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Ai For Nonprofits

Unleashing the power of AI for mission-driven organizations


Imagine a world where charities, nonprofits, community banks and other mission-driven organizations operate with unprecedented efficiency, thanks to the power of artificial intelligence.

In a recent Diligent panel discussion, industry experts gathered to discuss and explore how AI, particularly language models, can be harnessed to drive positive change and innovation in these sectors.

The insightful discussion delved into the transformative impact of AI, sharing practical applications and strategies tailored for the community sector.

Meet our expert panelists

Nonie Dalton: A seasoned expert in product management and innovative tech solutions, Nonie currently serves as Vice President of Product Management at Diligent. Nonie hosted the panel and brought invaluable insights to the discussion.

Ari Ioannides: A distinguished board member at Park City Institute and founder of BoardDocs, Ari provided unique perspectives on integrating AI into both nonprofit and educational sectors, supported by practical insights from his own experience.

Richard Barber: As CEO and board director for Mind Tech Group, Richard shared his expertise as an AI Governance and Growth Strategy Consultant on the strategic implementation of AI solutions in diverse community-based initiatives.

Dominique Shelton Leipzig: A Partner at Meyer Brown, Dominique provided legal perspectives and insights into the ethical and regulatory considerations surrounding AI applications.

5 key insights from the discussion

1. Transformative applications of AI

Our panelists highlighted the transformative potential of AI in local government, schools, and nonprofits. Schools can leverage AI for personalized learning experiences, government organizations can create policies and other types of documents quickly, while nonprofits can optimize fundraising efforts through AI-driven data analytics.

The panelists referenced several examples of AI in action, such as:

  • Providing summaries of long form documents
  • Writing a press release
  • Writing a resolution
  • Drafting emails/newsletters
  • Content generation in general
  • Creating curriculum and lesson plans
  • Marking tests
  • Drafting policies
  • Drafting Grant proposals
  • Grant reporting
  • Creating plans for events
  • Writing messages for stakeholders
  • If you have multi-language constituents using AI to generate text in that language

Nonie Dalton pointed out, “When we look at the public sector, AI is really being viewed as a key element to really drive efficiency and help organizations do more with the resources that they have, while providing better services and achieving their missions.”

2. Risk considerations

Managing risks with AI was a key point of discussion. Richard Barber pointed out that organizations may think the CIO is solely responsible, but the board is also accountable and needs to be on top of risks.

Dominique Shelton Leipzig recommended ranking the use cases of AI in terms of risk: low, medium and high. An example of low risk could be using AI to tell stakeholders a school is closed due to a thunderstorm, while high risk would be anything involving sensitive data or children.

She suggested four actions for boards to take when it comes to AI and risk:

  1. Boards need to have a technical briefing based on the use cases you are considering.
  2. Ask: “Do we have any use cases that are in a ‘prohibitive’ bucket at all?”
  3. Ask: “Are any of our use cases high-risk? What is our governance and mitigation strategy?”
  4. Discuss these questions at board and operational level.

3. Legal and regulatory frameworks

Dominique Shelton Leipzig also provided insights into the legal and regulatory landscape surrounding AI. She advised organizations to stay informed about evolving regulations and to implement responsible AI practices to mitigate legal risks.

She recommended, “All the draft legislation is there. Getting where the government is going will help your organization. Start to prepare now as it’s coming.”

4. Implementing AI

Ari Ioannides shared his experiences in implementing AI solutions. He emphasized the importance of maintaining oversight when implementing AI in organizations. He noted, “Think of AI as a Junior Assistant. You would never let someone only two years out of college loose on your organization without oversight.”

While AI is very good at calculation and prediction, it is not good at judgement. Dominique Shelton Leipzig added, “Judgement is key. The governance team needs to have a process in place and a policy for how to use AI.”  She recommends having technical controls to test, monitor, correct and audit your organization’s use of AI.

Nonie Dalton agreed, “It’s about understanding the use cases in your organization, and how you are going to have that oversight.”

“Think of AI as a junior assistant. You would never let someone only two years out of college loose on your organization without oversight.” – Ari Ioannides, founder of BoardDocs and board member at Park City Institute

5. Policy and governance for AI

The panel also highlighted the importance of having policy and governance in place in their organization.

Nonie Dalton asked the panel to give their advice around policy and governance. What should organizations and their boards be doing today to make good policy around AI?

Ari Ioannides recommends making sure there are processes in place for checking the output of the work, and if needed run it through Legal or HR.

Dominique Shelton Leipzig advised that the whole governance team needs to have a system in place, with processes and policies that tell everybody in the organization the same rules, because they might individually be using AI to help augment things. “You want to make sure that there’s a policy in place and there is a procedure for how to treat these tools because it’s not intuitive.”

Richard Barber added, “If your board/leadership does not have an AI framework in place, they should. This should include strategy as well as policies. Get some training, get some help. Take a look at the NIST framework – it has a 7-page playbook with an AI framework you can use as a starting point.”

Practical advice for mission-driven organizations for leveraging AI

To harness the power of AI effectively, organizations in the nonprofit sector can:

  • Invest in AI literacy: Encourage staff to enhance their understanding of AI’s basics and potential applications.
  • Collaborate for success: Foster collaboration between the staff members who use AI, and the stakeholders who use the outputs. Collective efforts amplify the impact of AI initiatives, creating holistic solutions.
  • Stay ethically informed: Stay abreast of evolving ethical considerations. Regularly update policies and practices to align with ethical standards, ensuring responsible AI use.
  • Embrace and explore: From language processing to predictive analytics, explore how AI applications can address specific challenges. Start small and test and learn.
  • Transparent communication: Maintain transparent communication with the community regarding AI implementations, ensuring public awareness and trust.
  • Regular ethical audits: Periodically audit AI algorithms for biases, ensuring ethical practices in decision-making processes.
  • Policy advocacy: Advocate for policies that promote responsible AI use, collaborating with policymakers and legal experts.
  • Collaborate for legal guidance: Partner with legal experts to effectively navigate the complex landscape of AI regulations.
  • Prioritize data security: Implement robust data security measures to safeguard sensitive information.
  • Stay informed and adaptive: Continually engage with AI advancements and industry best practices to make informed decisions and drive positive change.

Embracing responsible AI practices

The power of AI is no longer confined to the realm of science fiction. It’s a tangible force for transformation in nonprofits. By understanding the ethical, legal and practical aspects of AI, governing boards can examine how their organization can better harness its potential for the benefit of their communities.

As your organization explores AI initiatives, it’s important to have a strong framework in place. By embracing AI thoughtfully and responsibly, mission-driven organizations can begin to unlock its full potential to drive positive change.

AI is just one of the digital technologies completely transforming governance for public boards of nonprofits and mission-driven organizations. A Diligent guide gives board members and executives a high-level framework for building a modernized board management platform, focusing on four key capabilities of a tech-enabled and tech-empowered public board. Download the guide here.

Jill Holtz

Jill is a Content Strategy Manager at Diligent. Her strategy background and content expertise working across a variety of sectors, including education, non-profit and with local government partners, allows her to provide unique insights for organizations looking to achieve modern governance.

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