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The Risks and Rewards of Technology vs the Human Touch



Technology has advanced the work of nonprofits significantly over the last several decades. Now the conversation around the risks and rewards of technology center around Artificial Intelligence (AI).


Organizational leaders are trying to figure out how to utilize AI and protect their information from misuse. The technology has the potential to revolutionize the operations of non-profit organizations, enabling them to increase their impact and efficiency. However, like any technology, AI also poses certain risks and challenges for nonprofits.


Let's explore the various ways in which non-profit organizations can benefit from AI, as well as the potential harms that they might face.


In my opinion, the biggest benefit to nonprofits is having the ability to analyze large amounts of data to identify trends, make predictions, and gain valuable insights about their programs, impact, and target demographics. This can help organizations make more informed decisions and better allocate their resources.


For example, fundraisers use data mined from their donor management systems to personalize donor communication, identify potential new donors, and optimize fundraising strategies based on data analysis. This can lead to increased donor engagement and higher fundraising success rates.


Nonprofits can use AI to manage their programs more efficiently by automating routine tasks, optimizing workflows, and assessing the impact of their initiatives. This allows organizations to focus on areas where they can make the most difference.


Infact, every single department can benefit from using AI to streamline administrative tasks such as scheduling, resource allocation, and communication, freeing up time for staff to focus on more strategic initiatives and direct service delivery.


This type of technology can eliminate repetitive tasks, such as data entry, scheduling, and even customer service. This sounds wonderful, right? It is, but there are risks that have to be considered.


The first risk is protecting information and data. Nonprofits cautiously protect the privacy of their clientele. They don't tend to have a lot of "trade" secrets, per se, but privacy is a must and a condition of providing services.


AI requires access to data, raising potential concerns about data privacy, security and accuracy. Organizations need to ensure that they comply with data protection regulations and that the data they collect and analyze is secure. This points to what I learned early in my nonprofit career, "junk in, junk out." If the data entered into the database system is faulty then the analysis will be faulty.


There are also ethical concerns. Questions around accountability, transparency, accuracy and the impact on human labor and human contact top the list.


Finally, while nonprofits weigh the risks and rewards in implementing AI in their operations, they must continue to stay abreast of all implications. Leveraging AI responsibly and ethically, non-profits can harness the power of technology to advance their missions and create positive change in the communities they serve. 

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