James Read, Senior Vice President, BDI

QUICK SHOT: 5 Steps to Integrate AI Into Your Organization

Confused about AI? Follow this plan to make AI work for your nonprofit

By James Read, Senior Vice President, Creative

Where were you when the Twin Towers fell… when the full implications of the Covid-19 pandemic began to sink in… or when you first sat down and experimented with ChatGPT?

I was sitting in my home office in late 2022 when I started to play around with ChatGPT. I suddenly realized that life as I knew it was changing before my eyes. 

Like you, I had been hearing about AI (artificial intelligence) for a number of years and wondered how AI could be used by nonprofit organizations. ChatGPT now makes it possible for anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to have human-like chats with a super-intelligent AI language model. And the implications are breathtaking.

5 Steps to Take Now

As leaders in the nonprofit space, we should be asking ourselves what we need to do now to understand AI tools like ChatGPT, and how we can use them to make our life-changing work easier and more effective. 

Here are 5 steps we’re taking at BDI to explore this exciting new world, and some suggestions on how you can apply these steps for integrating AI at your nonprofit organization:

1. Convene an AI workgroup

Pull together a small team of people at your organization and ask them to identify key areas where AI could have an impact. Consider communications, operations, donor management, human services… anywhere that a super-intelligent assistant could add value or help automate processes.

Here at BDI, we have a group focused on integrating AI into key areas of our company, and we’ll be looking for ways to make our processes quicker and more effective.

2. Identify AI tools for experimentation

If you haven’t already, set up an account for free and begin exploring ChatGPT. You may also be able to sign up for Bard, Google’s answer to ChatGPT (you may be asked to join a waiting list).

The success of ChatGPT has spawned hundreds of other AI tools with specific purposes. Many are free, some require a subscription to access the full value. Here are just a few you may want your AI workgroup to explore:

  • Jasper helps you create written content like blog posts and other typical communications your organization may produce.
  • Fireflies.ai can help automate note taking in meetings with voice transcription and search capabilities.
  • Magical is a tool to speed up repetitive tasks at work.
  • SlidesAI helps you create presentation slides.

Please note that BDI is not endorsing any of the tools above. Many are experimental, so use at your discretion. And the tools we’ve mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. Follow influencers like Zain Kahn on LinkedIn to stay current on new tools being released every week. 

3. Find out what AI can do for you

Once you’ve identified the tools you want to try, have your AI workgroup start experimenting to discover how you can use AI at your nonprofit organization! For example, here are some things you can ask ChatGPT to do:

  • Use it for research. You can ask ChatGPT for information on just about any topic, and it can provide customized answers. For example, “How can AI help nonprofit organizations find new donors?”
  • Ask for a summary. You can use ChatGPT to summarize a longer article, white paper or even a book. Give it a web link, copy and paste information into the prompt, or just ask it to summarize a book if it is well-known.
  • Draft a blog post or social media post. Give it specific instructions, like, “Write a 50-word social media post on [blank topic] in a fun, conversational tone.”

4. Develop guidelines and standards for your organization

Once you’ve begun experimenting with AI and integrating it into your workflows, you need to establish clear guidelines and guardrails for its usage

AI tools like ChatGPT are well-known for confidently providing incorrect answers on occasion. Ask your AI workgroup to clearly identify when, where and how AI will be used at your nonprofit organization, and the extent to which human oversight will be required to make sure its impact is not harmful.

5. Expect dramatic growth and change in the years ahead

The AI revolution is just beginning. Right now it seems like the Wild West, with new tools springing up every week. The most likely outcome is that a few new winners will emerge with comprehensive suites of tools, and that AI will also be even more deeply integrated into existing tools we’re all familiar with like Microsoft Office and Zoom.

Clearly AI seems poised to change the way we work in the nonprofit space (and in just about every other sphere). Today the right approach is to learn more, experiment and set healthy boundaries about AI’s role as we work together to make the world a better place.

  • James Read VP Creative BDI

    James Read, Chief Creative Officer

    James believes that technology and other changes in society today are creating one of the most exciting eras for fundraising. With more than 30 years of experience, James empowers nonprofits and cause-driven organizations to communicate their world-changing ideas in ways that inspire and motivate people. He has served more than 50 organizations in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and helped organizations raise more than a billion dollars. James’s experience includes work for American Red Cross, Muscular Dystrophy Association, World Vision, The Salvation Army and the University of Chicago, along with numerous rescue missions, food banks, cancer centers, humane societies and Christian ministries.

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