Technology & Operations

Over half of nonprofits now use artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, but 78% do not yet have organizational policies guiding their AI use. Plus, 40% of nonprofits say no one in their organization has AI training.

That’s why we made this nonprofit AI quick-start guide to give organizations practical tips for creating an AI strategy and leveraging specific tools that are most useful in 2024. We’ll cover:

Let’s begin with a rundown of how to build an AI strategy.

BWF has the customized, effective strategies you need to make the most of AI tools. Learn about our services.

How to get started with nonprofit AI tools

Like any new technology, you need a clear plan for getting started with AI solutions at your nonprofit. A central purpose and strategy for your AI tools helps mitigate risks like data privacy issues or lack of donor trust.

With that in mind, here are the steps you need to get started with nonprofit AI:

Steps to get started with nonprofit AI (explained in the sections below) 

1. Set goals for what you want to accomplish with the help of AI.

Setting goals for your AI use will help you choose the right tools and strategies. Here are a few examples of goals that AI solutions can support:

  • Engagement goals: This category could include growing your email marketing audience, gaining more social media followers, or spreading greater awareness of your mission using your website.
  • Fundraising goals: These objectives include increasing total online donations, recruiting more monthly donors to your program, or hosting more lucrative fundraising events.
  • Donor retention goals: You can also use AI solutions to build stronger ongoing donor relationships through stewardship, appreciation, and tailored donation suggestions to encourage donors to upgrade their giving.

No matter what your target is, set a specific, measurable goal to mark your progress. For example, you could aim to increase your donor retention rate from 30% to 50% or grow your email list by 500 subscribers.

2. Conduct an AI readiness assessment.

An AI readiness review is a comprehensive evaluation of where your organization currently stands regarding AI tool use and how well-prepared you are to adopt new AI technologies and strategies.

Work with a fundraising consultant who specializes in AI fundraising solutions to get an objective view of your organization’s readiness. The consultant will review aspects of your organization such as:

Components of an AI readiness review

  • Alignment between your goals and potential AI solutions that can support those objectives
  • The current state of your data infrastructure, including security policies and data quality
  • The current level of enthusiasm and support for AI use within your organization’s staff
  • Your staff’s relative level of AI knowledge and experience
  • Any ethical policies you already have in place for data management

BWF can be an effective partner for your organization’s AI readiness assessment. Our process involves a comprehensive cross-functional review of your nonprofit. We evaluate your current level of AI literacy, opportunities, and challenges.

If we determine that your organization is ready for AI use, we provide a custom roadmap to design and implement your AI practices. If your nonprofit isn’t quite ready to tackle AI just yet, we can make recommendations for how you can best prepare and use your current capabilities to progress your fundraising efforts.

3. Set AI internal use policies.

To roll out an AI strategy that protects sensitive donor data, prioritize ethical and legal considerations. We recommend creating an acceptable use policy to share with your team. Consider the following questions to help build your policy:

 Questions to ask when building a nonprofit AI policy (listed below)

  • Who on your team should use/have access to your AI solutions? To contain potential security risks and limit access to sensitive data, you may give just a few staff members access to your AI solutions. Choose who those individuals will be and set up the proper safeguards, like two-factor authentication, strong passwords, and different access levels.
  • How will you keep donor and constituent information secure? You may set policies for only working with AI tools that have been carefully reviewed by your IT team and legal counsel, for example.
  • How will you control compliance with industry regulations such as FERPA or HIPAA? FERPA involves maintaining the security and privacy of student records, while HIPAA requires the confidentiality of protected health information for patients. If your organization deals with either of these types of information, read our detailed guide to conducting due diligence to assess your AI tools against these regulations.
  • Will you purchase business insurance to protect your organization from liability stemming from AI issues? This could include AI-specific insurance (a small but growing market) or traditional policies like cyber insurance, errors and omissions insurance, and general liability insurance.
  • How will you respond to security or ethical breaches resulting from AI use? Who will be responsible for communicating about and controlling the breach, and how will you ensure a similar issue doesn’t happen again? Set clear accountability structures so every team member can jump right into their role if a data breach occurs.

