Embracing AI in nonprofits: The role of change management

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: Microsoft Tech Community - Latest Blogs - .

AI is rapidly becoming a pivotal tool for nonprofits. The progression of AI, especially in tools like Copilot for Microsoft 365, is reshaping how organizations operate, innovate, and serve their communities.


It’s not a matter of if organizations will start using AI, but when and how they will use it. In fact, many attendees at the recent Global Nonprofit Leaders Summit mentioned that there are people in their organizations who are already using AI tools – whether the leaders in the organization know it or not.


In short, AI isn’t something that you can take a “wait and see” attitude about. Generative AI tools are here, and they’re evolving too rapidly to ignore them.


While this might seem overwhelming, keep in mind that change management can help your nonprofit adopt AI in a responsible and ethical way. It can provide structure to help you be intentional around how your organization uses AI.


How change management facilitates AI adoption for nonprofits


Change management is a critical component in ensuring successful AI adoption within nonprofits. It's a strategic approach that helps organizations adapt to new technologies and processes. Effective change management in the context of AI adoption includes:

  • Ensuring employees and volunteers are engaged in the change and are able to contribute to the vision for the future
  • Building buy-in among people impacted by the change 
  • Providing information to help people understand and adapt to a new paradigm
  • Supporting them through the transition
  • Reinforcing behaviors that are required for them to be successful


By developing a change management plan for AI, your organization can minimize staff anxiety around AI adoption, decrease resistance to AI across your organization, minimize risks and address other implications of AI adoption, and prepare your organization to maximize the benefits of AI tools.


Practical ways to use change management to help with AI at your nonprofit

  1. Establish an AI change leadership team.

    Assemble a group that, ideally, includes a representative from each department across your organization. This group will be responsible for generating and organizing ideas and working on a plan for your nonprofit’s adoption of AI. This team should:

    1. Develop guidelines for the use of AI in your organization – Everyone across the organization should use AI in a way that’s consistent with your organization’s technology, security, and privacy policies.

      At the Global Nonprofit Leaders Summit, leader after leader said that if you don’t already have an AI policy or guidelines in place for the appropriate use of AI in place, you are already behind. Set the expectation that the guidelines will evolve along with the evolution of the technology.

    2. Build an organizational culture that values data – Because data feeds AI, the organization must understand the importance of complete, accurate, and updated data for AI to work properly. It’s also important to assess what data your organization has available to work with, how clean your data is now, and what steps you need to take before you can use your data to build a reliable, responsible AI model. The risk to reputation and the potential cost of launching an AI tool built on bad data could be catastrophic.

    3. Prepare for changes to employees’ jobs – AI has the potential to greatly improve staff productivity. At the same time, AI requires human interaction to ensure that the results are correct. This AI change leadership group can collaborate with your human resources and other department leaders to begin conversations now about how they might need to update job descriptions and expectations to align with any changes that AI adoption will bring.

  2. Start an AI pilot project.

    Ask your AI change leadership team to launch an initial project using an AI tool. A great example of this would be to start using Copilot for Microsoft 365. This project should be completed with a change management framework in mind – for example:

    1. Involve employees in brainstorming and identifying concerns. 
    2. Set clear goals and success metrics for AI projects 
    3. Running small-scale pilots and measure the impact of using these tools. For example, implementing Microsoft Copilot and measure how much time is saved for your staff. 
    4. Embracing the learning process and use takeaways from the pilots to help your nonprofit develop a strong AI plan.
    5. Put clear goals and measures in place to help assess the project’s success.

Prepare for AI at your nonprofit

While you might not be ready to charge ahead with AI for your nonprofit, it is time to start preparing for AI as part of your organization’s overall technology strategy. As part of our commitment to supporting nonprofits in this journey, Heller Consulting offers an AI Preparedness Assessment for Nonprofits to help guide you through responsible AI adoption.


Continue the conversation by joining us in the Nonprofit Community! Want to share best practices or join community events? Become a member by "Joining" the Nonprofit Community. To stay up to date on the latest nonprofit news, make sure to Follow or Subscribe to the Nonprofit Community Blog space!

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