First – our apologies if your boss just forwarded this to you.
Seriously, we feel you.
But it’s becoming a familiar pattern lately, hasn’t it? You’re in the middle of organizing that virtual fundraiser, planning a crucial advocacy campaign, or just trying to catch up on your email backlog, and there it is: another forward from your boss, bursting with the latest and greatest in artificial intelligence (AI). Maybe it’s an article about AI-powered predictive analytics, creative tool, text generator or perhaps it’s a new tool that promises to completely automate your donor management process.
Your first thought might be, “Great, one more thing on my plate.” But hang on, let’s look at it from a slightly different perspective. Your boss isn’t just forwarding these emails to clog up your inbox. In fact, they’re pushing towards a future where AI can help us make our organizations more effective, more efficient, and more impactful.
Understanding the AI Push
We get it – the AI stuff can seem overwhelming. Why are CEOs and executive directors so insistent on this AI thing? Well, they’re not trying to annoy you, we promise. They’re looking at the big picture, the potential of AI to help us understand our constituents better, improve our operations, and ultimately serve our mission more effectively. They’re concerned that the nonprofit sector isn’t taking AI adoption seriously enough, and you know what? They might have a point. Nonprofit organizations don’t have a stellar record for adopting tech for impact (note to self, make sure our donation page is mobile-friendly).
The Elephant in the Room: Job Security
Underneath the irritation and the AI fatigue, we understand there might be a more profound concern: the fear that AI adoption will reduce or eliminate the importance of your job (we will address ethics and errors later). It’s a valid worry, but let’s address it head-on.
Firstly, AI isn’t here to take away your job; it’s here to make it better. It’s about automating mundane, repetitive tasks, freeing up more of your time for the high-value, creative, and strategic work that humans are uniquely qualified to do. Remember, AI is a tool, not a replacement. It’s here to support, not supplant.
Secondly, the nonprofit sector is fundamentally about people helping people. Your empathy, your passion, your understanding of the communities you serve – these are qualities that no AI can replicate. Your role in making the world a better place is irreplaceable.
Cautiously Embracing the AI
We’re not saying you have to become an AI expert overnight. But the next time your boss forwards you something AI-related, take a moment to appreciate their perspective. They’re envisioning a future where our work becomes more streamlined, our insights more robust, and our impact more profound.
Start by asking questions. What does this tool do? How could it improve our work? What tasks could it automate, freeing up more time for more critical work? Remember, you have a voice in this process. Your insights into your daily work are invaluable in determining how AI can be most beneficial. Each nonprofit needs to decide if and how they should adopt this tech.
Remember that AI is more likely to become a great assistant rather than a replacement. It’s a tool that, used wisely and thoughtfully, can help us serve our communities better, achieve our mission more effectively, and continue to make a difference in the world. It is also important to consider the ethical application and implications of AI for your cause area.
Fear vs Function: “AI Generative Tools Don’t Work”
The quality of AI response is starting to be a bigger reflection of the author rather than the AI. Fear may be one of the best motivators but conversely, it is also one of the best demotivators. The more threatened you feel by these tools, the more you will be looking for ways to show their shortcomings vs their potential.
Things fearful people might say…
“I told the thing to create a blog post about trees and it was super generic”
“I asked for stats on the recent thing and it was totally wrong”
“I ask it to make a picture of a cat and it was kinda lame”
In these cases, yes the results will be terrible. Like throwing random ingredients into a pan and then being surprised that the result is tasteless food. You tend to find what you’re looking for, so try to have an open mind willing to experiment.
To put this another way, here is a super scientific chart showing how correlation will be causation for how useful AI will be for someone based on fear.
Time Sucks Suck: A Note to the Boss
If your expectation is that staff drop critical work to figure out yet another AI tool that dropped this week take a minute to consider that there are over 1,500 tools on FutureTools.io . Each tool takes time to test and explore, what’s more, they are easier than ever to spin up and 95% will not be here in 1 year.
While it might seem like a super-cool idea to AI modify all your staff photos into fruits that look like faces and animate them with RunwayML – please resist the distraction.
Sometimes to go fast, you must go slow. There is a bit of wisdom in letting some of the dust settle to see who the winners may be and where time should be invested once that is a bit clearer. We have curated some of the likely players who will probably be around past 1 year in AI.
Your Goal isn’t Maintaining Anachronistic Work
In the US, nonprofits represent 10% of the labor force, while generating 5% of the measured GDP. This sector is labor intensive because it deals with people and empathy, something that the robots can’t do the same way. The goal of your nonprofit is to serve more stakeholders effectively, not to maintain a style of doing work.
In 1881, Cala Barton founded the American Red Cross and they relied on employees like telegraph and linotype operators to send messages. In order to better respond to disasters and serve stakeholders they have evolved for over a century. They’ll do it again.
Your job in the nonprofit sector is safe because there is virtually no end to the work that needs to be done in our service to each other. So, the next time your boss forwards you an AI thing, take a deep breath, open it up, and think: “Alright, can this help us do more good or is this a time-waster for now?”
At Whole Whale, we believe that AI can be a powerful tool for nonprofits. But we also understand that change can be scary. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about how to move forward with AI adoption, we’re here to help with a hands-on capacity-building approach through CauseWriter.ai.