Navigating GenAI: Essential Considerations for Nonprofit Boards

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments
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Nonprofit boards must consider multiple aspects of their organizations, from finance to operations. One new area of consideration is generative AI or GenAI. With the breakthrough technology now taking firm hold in the minds of businesspeople everywhere, Boards need to make decisions now to ensure that the platform is used appropriately and ethically in the nonprofit environment.

Here, we have put together a series of considerations based on a McKinsey document by Frithjof Lund and expanded upon by our own insights. What do you think? Drop us a note or a comment and let us know.

5 GenAI Questions Every Nonprofit Board Should Ask

Depending on what you have read, seen, or experienced with GenAI, you may view it as a valuable addition to your technology stack or a troubling security risk. Both views are valid. GenAI is new, and it does indeed provide some enhancements to various tasks. It is especially good at improving productivity and efficiency. However, it also comes with some risks, especially to secure, private, or confidential information shared with it.

Here are five considerations for your nonprofit board to review and discuss.

  1. Do we have a GenAI policy in place for employees and volunteers?

Given how new GenAI is, the answer is “probably not.” However, it is essential to clarify the organization’s position on when, how, and why GenAI may be used and by whom.

Consider the following as part of your GenAI policy:

  • When do we think it is acceptable to use GenAI, and for what types of projects? For example, is it okay to feed a published piece of content, such as an article, into GenAI and ask it to summarize it? Is it okay for our staff to use GenAI to outline a presentation but not okay to ask it to write an article?
  • How can it be used? Be clear about the circumstances in which you think GenAI is acceptable and when it is not.
  • Clarify what may be shared with common GenAI platforms. Many executives and security experts have expressed concern about the potential of proprietary information leaks from unwary GenAI users. Any information ingested by a GenAI platform becomes part of its memory or part of the data from which it may draw future outputs for anyone using it. Sharing confidential or proprietary information with it could lead to an information leak that puts an organization at risk.
  1. How might GenAI impact our organization?

The board must consider the impact that GenAI can make on all areas of the organization: marketing, finance, operations, and human resources. There are many proven use cases now available for the usage of AI in each of these functional areas of an organization, but it is up to Boards to decide where or how it may be utilized in each.

  1. When should we begin using GenAI?

If you’re not already using it (and some of your employees probably are already), then don’t wait. Create your GenAI policy. After study and discussion, choose an area for a pilot program. For example, consider the accounting software already in use at your organization. Does the software vendor provide an AI-based tool with it? Is it being used effectively? How might it be used to automate existing processes or improve efficiency?

A pilot project with one department is a low-risk way to test the waters. It helps you make inroads and test concepts without a heavy investment and will help you assess the results quickly too.

  1. Who will be responsible for this moving forward?

Another vital question that Boards must address is who in the organization will be responsible for GenAI policies and use moving forward. It may—or may not—be the IT department. A representative group, comprised of members from each department, may be a good way to begin to ensure that the potential of this emerging technology is considered from every possible angle.

  1. How will GenAI impact our industry?

Any new technology is a disruptor, and GenAI has the potential to be a huge disruptor in all industry segments. The question isn’t whether but how it will impact my specific nonprofit and the area in which we work. Consider researching this topic further and bringing it back to the forefront periodically for review by your board and organizational leaders.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

With the field of GenAI changing rapidly, keeping abreast of trends and changes, and incorporating those that can give your organization a competitive edge is vital. Your board can lead the charge, ensuring that this new tool becomes a useful adjunct to your existing software rather than a distraction.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact us for more information.

Beyond the Hype: Making Sense of AI’s Role in Nonprofit Organizations

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments
person using laptop computer with AI on screen

Since ChatGPT made such a splash in the fall of 2022, companies worldwide have kept a close eye on the development of AI-powered tools. Now, you can’t turn on the news or open a social media app without seeing ads for AI-this or that or promises of AI completely changing the workforce.

Where does AI fit into the nonprofit world? How can organizations reassure their staff that AI isn’t there to replace them but can help make their jobs better?

Reassure Staff That AI Isn’t New to the Workplace

Even though ChatGPT made a big splash in the fall of 2022, AI isn’t new. In fact, you can reassure your team that they have already been using it in some capacity all along! For example, if you use PowerPoint, the popular presentation software, you may have noticed a feature called “Design Ideas.” Click the button, and the program will provide suggested designs to improve the layout and appearance of the slide. This is an example of AI already inside a program you’re already using. Another example is even more common: your cellphone. If you have a feature that fills in frequently used words when you text someone, that’s also AI in action.