Is your nonprofit ready to implement ethical AI fundraising? BWF can support you with an AI readiness assessment and custom fundraising solutions. Learn about our services.

4. Customize the AI tool to your nonprofit’s needs.

Many AI solutions, such as predictive modeling tools, are powered by your organization’s internal datasets. These tools take in unique information about your donors to develop predictive models that anticipate supporters’ future behaviors. You can build these models using platforms like IBM Watson or have them custom-built by professionals like the data scientists at BWF.

Working with professionals experienced in AI predictive modeling allows you to tailor your AI modeling practices and technology to your nonprofit’s audience and needs. You can use these solutions to conduct the following fundraising activities:

  • Prospect identification: Pinpoint your top major and planned giving prospects.
  • Annual fund renewals: Identify which donors who gave last year are most likely to give again this year.
  • Donor reacquisition: Identify lapsed donors who are most likely to return to supporting your organization.
  • Campaign planning and management: Forecast and create simulations to help determine campaign readiness, goals, campaign duration, and staffing needs.
  • Portfolio management: Determine which donors are ready to be moved in or out of a portfolio or transition to another stage within a portfolio.

Work with your data scientist to configure the settings of your predictive models based on your unique preferences and goals. Also, set up any necessary integrations with other software solutions, such as your CRM or marketing software, to ensure seamless data flows between platforms.

5. Train and test the AI solution in a variety of scenarios.

Before fully implementing your new AI tools and techniques into your strategic plan, test them using a variety of hypothetical scenarios.

First, divide your data into separate sets for training and testing your AI solution. The training set will help inform your models and give the context they need to make accurate predictions. Then, the testing set will assess how well your models work when presented with new data.

Comparison of training vs testing data for nonprofit AI software

For example, say you want to create a model for predicting donors’ next gift amounts. You could train your model using data such as donors’ past giving amounts, donation frequencies, and giving capacities. Then, you could feed the model new data about a particular donor to anticipate their next gift amount. Determine whether the output seems reasonable based on what you know about each donor.

Continue running simulations and A/B tests to determine how effectively your modeling solutions can forecast future donor behaviors or campaign results. Gather employee feedback along the way to identify any pain points or common challenges and tweak your models as needed based on this input.

6. Train your employees.

Raise your staff’s AI knowledge base by thoroughly training employees on proper AI use and best practices. Share your AI policy book with your team so everyone is on the same page about acceptable use practices.

In addition, create a training manual with all need-to-know information, including:

  • How to access/log into the AI platform
  • How to input new data into the tool
  • How to view and interpret AI outputs/models

Ethics and data security must come first when dealing with AI technology, so host frequent training sessions or workshops to review your organization’s ethical and legal obligations.

7. Roll out your new AI strategies and tools.

After conducting several rounds of testing and iterating with your predictive analytics tools, you’ll be ready to start using them to power your engagement and fundraising efforts. Keep these best practices in mind as you roll out your new strategies:

  • Make sure your IT or tech team is closely involved in every step of the rollout process and is on call in case of any hiccups.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of your solutions by tracking relevant metrics, such as marketing engagement rates, donor retention, or donor upgrade rates.
  • Adjust and build upon your strategy over time, based on metrics and feedback from your team as well as donors, volunteers, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders.

When rolling out AI strategies, it’s essential to inform stakeholders and keep their interests at the forefront of your efforts. You don’t want to risk losing supporter trust or damaging your nonprofit’s reputation by not being transparent about your AI use.

Provide a clear data privacy policy on your website so supporters know why and how you collect and use their data. Also, allow supporters to opt out of data collection if they don’t want their information to be used this way.

With a transparent approach based on accountability, you can maintain positive supporter relationships as you deploy your innovative new fundraising models.

Register for our Donor AI webinar to learn how to make predictive analytics work for your organization!

Best nonprofit AI tools to use in 2024

What AI solutions are available to nonprofits this year, and how can you make the most of each tool? Let’s explore top AI tools for nonprofits and best practices to make them work for your organization.

BWF + IBM Watson

IBM Watson offers a suite of predictive modeling tools, including IBM Watson® Studio and IBM SPSS® Statistics. These solutions enable data scientists to build models that evaluate historical data and giving patterns to predict future supporter actions.

