Navigating the ethical landscape of AI adoption for non-profits

The growth of AI has been the big talking point over the past year. For non-profits, these emerging technologies have thrown up innumerable possibilities from automation of administrative tasks and fundraising campaigns to improving donor relationships and tailoring community services – the list is endless. The majority of non-profits agree that AI can help transform their way of working, and more than one in three organisations saying they are already using it to perform certain tasks.

It’s interesting to see the speed at which non-profits are adopting AI technology. But while the potential benefits of AI for non-profits are substantial, organisations must tread carefully, considering the ethical implications associated with the adoption of these advanced technologies.

Many people see ethics as the moral principles that guide a person’s choices and behaviours. That’s true, to an extent, but it goes far beyond that. Ethical considerations now guide much more than people – they guide businesses, organisations, and technologies.

Let’s look into the ethical considerations of the latter, for ambitious non-profit organisations who are looking to transform their operations.

Being transparent

Remember to prioritise transparency when embracing artificial intelligence. Communication with stakeholders, donors and beneficiaries on how AI is being used and the impact it has on the ways of working for your non-profit is essential. It’s also important to develop accountability measures to ensure that AI is being used responsibly and for the right means.

Remaining fair

The algorithms that power AI are only as unbiased as the data that they are trained on. Make sure that you are aware of and actively mitigate any biases that may exist within your data, as these biases can lead to unfair and discriminatory outcomes – and you want to keep the trust of your donors. Regularly evaluate and audit your data to ensure that they remain fair and unbiased.

Obtaining consent

When collecting data to be used in AI systems, a non-profit should obtain informed consent from all parties and individuals involved. Explain the nature of the data collection, how their data will be used and the risks that could be associated with it. By doing this, you maintain a respectful relationship between yourself and your donors and beneficiaries.

Being data secure

Protecting the privacy and security of your information is paramount to your non-profit. Make sure that robust security measures are in place to safeguard all confidential information, especially from donors and external parties. Cloud technology platforms such as Microsoft Azure can help ensure that you remain compliant and follow all data protection regulations and cybersecurity best practices.

Human-centred approach

For a non-profit, being human-centric means recognising your people, volunteers, and the value that they bring. AI technology should be adopted with this in mind. Prioritise the well-being of your people and try to minimise the impact that AI-assisted decisions can make. AI should be integrated as a tool that complements human judgement, not completely replace it.

Accessibility and inclusivity

As a non-profit, accessibility and inclusivity should be a key consideration if you are undertaking any digital transformation projects. Make sure that any AI technologies you enable are available to all, including individuals with disabilities and additional access requirements. Strive to minimise the risk of creating digital divides and actively work towards inclusivity when leveraging AI technology.

Getting your people prepared

Up to 52 per cent of non-profits are looking into AI but lack the resources or skills within their teams to engage with it fully. Remember how we said that non-profits should take a human-centric approach? The same applies to the knowledge and experience of your teams. While AI can help automate certain tasks, you should also consider reskilling and upskilling within your non-profit, to ensure that your teams are equipped with the skills required to manage and work within the evolving technological landscape.

Think sustainably

Consider the environmental impacts of adopting AI technologies. When researching AI systems, look at the energy consumption associated with the infrastructure and explore the various options that can minimise your non-profit carbon footprint.

Wherever your non-profit is in its AI journey, there’s no doubt that ethical considerations play a big part in your decision-making. By adopting a proactive approach to AI adoption, you’ll be able to harness its power responsibly, uphold your values and contribute positively to the mission of your non-profit organisation. Make yourself a leader in shaping the ethical landscape of AI adoption for the greater good.


What’s next?

Did you know we offer a Data and AI Innovation Workshop, completely free of charge? Hosted by our Principal Cloud Evangelist Leon Godwin, this 1:1 workshop is designed to be a strategic two-way discussion based on your specific organisational needs, giving you clarity on what your next steps should be. By the end of the workshop, you will have the building blocks of a business case for maximising your data adopting artificial intelligence. Find out more.