Most of us are familiar with the term artificial intelligence, or AI, but many of us don’t really know what it means. When many of us think about ‘AI’ the 1950s notion that robots are coming for our jobs will come to mind. However, by definition, artificial intelligence is the development of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.
While robots have eliminated certain blue-collar jobs in industries like manufacturing; the fact is automation is a necessity for many industries to remain competitive. Innovations are occurring in nearly every industry, not just blue-collar jobs, and it is up to us to accept and harness the power of AI.
In the upcoming years, AI in Canada is expected to grow and alter academic, industry and government operations that people like you and I interact with every day. As consumers, there is no better time to familiarize ourselves with AI than now.
Becoming a leading researcher of AI is something that all countries will begin to strive for, and Canada should be no different. Toronto has already become home to AI divisions for key companies, such as Thomson Reuters and General Motors, opening up the possibility for other foreign companies. In order to stay afloat in the large sector that is AI, Canadian post-secondary institutions are being urged to train and graduate more data scientists than ever before.
For our working classes, AI presents an opportunity of growth both within and outside of their current workplace. AI may change the way your company or organization operates for employees and consumers. In my own field of work, in the non-profit sector, I have already seen a change in how we interact with donors and supporters as a result of technological advances. AI has also impacted my day-to-day life as well. AI is how Netflix is able to suggest a video that I might enjoy, Amazon is able to recommend a product that I need next week based on past purchases, and it is also how my email filters spam messages that I do not want to receive in my inbox. AI is already a part of our day-to-day lives, and it will continue to be prevalent for years to come.
I recently read about the company, Gravyty that gives fundraisers the ability to maximize their time building relationships with the right donors at the right time. Gravyty was recently named the #1 “new fundraising idea that worked” in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Gravyty ‘First Draft’ is the first artificial intelligence application designed to automatically craft the first draft of personalized, donor-centric emails for frontline fundraisers at nonprofit organizations. As we continue to experience disruptive technologies in the non-profit sector, we need to be more prepared how to integrate AI in what has been a fairly traditional philanthropic landscape for tomorrow’s donors.
It has been said that the information non-profit organizations are able to gather about their donors is richer than any other data set in the world, but that’s not to say there’s not room for incredible improvement. In our respective roles, we are striving not only to learn more about our donors, but also learn to communicate with them on a more personal level, and in ways they prefer. We are exploring how we can create more meaningful virtual experiences for donors to be more engaged and fundraise without being present at an event.
AI will allow us to do exactly that – AI has the ability to use cognitive insight to not only predict upcoming donor activity and recommend next engagement steps, but also to make that engagement personalized, by delivering thoughtful and customized communications to each and every donor.
But these aren’t the only ways AI is expected to impact the non-profit sector. The majority of non-profits work directly with philanthropists on a daily basis, and this communication too, may change.
The rise of digital currency, also known as cryptocurrency, allows donations to be transferred securely and without the need for third-party institutions such as banks. This technology is emerging quickly and presents alternatives for the ways in which donors can support their organizations of choice, and ultimately has the ability to restructure traditional philanthropy. Already, in the past few years we have seen this from Cointelegraph – with Red Cross, Save the Children, and United Way adapting to accept Bitcoin donations from their supporters.
If these are just a few of the number of ways I can expect to see AI change my work and the heart of my lifestyle, there is no doubt each and every one of you will see an emergence of AI in your life. This is why I urge you to research it, understand it, and prepare for it.
Roger D. Ali is President and CEO of Niagara Health Foundation and Chair (volunteer) of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Foundation for Philanthropy Canada.