Best practices to make the most of IBM Watson

As mentioned, custom AI solutions are necessary to build fundraising models that meet your organization’s unique needs. Here at BWF, we can help your organization build tailored AI solutions using a dynamic integration with IBM Watson. We combine our tried-and-tested prospecting and segmentation strategies with Watson’s suite of tools to help nonprofits meet their goals, whether recruiting and reactivating donors, creating more accurate personas, or prioritizing portfolios.

Image showing the BWF and IBM Watson logos side by side

Example nonprofit AI use case: University Hospitals + BWF

Our client, University Hospitals, decided to invest in creating an internal analytics program to foster fundraising success. The timing was right, as they were considering launching a $1.5B to $2B campaign. Their team started with a minimal understanding of data analytics and growth plans.

University Hospitals partnered with BWF to run an analytics strategic assessment. We reviewed the current state of their analytics program and the skills and technology resources available to them. We also interviewed key stakeholders to gather a variety of insights.

Ultimately, we supported their goals with a comprehensive assessment of their current analytics state and a clear plan to grow their analytics skills, resources, and utilization.

See the power of BWF + IBM Watson for yourself. Contact our team to discuss your goals.


Kindsight homepage

Kindsight is a fundraising intelligence tool that delivers real-time donor data, AI, and automation solutions. Kindsight helps centralize your donor data, send targeted messages to your best-fit donors, and manage your donor pipeline.

Best practices for making the most of Kindsight

Kindsight combines three powerful data solutions into one platform:

  • iWave, fundraising intelligence software that enables donor wealth screening, prospecting, and analytics
  • NonprofitOS, an AI-powered content generation tool to help create personalized content
  • Ascend, a Salesforce advancement solution to help manage gifts

You’ll be able to make the most out of these tools when you use them in tandem with one another to build a holistic donor pipeline. iWave helps identify top prospects, NonprofitOS helps generate outreach that resonates with them, and Ascend helps manage gifts after donors decide to lend their support.


ChatGPT homepage

ChatGPT is a generative AI chatbot. Users can interact with the platform by entering questions or prompts and receiving text responses in return.

Best practices to make the most of ChatGPT

As we enter the next phase of generative AI and ChatGPT evolves, it’s important to keep the following best practices in mind to leverage the platform effectively and safely:

  • Avoid inputting sensitive information into generative AI platforms like ChatGPT. You don’t want to compromise data privacy when using generative AI solutions, especially if your organization is subject to HIPAA or FERPA regulations. Consult with your legal counsel to determine whether you can use generative AI tools based on your industry’s regulations. At the very least, it’s best practice to avoid submitting any identifying information to AI solutions.
  • Provide background information about your nonprofit’s mission, audience, and goals to add context to your requests. For example, you could say “Our nonprofit’s mission is to bring clean drinking water to communities in need. We’re creating a new fundraising campaign targeting mid-level donors who may want to increase their recurring giving. Our goal is to recruit 100 new donors to support our monthly giving program. Can you come up with 10 ideas for a campaign name?” A request like this will generate more targeted results than a generic request for campaign name ideas.
  • Fact-check outputs. ChatGPT is still learning and evolving and delivers incorrect information frequently—one study found that the platform generated wrong answers 52% of the time. That’s why it’s essential to fact-check any information the platform delivers using third-party, reliable sources.


Example of Momentum's AI assistant

Momentum offers an AI donor engagement platform. Their fundraising assistant helps identify top prospective donors, draft communications, and automatically sync information to your CRM.

Best practices to make the most of Momentum

Take advantage of the personal touches that Momentum empowers you to add to your donor communications. For example, the tool can pull data from donor profiles such as their preferred donation methods, to create tailored messages for every supporter. You can even track important days, such as birthdays, giving anniversaries, or bequest dates, to get in touch with donors and commemorate special occasions.


DALL-E homepage

DALL-E is another tool from OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. DALL-E produces images in response to written prompts.