So, AI isn’t some new robot that’s replacing human workers. It’s been there all along, and we’ve (mostly) welcomed it within the context of our jobs. When it’s done right, AI simply makes things more efficient. And who doesn’t want to be more efficient at their job?

Provide Staff with Usage Guidelines

Are you currently using ChatGPT and other AI tools? Chances are good that someone on your team is already using them. In that case, it is better to get ahead of the curve and provide helpful usage guidelines than to avoid the topic altogether.

  • Allow staff to use AI to generate outlines and brainstorm topic ideas: AI is great for overcoming writer’s block. Instead of facing a blank page without a place to start, use tools like ChatGPT to develop an idea or brainstorm a list, giving people a good starting point.
  • Never use AI-generated text without clearly stating it is AI-based or without reading through it to ensure it is accurate. Remember that tools like the free version of ChatGPT rely upon millions of documents but do not have up-to-date information. The system can make mistakes, incorrectly cite things as correct, and provide older information. It can also be plagiarized.
  • Include guidelines for what can be fed into AI as source material. Anything ingested into AI becomes part of its database forever—and can be used by anyone else. Any proprietary or confidential information must be kept from the tool, so it does not become part of the repository of information used worldwide.
  • Learn and experiment with prompts and keep a log of useful prompts. There’s a knack for asking GenAI the right question in the right way to obtain useful information. Once you’ve discovered it, keep a record of it. Ask your team to share best practices from their experimentations, too.

Improving Jobs—Not Replacing Them

One hundred years ago, many people worked as telephone switchboard operators. A switchboard operator manually connected cables at the phone company switchboard to make sure that calls went through correctly. Now, such things appear only in museums, replaced by an automatic switch and sophisticated call routing software. We don’t even think about connecting a call anymore—it happens in the blink of an eye, and many people take it for granted that this was always the case.

A few years from now, AI will be the norm rather than the exception. Nonprofits will look at it as just another tool, like their word processing or accounting software. It will be a way to do tasks more efficiently, but it cannot replace skilled workers. Emphasize to your team that skills are always valued and that no artificial intelligence, no matter how smart, will ever replace the creativity, ingenuity, and talent of a human being.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact us for more information.

From On-Premises to the Cloud: A Digital Transformation Strategy

By | Cloud, Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments
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Adopting forward-thinking digital strategies is critical for small and medium-sized businesses to remain competitive. This means not only updating existing systems but also moving in new directions.

One such direction is cloud native. Cloud native refers to a design and development approach that focuses on building applications and services specifically designed from the start to reside in the cloud. Companies began to shift from on-premises financial software during the pandemic. It quickly became apparent that on-premises solutions were not meeting their needs when people were forced to work from home. Companies with cloud-based solutions were able to move rapidly to work-from-home situations, keeping workers and customers safe. Now, many realize that cloud-based solutions offer more benefits than just the flexibility of the work environment.

But before shifting from on-prem to cloud, it is essential to have a strategy. Here’s how you can come up with a sound cloud-first plan that can help your company remain agile and competitive now and in the years to come.

Why Small and Midsize Businesses (SMBs) Are Moving to the Cloud

If you’re currently using an on-premises system for financial management, you may wonder what all the fuss is about cloud-based solutions. According to Gartner, 85% of SMBs are moving towards cloud solutions. Here’s why.

  • Cost: Cloud solutions cost less than their on-premises counterparts. Cloud solutions require no special hardware to run. The cloud provider updates the software. And, although you may want a good consultant for training, implementation, integration, or advice, no additional staff are needed to keep a cloud platform running.
  • Security: On-premises systems are generally secure from a cyberattack perspective if not connected to the internet. However, data can still be lost due to natural disasters, power failures, or hardware and equipment failures. Backups must be maintained and kept secure. Cloud systems, on the other hand, often provided multiple geographic locations to back up their clients’ data so if a natural disaster hits in one area, their data is protected. Data and systemwide backups may also be automatic, ensuring that nothing is lost due to equipment malfunction.
  • Remote Work: On-prems generally do not support remote work. Cloud platforms can fully support remote work. Although many larger companies have switched back to in-person or hybrid work, workers themselves continue to be supportive and eager for work-from-home opportunities. The ability to offer flexible work arrangements can help you attract talent from a wider talent pool and hire a more diverse team than you might find in the local area. It’s an important consideration.
  • Flexible: On-premises or monolithic systems are difficult to adapt to user needs. Vendors often lock users into their ecosystem, resulting in a poor fit between customer needs and software. These limitations can keep a company from finding the best software for their needs. Cloud systems are easily scalable. Even integration can be easier with the use of APIs (application programming interface) to enable different platforms to “talk” to each other as needed.
  • Scalable: Systems that are on-premises can be hard to scale without a full lift and shift or an entirely new license. Cloud systems are often sold by the user or access, meaning you can add staff without huge price increases or new systems needed.

