about it in various ways. For example, you could:

  • Include updates about your AI innovations and results in your nonprofit’s email newsletter.
  • Add an explanation to your nonprofit’s website about its commitment to responsible AI use and link to the framework you follow.
  • Create print or digital educational resources that you can provide to major donor prospects, grantmakers, and other community members who may request more in-depth information about how your organization leverages AI.

Additionally, hold your nonprofit to a high standard of internal accountability regarding AI. Always review your tools’ outputs to ensure their accuracy and fairness. At least once a month, audit your AI systems to find areas for improvement and record the results for both internal and external reference.

Social Impact

The best way to ensure your nonprofit’s AI use aligns with its mission and values is to commit to creating a positive social impact with AI. Strive to minimize the potential harm these tools can cause and maximize the good they can promote by focusing on your community’s and beneficiaries’ needs above all else.

While AI can aid in content creation and data-driven decision-making, these processes still require a personal touch to achieve the desired positive outcomes. Always collaborate with your AI tools to develop human-centered content, ensure representative analyses, and make inclusive decisions about your organization’s next steps.

AI is here to stay in the nonprofit sector. The sooner your organization adopts it, the better prepared you will be for the future. As long as you make sure to use your AI tools responsibly, you should be able to get them to work with your mission and values, thereby maximizing your community impact.\

About the Author:

Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.