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Should Nonprofits Join in the AI Jobs Craze? 

By August 23, 2023October 19th, 2023No Comments

Amid an industry-wide downturn in tech job growth, a significant increase in hiring and training for one particular skill set has emerged: artificial intelligence (AI). The explosive interest and hype around generative AI tools such as ChatGPT have led to a spike in demand for AI expertise, which has rapidly become one of the most in-demand and lucrative skill sets not just in tech but in other industries as well. The benefits of AI to work are obvious: Automating repetitive tasks, replicating human creativity, and generating rapid data analysis all promise to increase efficiency. However, just like other new technologies, AI requires significant expertise and human input to be used and refined.  

For nonprofits, the growth of interest in AI tools offers a huge amount of potential as well as significant downsides. Nonprofits typically work with limited resources, smaller teams, and constant fundraising difficulties, which makes the prospect of automation very attractive. However, the excitement around AI tools has pushed the demand for AI expertise so high that it may be out of the price range of many nonprofits. 

If you’re considering hiring AI experts for your nonprofit, keep the following factors in mind.

Benefits of hiring AI experts 

AI specialists are the fastest-growing job title in 2023 for a reason. The prospect of being able to automate repetitive and even some creative tasks is attractive to managers and employees in every department of every field. However, like any new technology, it’s critical that you have experts on hand who can help you successfully train, implement, and improve the way that technology is used.  

The growth in interest in AI experts is a reflection of the potential employers see in AI as well as a desire to make sure this potential is reached without creating unnecessary and expensive problems. For example, it is unlikely that you would grant an outside organization unfettered access to your donor list without some significant vetting and safeguards.  

The same caution applies to granting AI tools access to proprietary data, but you may not know how to vet the AI tool and create safeguards in the same way. An expert in generative AI or machine learning implementation can help you do this, enabling you to harness the benefits without undue risk. 

An AI expert can also work with your team to come up with creative ways to incorporate AI tools, taking away some of the doubt or reticence that they may feel about using them. You might not see all of the ways that AI can benefit your team, but each team member could have a repetitive task that they would benefit from automating. Someone knowledgeable about using AI can work with them to successfully implement tools in a way that benefits everyone while increasing productivity.  

Risks of hiring AI experts

Even cursory research into generative AI will reveal that, like many recent tech trends, AI is in the midst of a hype cycle that could be massively overstating its usefulness, downplaying its limitations, and ignoring the significant problems it creates. This is reflected in the rush to hire AI experts. Although it will likely remain one of the most in-demand jobs of the year, there isn’t much clarity about what an AI expert actually does. After half a decade of seeing tech aspirational moonshots such as cryptocurrency, AR/VR, and others fall short of their lofty goals, many organizations are leery of jumping headfirst into a technology that is subject to so much hype but has yet to operate at scale. 

Your time in the nonprofit sector has no doubt shown you the significant consequences of taking a risky bet on a new tool or service. Because you don’t necessarily have the resources or revenue to absorb the significant cost of betting on AI, trying to compete with the private sector and paying a large salary to an expert in something you may not need could have disastrous consequences for your organization’s mission and the people who depend on it.  

Although it varies greatly depending on the organization and cause, nonprofits are much more reliant on human interaction and empathy, particularly when fundraising or distributing benefits. A rapid shift into using AI tools can isolate your mission-driven staff from the human side of their mission and has the potential to alienate donors. Additionally, many AI experts have been frank about the ethical concerns of generative AI, something which an AI expert can assist with but not necessarily solve.

Seeking a middle ground

An important thing to keep in mind during a hype cycle is that the successful incorporation of new technology doesn’t necessarily need to be fast or require you to overinvest. Although nonprofits like yours may have limited resources, those limitations can also push you and your team to find creative solutions to these sorts of issues. Finding a gradual way to incorporate AI tools can enable you to get feedback and understand what the benefits and downsides are and determine whether further investment makes sense.  

Another approach could be to invest in training your team to use tools like ChatGPT by hiring an expert to conduct training temporarily. This allows you to harness some of the benefits of AI without investing in a full-time hire, keeping your resources free to pursue your mission while keeping an eye on current and future AI benefits. Although AI may promise a significant competitive advantage, you should keep in mind that competition and success are measured differently at nonprofits, and a more measured and experimental approach could be the one that delivers for your organization, staff, and mission.

Expert help from humans

The 501(c) Services team has decades of experience dealing with issues of nonprofit resource allocation and investment, which gives us an invaluable perspective that you can use as a guide through these difficult AI considerations. We are committed to helping mission-driven organizations free up as many resources as possible to continue their mission and fully benefit from the staffing and technological investments they make. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, get in touch. 


501(c) Services has more than 40 years of experience helping nonprofits with unemployment outsourcing, reimbursing, and HR services. Two of our most popular programs are the 501(c) Agencies Trust and 501(c) HR Services. We understand the importance of compliance and accuracy, and we are committed to providing our clients with customized plans that fit their needs.

Contact us today to see if your organization could benefit from our services.

Already working with us and need assistance with an HR or unemployment issue? Contact us here.

(Pictures by Freepik and Master1305)

The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.

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