Best practices to make the most of DALL-E

In general, it’s best practice to use DALL-E for inspiration—not the end product. AI images can be wrong or have a generic quality, which can harm your brand image. However, you can use this tool to brainstorm ideas for unique images or infographics. Then, share these images with a designer so they can assess your initial ideas and the DALL-E renderings to create graphics that feature your nonprofit’s brand.

Microsoft Copilot

Microsoft Copilot information page

Microsoft Copilot is an AI assistant that helps enhance productivity and creativity. Copilot is integrated across Microsoft 365 apps, including Excel, Whiteboard, OneNote, and more. This chatbot tool is powered by an LLM (large language model) and your Microsoft data. It can answer questions, summarize the content of emails or presentations, draft communications, create tasks, and more.

Best practices to make the most of Microsoft Copilot

To get the most value from Copilot, Microsoft recommends iterating your prompts and using each question to build on the previous one. Jon Friedman, Microsoft’s CVP of Design and Research, said “You can ask it to adjust things or edit down or add something that’s missing. The collaboration is going back and forth, putting information in, getting something back, asking questions, learning—having a conversation.”

In other words, don’t give up if your first question doesn’t yield the results you want.


Canva for Nonprofits information page

Canva is an online graphic design platform that offers nonprofits free access to premium features. These include premium video tools, instant animations, transparent images, and premium content. Canva also has a free AI design tool and image generator.

Best practices to make the most of Canva

Optimizing your use of Canva’s AI solutions requires similar steps as other generative AI solutions, including wording prompts strategically and mitigating data privacy and security risks. Canva’s tools work best when you feed them information about your organization’s unique brand and tone.

In addition, keep Canva’s product terms in mind to avoid account suspension or termination. These include creating ethical content using the tools and manually reviewing any AI-generated content before using it in your marketing materials.


Buffer homepage

Buffer offers a social media toolkit to help grow your online audience. Their AI assistant can help generate content ideas, create personalized posts tailored to different audiences, run A/B tests, translate posts in multiple languages, and more.

Best practices to make the most of Buffer

Buffer offers a few tips to leverage its tools effectively, including:

  • Provide information about your target audience, your objectives, the tone you’re aiming for, and other information unique to your nonprofit.
  • Use the AI assistant to refine your drafts by adjusting the tone based on your specifications.
  • Understand the limits of the platform—Buffer’s AI tool uses Open AI to generate suggestions, so it will have the same limitations as tools like ChatGPT when it comes to accuracy. homepage offers several AI solutions to streamline meetings, including a meeting assistant that can take notes, a chatbot to answer questions, and channels that combine live conversations with asynchronous updates.

Best practices to make the most of

Make your virtual meetings a breeze by using to manage tasks like:

  • Crafting meeting agendas
  • Recording all meetings
  • Sharing real-time meeting transcripts
  • Creating action items based on conversations
  • Following up after meetings with comprehensive notes and action plans

You can also integrate with your conference platform to simplify note-taking and next-action follow-ups.


Zoom homepage

The popular virtual meeting platform Zoom has added an AI assistant to its repertoire of video solutions. Zoom’s AI Companion is available at no added cost. The tool can summarize meeting content, divide recordings into chapters, facilitate chat ideas, and more.

Best practices to make the most of Zoom

Zoom offers a few tips and tricks for making the most of its AI Companion, including:

  • Ask live questions such as “What did Samantha say about our upcoming board meeting?” or “Can you list action items and the task owner for each activity?”
  • Customize which meetings get transcribed. Some meetings may involve sharing sensitive data or personal information. You can change the settings to avoid creating transcripts and summaries for those meetings.
  • Summarize chats to sort through messages and assess the most important information or overarching themes.

Transform data into actionable insights with the help of BWF’s technology and expertise. Our AI solutions power ethical and impactful decision-making. Contact our team today.

Wrapping Up

We recommend setting two key priorities when starting with nonprofit AI solutions: keeping your stakeholders’ interests at the forefront and carefully testing and vetting any tools before implementing them in your strategies. These guiding principles will help you adopt an ethical AI strategy that fully supports your fundraising goals.

Looking for additional nonprofit AI tips and best practices? Start with these resources:

Let’s Talk

Find out how BWF can support your nonprofit AI strategies and goals.