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Three Early Insights from the AI Readiness Survey

3 May 2024 by GivingTuesday

Moving from “How do we use” to “What do we need”

 

In March 2024, GivingTuesday’s Generosity AI Working Group launched the AI Readiness Survey to better understand the current capacity for and utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) and other new emerging technologies within the social sector. We asked questions to gather insight on how comfortable organizations are with AI, how people working in the sector currently use and envision utilizing AI in the future, and what barriers may prevent nonprofits from adopting AI technologies.

So far, over 550 people working at nonprofits and civil society organizations around the globe have responded. Of those who responded, the majority were part of a nonprofit with five or fewer employees and were based in the USA.

While the global survey is still in the field, we at the GivingTuesday Data Commons are releasing a snapshot of early findings. Overwhelmingly, these results show the need for ongoing collaboration, education, and experimentation around AI.

 

1. Moving from Tool Experimentation to Workflow Integration

It’s clear from our early results that the sector is most commonly trying out off-the-shelf tools, but it’s equally evident that there is real appetite for workflow level integration of AI tools.

Looking at current use cases, we found that most people (6 out of 10) have used AI in some form, and the most common things people have tried are content generation or asking a chatbot for advice.

Source: AI Readiness Survey results, April 2024

Looking at the state of current AI use, we noticed that the most popular uses are closer to the “peak of inflated expectations” of the Gartner Hype Cycle than the “plateau of productivity” stage. If you aren’t familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle, most innovations go through predictable stages of hype and counter-hype before they yield their full value, as people try new things and figure out what works. 

Gartner Hype Cycle

It’s unsurprising that current utilization is hovering in the “hype stage” as certain use-cases are better entry points over ones that require time and resources to integrate into workflows. Tools like ChatGPT, Gemini, and Copilot take less than a minute to try, contrasted to the investment required for more complex tasks like setting up a virtual office assistant or building a pipeline to transcribe interviews that might improve an organization’s understanding of their work. Our findings echo this trend, with only 14–20% of organizations delving into more advanced AI applications like: 

  • Translating or transcribing content
  • Assisting in simple, repetitive tasks
  • Organizing information (cleaning, restructuring, or assigning tags so it can be searched)

 

Yet the AI applications listed above have the potential to be the most transformative integrations of AI for many organizations. Think for a moment about the incredible power of indexing content. Do you remember what searching your old physical photo albums was like before companies like Google and Apple digitized and labeled your content for easy retrieval and searching? That’s AI at work. Imagine what more an organization could do when applying similar technology to their own knowledge about projects or to analyze donor behaviors and funding trends.

Before organizations can harness the cutting-edge capabilities of AI, such as interpreting information and predicting outcomes based on data, they need support to better organize information and knowledge. As expected, these advanced AI applications are currently among the least adopted, with only 10–13% of organizations building these AI integrations into their workflow.

While there is progress to be made for more transformative utilization, people working at nonprofits already recognize the potential for workflow level integration of AI in their organization.

Source: AI Readiness Survey results, April 2024

Our results indicate that nonprofits are particularly excited about leveraging AI to organize information, yet many remain unsure about its potential use-cases for their specific roles or organization. 40% of survey takers responded, “we don’t know yet!” when asked, “In your work, which of these would you like to do with AI?” These insights highlight a pressing need to enhance education on AI capabilities within the sector.

For organizations looking to get started, through the Generosity AI Working Group Knowledge Bank, we’ve collected over 150 resources for nonprofits, offering insights into current nonprofit AI applications, guidelines for responsible use, and tools for learning and experimentation.

 

2. Not Comfortable Yet

With nonprofits primarily in the early testing phase with AI utilization, it stands to reason that many are still hesitant about its implementation in their operations. For the question, “How comfortable are you with the idea of using AI tools in your work?,” we asked respondents to provide a 0–10 net promoter style response. Our findings revealed that the majority of individuals tended to rate their comfort level towards the lower end of the spectrum. This observation is notable because respondents who gave a 0–6 response are unlikely to adopt AI tools in their work in the near future, unless education and support for tool adoption improves.

Net Promoter Score results when respondents were asked “How comfortable are you with the idea of using AI tools in your work?”

 

3. We’re Not Working Together

Finally, we heard that people utilizing AI at work are mostly doing so in team-level silos. This indicates a lack of strategic integration at the organization-wide level and a notable absence of concerted efforts to move towards a consensus of “best practices” sector-wide.

Our results show that while a majority of organizations have internal policies concerning proper data usage, privacy, and sharing, only about a quarter of them enact those policies or data agreements with others outside their own organization. This raises concerns regarding the challenges with adopting safeguards and AI guidelines across organizations.

Source: AI Readiness Survey results, April 2024

As an example, one respondent shared, “I’d love to invest in a LLM specifically for the social sector that reflects our values.” Unfortunately, this is not feasible if people in organizations are not approaching AI usage beyond internal teams and organizational silos. One of the core reasons the GivingTuesday Data Commons created the Generosity AI Working Group was to foster collaboration and best practice sharing within the sector. To help make progress together and discuss solutions for organizations across the social sector, we invite you to join and contribute to the working group by sharing resources, problem statements, and tools. We are eager to hear from organizations regarding their needs and ideas for building comfort and transitioning from experimental usage to deeper integration.

 

Share your Insights

Our preliminary findings from the AI Readiness Survey are just a snapshot of the current landscape of AI adoption within the social sector. 

We received hundreds of comments about hopes and fears of AI, demonstrating the wide spectrum of opinions in the sector. While some people are finding immediate value in experimenting with AI tools, stating that “AI has helped us get newsletters and other written information out quicker than ever before.” Many other nonprofit workers shared a fear and mistrust of AI tooling in the human-centric work we do: “I have very little experience working with AI and my fear is that, like everything else technology related, it is overused and that we lose touch of the human aspect.”

Still debating AI yourself?  The best advice from one of our respondents is this: “You won’t be replaced by AI. You’ll be replaced by someone who knows how to use AI.”

If you haven’t taken the survey yet, we welcome your perspective to enrich our understanding of AI’s role in the nonprofit sector. This anonymous survey should take approximately 10 minutes to complete and is for nonprofit organizations or informal groups that serve society, anywhere in the world. Complete the survey today

Stay tuned as we plan to analyze and release a detailed report of the findings from the survey this summer.

 

The AI Readiness Survey is conducted by the GivingTuesday Data Commons in partnership with Fundraising.AI and with generous support from Microsoft. Click here for more information about the AI Readiness Survey.

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