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AI for Nonprofits: How to Boost Effectiveness




Artificial intelligence’s potential for driving sales and revenue is well-known, but it can benefit more than just for-profit businesses. AI also has many promising use cases in the nonprofit space.

Nonprofits are aware of this potential, and 89% agree that AI will make them more efficient. However, only 28% have implemented or experimented with this technology. That largely stems from a lack of understanding of AI and what it can do, so here are five of the biggest ways it can boost nonprofit effectiveness.

1. Manage Donors on an Individual Level

Fundraising and donor management are some of AI’s most significant use cases for nonprofits. Machine learning tools can analyze information in donor databases and enrich it with data from sources like social media to learn more about each contributor. You can then use these insights to tailor ongoing relationships with these people to boost engagement and prevent churn.

AI can identify the donors most likely to give or show you how best to communicate with other users. Many nonprofits try to do this through segmentation, which helps, but AI can employ this strategy individually.

This individualization is remarkably effective. When British nonprofit Parkinson’s UK used AI to segment its donors, it received more than 400 gifts of over $15,000 that it would’ve missed with traditional methods.

2. Automate Outreach and User Service

Nonprofits can also use AI to automate their messages to existing and potential donors. Writing and sending emails is more time-consuming than many people realize, taking 28% of the workday on average. Consequently, you can free up hours daily by automating this process with AI.

Generative AI models can use templates for outreach materials, then customize messages to each specific user. That way, you can address each person in what way most appeals to them, generating more engagement.

Similarly, AI can also automate customer service roles. Chatbots can field and answer people’s questions about the organization 24/7, regardless of how many staffers you have available. These quick responses will help promote transparency and demonstrate that you care about what weighs on people’s minds.

3. Automate Internal Controls

Running a nonprofit organization involves many repetitive, data-heavy administrative tasks AI can automate. Leaving these to intelligent machines gives you more time to focus on nuanced, value-adding work while not overlooking critical steps in managing a nonprofit.

Nonprofits must ensure three central controls to prevent errors and fraud — separation of duties, authorization for transactions and thorough documentation. These steps are important yet time-consuming, but AI programs can streamline them.

AI can analyze workflows and access privileges to ensure staffers' duties and controls remain separate to prevent fraud. Similarly, they can automatically alert authority figures when someone requests a transaction so they can review it before authorizing it. Each time an employee or volunteer completes a task, AI can automatically record and file it for faster, more transparent documentation. 

4. Analyze Public Sentiment

Sentiment analysis is another important use case for AI for nonprofits. Any organization should monitor its public perception to see how it must change to meet consumers’ expectations, but nonprofits face greater scrutiny than most. AI can help by scanning web articles and social media posts to see what people are saying about the organization and how that reflects their sentiments.

Natural language processing (NLP) tools can analyze text to glean what emotions it represents, like anger, disappointment and support. These insights can help reveal if any of your nonprofit initiatives have come across the wrong way or, by contrast, exceed expectations. You can then make informed decisions about the most effective steps to take in the future.

Reviewing these interactions thoroughly would be nearly impossible with manual processes. People share 1.7 million pieces of content every minute on Facebook alone. AI lets you scan through all that for every mention of or interaction with your organization in mere minutes.

5. Improve Cybersecurity

AI is also an important tool for defending against cybercrime. Large corporations may be the most obvious targets for hackers, but cybercriminals have attacked nonprofits like the Red Cross in the past, stealing significant amounts of sensitive information. Many nonprofits may not have the resources for a full-blown security team, but AI can automate things.

Machine learning-powered network monitoring tools can learn what normal behavior in your database looks like so it can spot abnormalities. When something unusual happens, this software can contain the potential breach and alert IT staff to investigate further. This automation lets you respond fast enough to stop data breaches without manually checking network activity 24/7.

Similarly, automated security tools can scan your devices for outdated software, back up critical files and monitor the dark web for breached passwords. These insights let you stay secure regardless of the size of your IT department.

Nonprofits Have Much to Gain From AI

Running a nonprofit can be complicated, but AI makes much of it easier. Organizations that apply AI in any of these five ways can become more efficient, transparent and secure. These advantages will help them reach their goals as effectively as possible, despite rising obstacles.

Zac Amos is a tech writer who focuses on artificial intelligence. He is also the Features Editor at ReHack, where you can read more of his work.