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Running a successful nonprofit means you’re good at doing more with less—and you wear a lot of hats. So when it comes to the recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), needless to say, you’re probably intrigued. A computer program that can supposedly write marketing plans, draft emails and tackle other time-consuming tasks? Go on. I’m listening.

But you probably have as many questions as answers about this technology that’s taking the world by storm. So let’s kick off a discussion about AI and what it means for your nonprofit.


First things first: what is Artificial Intelligence?

AI refers to computer systems that can perform tasks usually requiring human intelligence. Yet, compared to the sentient AI from science fiction, today’s version is much more mundane. Trained using massive amounts of data, it performs calculations to do things like park your car, talk to customers over the phone or in the case of ChatGPT—the AI program everyone’s been talking about lately—mimic human language.

In other words, despite what the media may lead people to believe, AI is not truly intelligent. Most experts think truly “self-aware” AI is in the distant future—if it happens at all.


The thing about ChatGPT.

That said, there’s a reason ChatGPT from OpenAI, or its close relatives, have made the whole world collectively say, “Holy buckets!”

Never before have computer programs seemed so human.

For example, ChatGPT can:

  • Write poetry.
  • Create art.
  • Write or check for errors in computer code.
  • Compile your grocery list.
  • Compose and respond to emails.
  • Answer customer service calls.
  • Look for typos.
  • Analyze data.
  • And much, much, much more.



Can AI be put to use in my organization?

Whether or how AI can help your nonprofit become more efficient is a decision you should weigh carefully. There are good arguments on both sides, with detractors pointing to concerns like the potential for human job loss; plagiarism; the potential for discrimination; or the fact that AI-generated content may lack the human element (aka emotion and creativity). On the other hand, its benefits for automating tasks and saving humans time and effort—or even making society safer or more efficient—are fascinating and impossible to ignore.

The one thing that is certain is that, like the internet, AI will gradually be woven into our everyday lives, influencing how we work, communicate, seek entertainment or even browse the internet (for example, in the case of the latest AI-powered search engines like Microsoft’s Bing). That means the best thing to do right now may just be this: to see for ourselves what this new technology is all about.



Want to give it a whirl?

If you’ve read or heard about AI but never experienced it firsthand, we recommend trying out ChatGPT to get an idea. Here’s how:

  1. Visit openai.com
  2. Sign up for a free account by clicking Try ChatGPT.
  3. Start entering prompts. (For example: write me a grocery list for lasagna bolognese).
  4. Be amazed (or at least entertained) by what the program comes up with.

You might be surprised how much fun this can be. Moreover, you may even discover time-saving ways to use ChatGPT day-to-day. For instance, one of our staff members used it to write a family cookbook. Another uses it to check for grammar issues when they write emails. Then there’s one of our copywriters, who recently asked how many Oreos it would take to fill a 19th century French merchant vessel. (He got a response that we have absolutely no reason to believe is inaccurate).

These applications of AI may not be life-changing, but they’re the type of baby steps you can take to start familiarizing yourself with the technology— and its potential for helping your nonprofit save time. From there, it’s time to explore more advanced concepts like API integration (aka hooking AI up to third-party software for business use cases like data analysis, customer service, etc.). This is all just the surface: there’s a lot to explore.


The future is out there.

AI is an astounding technology whose current abilities are only the tip of the iceberg. It’s likely we’re witnessing the start of a revolution on par with the automobile, the television or the internet. In time, AI will become just another part of our daily lives, and we’ll wonder how we ever managed without it. As a nonprofit, you have the opportunity to explore and experiment with AI in a way that aligns with your mission and goals. Just remember to approach it with caution, take the time to research its potential benefits and drawbacks, and weigh your options before diving in.