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Using AI Responsibly: A Short Explainer for Nonprofits

As artificial intelligence (AI) has become a larger part of daily life, concerns surrounding it have also grown. In a survey by Pew Research Center, 52% of American adults said they were more worried than excited about the increased day-to-day use of AI in 2023—up from 38% the previous year. So, if you’ve proposed incorporating AI into your nonprofit’s work but were met with pushback or apprehension, you’re probably not alone.

Fortunately, you can address these valid concerns about AI and maximize your nonprofit’s success by committing to use this technology responsibly. In this short guide, you’ll learn all you need to know to implement responsible AI at your nonprofit, including:

  • The Benefits of Responsible AI

  • 10 Principles of Responsible AI

  • Additional Tips to Use AI Responsibly

While there are real risks associated with AI, especially in the nonprofit sector, the advantages of AI-powered solutions are too valuable for your organization to pass up. The sooner you learn to use AI responsibly, the better equipped your organization will be to keep up with the current fundraising climate.

The Benefits of Responsible AI

When used properly, AI can elevate many aspects of nonprofit operations. Here are just a few of the benefits your organization can experience:

  • Improved data management, visualization, and analysis

  • Accurate and actionable insights for supporter engagement

  • New, creative ideas for fundraising and reaching out to your community

  • Streamlined marketing content creation and distribution

  • Personalized donor journeys that are more likely to result in positive responses to donation requests

  • More efficient resource allocation through automation

  • Prompt fraud detection, which allows for faster problem-solving

  • Better impact measurement and reporting

It’s also important to understand the risks associated with improper AI use, including:

  • Data privacy and security issues, which can lead to reduced confidence in your organization

  • Unintentional discrimination as a result of biased information output

  • Noncompliance with legal regulations on AI

  • Overdependence on technology that takes the human touch out of nonprofit work

However, acknowledging these risks and committing to use AI responsibly also has the benefit of preventing and mitigating them so your organization can fully experience the other advantages of AI solutions.

10 Principles of Responsible AI

To provide a framework for your nonprofit’s AI use, DonorSearch’s guide to responsible AI outlines ten essential principles your team should commit to before diving in. These tenets were developed by the Fundraising.AI collaborative, an independent group committed to promoting ethical and beneficial AI use in the nonprofit sector.

The ten principles of responsible AI for nonprofits are as follows:

  1. Privacy and security: Comply with data protection laws, take security precautions, and respect community members’ wishes about keeping their personal information private.

  2. Data ethics: Collect data only with proper consent, and prioritize accuracy and relevancy in its analysis and application.

  3. Inclusiveness: Protect against bias and discrimination by continuously evaluating the fairness and representativeness of AI outputs.

  4. Accountability: Ensure all AI processes and outputs are verifiable, replicable, and auditable.

  5. Transparency and explainability: Maintain your community’s trust by clearly communicating how your organization uses AI.

  6. Continuous learning: Use reliable resources to refine your organization’s AI processes and discover new best practices to implement as the technology evolves.

  7. Collaboration: Work with other nonprofits in your network to enhance each other’s AI learning and development.

  8. Legal compliance: Be aware of and follow all AI, data protection, and fundraising laws and regulations that apply to your organization.

  9. Social impact: Focus on your community’s needs when leveraging AI to maximize its positive impact.

  10. Sustainability: Consider the environmental impacts of AI and promote sustainable practices for its use.

When your nonprofit adopts its first AI solution, hold training sessions for all of your staff members and volunteers who will need to use it in their roles. Set aside time during this training to walk through these principles and have attendees sign a pledge to uphold them to instill the importance of responsible AI in your team right from the start. Then, as you introduce new AI tools at your organization, frame staff training around the above principles to reinforce them and show how they apply to your new solution.

Additional Tips to Use AI Responsibly

In addition to training your team to use AI responsibly, here are a few more best practices to implement to make the most of your nonprofit’s AI solutions:

  • Stay up to date on AI news. AI technology will continue to change over time. Keep up with current events, discussions, and public opinion about AI, especially as it relates to nonprofits and fundraising. This way, you’ll know what issues are most important to address as you implement new solutions, update your existing ones, and communicate with supporters.

  • Maintain oversight. Although AI can enhance fundraising, there are still manysome elements of decision-making and donor relations that require human intervention. Instead of letting AI do the work for you, work with it. For example, an AI solution might generate a template you can use to save time when writing donor thank-you notes, but it’s up to you to revise the template to appeal to your supporter base and decide whether a handwritten thank-you or an email would be the best course of action.

  • Audit your systems regularly. Continually assess whether your AI tools are producing high-quality, accurate results and if you need to adjust your strategy for using them or update them to the latest version to improve outputs. Double the Donation also recommends keeping your nonprofit’s technology up-to-date to enhance data security, further mitigating risks associated with AI.

Additionally, be careful about which systems your organization uses in the first place. Not all AI tools for nonprofits are created equal, so make sure to work with trusted providers and thoroughly evaluate your options before investing in new solutions.

AI solutions can help your nonprofit thrive in many ways, from boosting your fundraising results to streamlining operations to preparing for the future. As long as you follow the above tips and principles to ensure your organization uses AI responsibly, its benefits will far outweigh its risks.


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