How to Use Artificial Intelligence Ethically for Your Nonprofit
With the massive move toward more technology because of the pandemic, people have discussed two excellent documentaries on Netflix. The first is "The Social Dilemma," and the more recent show is "Coded Bias." In the coming months and years, I'm sure we're going to see countless more documentaries and books about artificial intelligence (AI).
The reality is that artificial intelligence is certainly making our lives better and improving on our collective work. For example, as AI improves through machine learning, nonprofit marketers and fundraisers get much better and more valuable insights. Further, artificial intelligence can predict behaviors, and that will help nonprofits raise more funds because the right donors will get solicited at the correct times with the perfect messages.
All of this is well and good, but we also have to accept that there are always two sides to every coin. As the two documentaries mentioned above discussed, our societies can't simply move forward with AI without a deep understanding of how it impacts, well, everything. For instance, with coded biases in AI, it could become a weaponized tool that could do a lot of harm to people.
Nonprofits exist for social benefits and well-being. Therefore, they have a special responsibility, in my view, to ensure that their use of AI is ethical and even moral. For example, let's say you want to hire new team members and get an AI platform to rank resumes. If that platform has a coded bias against women, people of color, and other forms of coded prejudices, this could be an enormous and unjust problem.
Commit to Using Ethics for Your AI Platform Purchases
The primary activity you must do is to be aware that bias exists in artificial intelligence programs. Therefore, learning as much as possible and becoming an informed leader will help you ensure that your nonprofit doesn't inadvertently purchase a platform that does more harm than good.
When you commit to being ethical with your use of artificial intelligence, you make it a policy. In short, you decide to place people first, and that includes the people you hire and also everyone associated with your organization. You also commit to transparency and the protection of privacy and data.
Data Protection and Privacy
As I mentioned in the above point, you have to commit to protecting peoples' information. The reality is that artificial intelligence is mind-blowingly powerful. For example, it could already search what anyone has done — ever — digitally and make judgments about loans, job opportunities, and sales deals.
It's an open secret in the nonprofit sector that data is vulnerable in the industry. Therefore, nonprofit groups need to tighten up their policies around data and privacy. The more donors understand how their data could get mined and shared, the more they're going to demand accountability from nonprofit leaders. So, be sure to avoid security breaches and be mindful of the power of the platforms you use.
Ask the Right Questions of Third-Party Vendors
The more informed you and your executive team become about artificial intelligence, the better you become in making sure you ask the right questions from your vendors of AI. For starters, consider getting someone to quarterback the integration of all AI and tech platforms in your organization, such as your head of operations.
Next, understand how your AI-driven platforms work, and yes, that also includes your social accounts. Once you get deeply immersed in the ethics of AI for your nonprofit, you'll begin to see how things relate to each other — nothing is ever in a vacuum, and everything impacts everything else. Understanding the web of AI networks allows you to ask the right questions and use the best ethical platforms.
Keep an Eye on Government Regulation
I'll just say it. Governments are woefully prepared for the legislative changes that have to happen around artificial intelligence. And, for the most part, few laws are regulating artificial intelligence. However, that's changing. As we know, federal and state lawmakers are becoming more inclined to challenge tech companies.
Nevertheless, AI and tech go hand-in-hand, and as legislatures catch up on regulating artificial intelligence, more laws are protecting the use of data. Therefore, stay informed about the state changes happening across the U.S. on data protection. And be proactive on the policies your nonprofit creates to be ahead of legislation for the use of artificial intelligence in your organization.
Educate Your Team About Artificial Intelligence
Although your leadership team must understand the implications and develop policies around AI, you also must educate and inform your entire team about it. The reality is that likely everyone on your team will be using AI in some manner. And a knowledgeable team can help top leaders make good choices since technology evolves at lightning speed.
Spend the time educating your entire team on the basic concepts of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and ethical AI. Then, make sure that everyone understands how your policies support ethics and your "people first" nonprofit policies. Finally, ask your team to stay informed about algorithm and tech changes in your platforms. By doing so, you could see if any backlash may be on the horizon, as is the case with social media platforms.
In sum, technology and artificial intelligence are most certainly making our lives easier and improving efficiencies. But, the power is beyond anything humans have ever seen, and we're heading to a point where technology will soon entirely exceed our capacity and performance on just about everything.
Therefore, it's a balancing act, but if we keep the idea of humans first, we should enjoy the benefits with minimal harm. However, that idea will only succeed if we use artificial intelligence ethically.
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, schools, churches, civic groups, individuals and others raise funds, while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations and the environment.
You can learn more about Wayne and obtain free resources, including his books on his blog, Not Your Father’s Charity.