You might think that artificial intelligence (AI) is just about using computers to perform complex tasks that otherwise would require human intelligence. That’s part of AI. But several technologies fall under the AI umbrella, including machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and robotic process automation. Here’s how tools such as these can help nonprofits cut costs and achieve mission-critical objectives.
The term “AI” is sometimes confused with data analytics or the application of intense mathematics. But AI can be used in everyday applications that enable nonprofits to improve program efficacy.
For example, the Crisis Text Line in New York has used AI to analyze millions of text messages to determine the words most associated with a high risk of suicide in the sender. And various animal welfare and environmental organizations have employed AI to combat poaching. PAWS, for example, uses modeling and machine learning to provide park rangers with information that helps them predict and prevent poachers’ actions. Global Fishing Watch has analyzed billions of messages from fishing boats to identify illegal industrial fishing ships.
Health-focused organizations also have adopted AI technologies. For example, Parkinson’s UK has unleashed AI to plow through reams of existing research data to fast-track new treatments.
Putting it into practice
Your nonprofit might be able to use AI in the following areas:
Fundraising. Machine learning can help you analyze your current donor database and develop models that predict donor behavior. For example, chatbots that simulate conversation might handle smaller donations while directing more complicated contributions to humans.
Human resources. AI software can expedite the hiring process. For instance, it can narrow the field and save interviewing time, freeing up HR staff to deal with other issues. AI also might reduce the risk of discrimination claims because human subjectivity may play less of a role in the process.
Communications. Chatbots, NLP, and other tools make it easier to maintain efficient and effective communications with internal and external stakeholders — including potential donors and volunteers. You might be able to automate board packets and donation requests to ensure the timely delivery of information.
The initial investment required for AI may seem difficult to justify in uncertain economic times. However, because most nonprofits have similar operational needs, AI developers have created off-the-shelf solutions that can be customized. Grants or collaborative efforts with other nonprofits could also help your nonprofit pay for AI technology.