Plan Your Digital Strategy

With so many benefits and few drawbacks, it’s no wonder that more companies than ever are moving to cloud-based solutions. Plan your digital strategy accordingly. If you are convinced that cloud solutions are the right move for your company, begin by assessing your current system noting what is working and what is not. Consider what you may need now, three, and five years into the future. Assemble a cross-functional team with representatives from all major company areas to participate in a selection team. Interview and choose a good consultant who will help you navigate the many considerations to find the exact system you need.

For nonprofits shifting to the cloud, consider Sage Intacct. It’s a cloud-based financial management solution that empowers nonprofits by removing IT obstacles. Not only is it 100% supported online – and needs no special IT personnel to manage it—but Sage Intacct also includes many automated workflows to reduce repetitive functions and tasks.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact us for more information.

5 Tech Tips for Nonprofits

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments
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Your organization may be very tech-savvy, or you may struggle to understand all the new terms and concepts in the industry. That’s okay. Trends come and go, but certain concepts, ideas, and fundamentals remain the same. The following five “tech tips” for nonprofits encompass a broad range of ideas that may impact your organization now or in the future. They’re worth noting and understanding to get the most out of your technology.

Smart Advice: Five Tech Tips for Nonprofits

Tip 1: Don’t Settle for Bad Software!

If you have buyer’s remorse, you’re not alone. According to some reports, 61% of all small and mid-sized businesses feel “buyer’s remorse” about a software purchase made during the past year. Whether it didn’t deliver on its promised benefits, or the support is lackluster, many organizations wish they hadn’t purchased what they did.

What if you’re in the same boat? Do something about it! You can speak with a consultant to see if the platform can be integrated, customized, or adapted to your needs. Perhaps there is a fix for the problem you don’t know about, but someone well-versed in the system knows.

If that doesn’t work, accept that you made a poor choice—and plan for the next purchase. Read reviews, articles about software selection, and more. Speak with other companies in your industry using the system to understand their feedback and reactions.

Tip 2: Evaluate support as well as software.

When purchasing software, many companies go to great lengths to evaluate the system itself. Does it have the functions, reports, and other features needed? That’s important, but equally (and some might say even more importantly), how is the post-purchase support?

After installing and configuring your new system, your team will need training. You’ll have questions. Problems arise, and something isn’t performing as expected. That’s when it becomes critical to have great support behind the product.

Evaluate the vendors and their support team reputations as carefully as you evaluate the software.

Tip 3: Keep up to date with changing technology.

Technology changes every day. Ten years ago, smartphones were becoming commonplace. Today, it is unusual to find someone without one. Ten years from now, the advances we are starting to see today in AI-powered search and automation are likely to be commonplace. What else will come? That remains to be seen, but one thing is sure. You must keep abreast of the changing technology to understand it. You don’t have to be an early adopter of every new tech tool, but understanding what is going on in the world of technology and testing things that make sense for your organization will help you remain relevant and competitive in a world where technology is a driver of change.

Tip 4: Empower a cross-functional team to choose essential software.

It’s tempting to relegate software purchases to IT teams. After all, they are likely to be instrumental during the installation and configuration phase. But it is the people who use the software daily who should be the deciding vote during the selection phase. Software must serve the needs of those using it, and the teams who interact with the software—accounting, finance, operations, sales, marketing, donor relations, and more—are the ones to evaluate the functions and ensure the software provides what they need.

Tip 5: Remain open-minded.

You may have used a particular platform at a previous or another of the many nonprofit accounting platforms available in the marketplace. While it’s great that you have firsthand experience with these systems, perhaps something else better fits what the organization needs.

For example, Sage Intacct offers excellent automations that can save a nonprofit a great deal of time. You may not have seen the most recent version which incorporates payroll, accounting, and other automations to streamline processes and improve efficiency. If you’re unfamiliar with the Sage line of software, becoming familiar with it as part of your exploration process can bring it to the forefront. It’s a powerful package that benefits many nonprofits.

Keep an open mind during the software selection process. Listen to the vendors and the consultants who are advising you. Because they work with many nonprofits, they may know of new software or packages that better serve your organization’s needs. Explore the options thoroughly before making your final selection.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact us for more information.