How to Get Started with AI for Your Nonprofit - Heller Consulting

How to Get Started with AI for Your Nonprofit

As a nonprofit professional, you might be excited about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) for nonprofits. You might also feel uncertain about, and even overwhelmed by, the possibilities: What could AI help your nonprofit do? Should you start using AI now? How do you get started? What AI tools should you adopt?

It’s a lot to consider. So, let’s take a look at some specific things you can do now to get going with AI for your nonprofit.

Five ways to get started with AI for your nonprofit

1. Brainstorm use cases.

The thing about AI – or any technology for that matter – is that it shouldn’t be about using technology for the sake of using technology. It should be about using it to get something new done or to do something faster and better.

So, an ideal place to start with AI for your nonprofit is to think about some of the things your organization is trying to accomplish, and the data you have to work with, and then consider if and how AI might be able to help.

For example, one of our nonprofit clients here at Heller Consulting has defined multiple fundraising growth goals, including increasing donor conversion rates from various marketing channels, and using constituent scoring and segmentation analysis to improve fundraising. They are working with our team to evaluate and determine which (if any) AI capabilities (in their current technology or in possible future technologies) could help them reach these goals.

Another example: A nonprofit with extensive community and programmatic data wants to use their data to create a more engaging experience for their community and gain insights from their data to find areas to focus their resources. They came to our team to help them determine if (and how) AI might be able to support these goals.

2. Look into what AI tools you might already have.

Many software platforms and solutions have started to add AI functionality to their offerings. So, another way to dip your toe into the AI waters is to look into the AI tools your organization’s software already offers or that might be coming soon, and then start experimenting with those tools to see how they can help you reach your goals.

Some software providers have even rolled out (and continue to develop) AI functionality specifically for nonprofits. For example:

  • Within the Copilot AI functionality accessible across the Microsoft environment, Microsoft offers specific AI capabilities for Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit that help to do things like optimize fundraising, drive donor-centric marketing, improve constituent engagement, and identify donors who are most likely to donate.
  • In addition to the Einstein AI capabilities in the Salesforce platform, Salesforce offers AI functionality in Einstein for Nonprofit Cloud that helps to do things like segment supporter lists, create cultivation emails, create web pages, and draft personalized gift proposals.

TIP: When starting to use new technology like AI, it’s important to have a policy in place on how your organization will use it. Create an initial AI policy that offers your staff guidance on using AI, with guardrails that help ensure its use is consistent with your organization’s technology, security, and privacy policies. You can continue to update your AI policy as your organization evolves.

3. Consider your data.

Data is a big consideration when it comes to AI. It feeds AI, so it’s important to understand multiple things about your nonprofit’s data, such as:

  • What data do you have to work with? When you’re using AI to accomplish something, you must have the data to support it. So, as you think about use cases for AI, consider if you have the data points you would need to reach your goals.
  • How clean is your data? AI is only as good as the data that feeds it. If you don’t have reliable data, then you can’t count on AI to magically work. So, if you have incomplete, duplicate, or outdated data, it’s time to start getting it in shape. It’s also a good time to develop or update a data governance strategy to help ensure your data stays in good order.
  • Where is your data? Because data feeds AI, your AI tools need to be able to access it. If your data is scattered in multiple systems across your organization, then you will need a plan to integrate the data in some way so that your AI tools can get to it.

4. Learn more about AI.

AI is a hot topic these days, which means there are multiple ways you can learn more about it and how you might be able to use it to reach your nonprofit’s goals. Here are links to a few resources to get you started:

5. Develop an initial AI strategy.

Keeping up with the rapid evolution of AI tools, not to mention the concerns about the risks and disruption that AI might bring, can seem overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean you should get behind with using the technology – especially given the transformative potential of AI for nonprofits.

Our team here at Heller Consulting offers an AI Preparedness Assessment for Nonprofits that can guide you through responsible AI adoption. This assessment is designed to help nonprofits:

  • Address AI challenges
  • Uncover opportunities to use AI strategically
  • Develop an AI strategy
  • Create a roadmap for adopting AI tools

The rise and growth of AI might seem intimidating, but it has the potential to transform the way your nonprofit gets things done. Here at Heller Consulting, our team of experts is ready to help you build a clear plan for navigating the technology landscape and embracing AI.

Let’s get started: Contact us today to speak with one of our experts.

About the Author

Jett Winders
Jett works collaboratively with nonprofits to map their business needs to CRM tools and functionality so that organizations can deliver their missions more effectively and raise money more efficiently.  With more than 15 years of fundraising experience, Jett has had... Read More