AI brings a tech-tonic shift for nonprofits

a group of adults and children using a laptop in a park

AI has been quietly making its way into our lives for years now in everything from speech recognition to streaming sites that point us toward movies we’re likely to enjoy. But it was the recent release of ChatGPT that really got everyone’s attention and made clear just how far-reaching the impact of AI will be in augmenting how we work, learn and live.

And that’s just based on the breakthroughs we’re seeing today.

As a company whose mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, at Microsoft we recognize the potential of AI to serve as a catalyst for a new era of opportunity and economic growth. But to ensure this economic growth is inclusive, everyone will need some degree of AI fluency to both understand and leverage this technology. Workers at every level and in every industry must have the skills to fully harness AI – to boost their careers, transform their industries and grow their businesses. And nonprofits are perhaps in the best position to harness the power of AI to increase productivity to do more, do it faster and be more inclusive in their work.

This is especially important now. From the work to address the impacts of climate change, to providing humanitarian relief following natural disasters, to delivering services and skills training to people in underserved communities, nonprofits are a lifeline and a source of hope and opportunity.

While nonprofits have always struggled to get the most out of the donations and grants that fund their work, today they operate in the face of unusually strong economic headwinds. For the 1.6 million US-based nonprofits, income growth ranges between 2% to 3% but inflation is currently running at about 6%. This means nonprofit budgets are effectively shrinking, which inevitably translates to reduced community impact. Meanwhile, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project reports that the number of people donating to nonprofits is declining and smaller donors are contributing less. And then there’s the fear that a recession may be looming.

The good news is AI can be a tremendous tool for helping nonprofits increase impact. Even though we are at the beginning of a new era of AI-driven innovation, it’s clear that today’s AI tools can help nonprofits accelerate their missions in a number of critically important ways:

  • Cost savings. Using AI to automate steps in everything from grant writing to engaging with donors can yield significant cost reductions. Already, we’re seeing examples where generative AI can lower the average unit cost of manual tasks from $15-35 to under $1.
  • Increased productivity. By automating routine tasks, analyzing large amounts of data, and driving informed, data-driven decisions, AI offers a clear path to expanded effectiveness through greater productivity in a time of tighter budgets.
  • Higher impact. AI doesn’t replace nonprofit employees. Instead, it empowers them to do more so they can focus on the initiatives that deliver the greatest impact. The timing couldn’t be better as nonprofits are constantly being asked to do more with less.

Today, nonprofits need access to AI solutions that are responsible, accessible, practical, and affordable. That’s why we’re building easy-to-use AI capabilities for nonprofits that focus on fundraising, marketing and program delivery. We look forward to sharing more information about these tools and solutions next week.

We’re also looking at new ways to help nonprofit employees gain the skills they need to harness the power of AI. We’ll do this through investments in comprehensive training programs and by creating a global learning community for nonprofits around the world.

The other day my younger son was playing with ChatGPT and declared it “the future of life!” I’m quite confident humans will always be the future of life, but in an important way, he was spot on. AI will fundamentally change our lives. By putting it in the hands of the nonprofits working to solve the world’s problems and ensuring that AI fluency and skills are universal, I am confident that, together, we can make the world a better place.

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