How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Nonprofit Operations
Sara Herschander - The Chronicle of Philanthropy
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September 11, 2023

As more groups use artificial intelligence, they’re getting a sense of the benefits and risks of an A.I.-driven future. (LinkedIn)

While not all nonprofits have been eager to adopt the new technology, experts agree that A.I. is here to stay — and that organizations ought to start thinking about their next steps.

“The barriers to access are coming down and will continue to come down” for A.I. tools, says Brigitte Gosselink, director of product impact at, the philanthropic arm of tech giant Google, which has given over $100 million in cash grants and 160,000 hours in pro bono consulting to a total of more than 150 organizations for A.I.-related projects over the past several years.

The organizations that supports say their A.I. projects have helped achieve their goals in a third of the time and half the cost, according to surveys Google has conducted. That claim is echoed in research about A.I.'s impact on productivity. A study by Stanford University and the National Bureau of Economic Research found that A.I. increased workers’ productivity by 14 percent; another released by MIT researchers in March found that ChatGPT improved workers’ efficiency by 37 percent.

Most of the A.I.-driven tools used by nonprofits bear little resemblance to more advanced (and expensive) A.I. like Google’s Bard or DALL-E 2, which can generate their own text and images. Simpler forms of A.I., like Apple’s Siri or even an automatic spam filter, focus instead on analyzing and making predictions based on existing data.

For example, the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides crisis support to LGBTQ youths, worked with to build a chatbot to train volunteers and A.I. that identifies the highest-risk young people through chat and puts them in touch with a volunteer.

Reimagining Disaster Response

In the past five years, the American Red Cross has launched more than 20 A.I.-powered projects, including disaster-response chatbots that can help people find the nearest shelter and algorithms that can predict levels of attendance — and anticipate staffing needs — at future blood drives.

One project uses a tool to determine which areas of the country have the highest risk of fire. Using that data, a campaign to install free smoke alarms around the country has been able to target the communities most at risk.

More recently, the group has begun exploring more advanced deep-learning models, which rely on much larger datasets than other forms of A.I. and can produce more complicated predictions and analyses. Two new tools, which are nearly ready for pilot testing, will allow the group to automatically assess the damage level of disaster-stricken communities using drone footage and a set of GoPro video cameras affixed to a car.

“Identifying damage takes a lot of time because you need to have a lot of people on the ground going door-to-door,” says Sajit Joseph, chief innovation officer at the American Red Cross. “The process could take weeks — and technology’s changing that to hours, or maybe days.”

Read the rest at The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Related: ‘The Bear’ Should Be Required Viewing for the Nonprofit World (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)

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