In a world where technology is ever-evolving, many organizations have learned how to leverage its power. Machine learning (ML), a branch of the growing field of artificial intelligence, is one of the latest technologies that has broken new ground in a variety of industries – from healthcare to finance.
Nonprofit organizations aren’t late to the party as they’re slowly incorporating ML into their company operations, which further helps optimize processes. But before anything else, let’s quickly define machine learning.
What Is Machine Learning?
As mentioned earlier, machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence – one of the biggest buzzwords today. Just by the name itself, one can imply that machine learning is about the learning of machines. They learn from past experiences (just like humans!) and from this knowledge, there is no explicit need to program them.
What sets this apart from humans is the ability of machines to analyze large data sets at lightning speed. Through this, computers make data-driven decisions without the need for human intervention. Other fields such as speech recognition are also growing quickly in the field of ML.
Applications of Machine Learning in Nonprofit Management
Now that we’ve covered what machine learning is, let’s go back to how it affects the world of nonprofits. For the longest time, nonprofit organizations used traditional, outdated methods to make decisions. While this was the norm for most organizations, it ultimately resulted in more inefficiencies.
But that all changed when machine learning came into the picture. With the help of the latest technology, automating manual processes was now possible – which allowed nonprofits to channel their efforts elsewhere, in other areas that mattered. Let’s explore the applications of machine learning in managing nonprofits:
Identifying major donors is an essential component for every nonprofit. Without the donors, the organizations would not have any funds to ensure smooth operations. There are multiple strategies a nonprofit can undertake to identify major donors. Some utilize their network to identify wealthy individuals while others focus on donors with a history of giving. This data can often be found in a donor database.
This is often a long process that can make the step of identifying donors and engaging them difficult. With the power of machine learning, it’s a lot easier to determine who’s most likely to donate and who’s not. This is all based on historical data. On top of that, ML can also identify which communication strategies have worked for that particular subset of people – ensuring that nonprofits secure these donations.
In a world where cyber-attacks are rampant, all organizations, especially those that maintain a digital presence, must take extra measures to keep themselves safe. This prevents the leakage of confidential data which may result in negative ramifications in the long run. What machine learning does is identify any pattern of fraud – this may come in the form of fraudulent transactions, suspicious log-ins, or even identity theft.
Social Media Analytics
Social media is king. And if nonprofit organizations aim to widen their reach, then the helping hand of ML can assist in analyzing everything social media. Training these systems to analyze this data helps them understand what type of content resonates with their audience – helping them optimize their marketing strategies that result in increased engagement.
How to Change the Management of Nonprofits With Machine Learning
To seamlessly integrate machine learning into a nonprofit's daily operations, we must take a step back and re-evaluate management processes. The following are ways to ignite change in the management of nonprofits:
Invest in Technology
Technology is the future, and if you don’t invest in technology, you’re bound to get left behind. Investing in cloud software, data analytics, and machine learning is an excellent way to keep up with the dynamic nonprofit landscape. But, it’s worth noting that it’s just as important to invest in people, people who can manage these technologies and leverage their power to the fullest.
If we envision a nonprofit incorporating ML into its daily operations, we must consider the ethics behind it. Data privacy, for instance, must always be respected as machine learning models utilize extremely large data sets. Hence, nonprofits must ensure transparency that these models are compliant with not only legal but also ethical standards.
Because a machine “learns” from data, it’s only as good as the data that it learns from. Hence, there should be a balance of both quantity and quality to ensure that they’re getting the most out of their data. Nonprofits must also set up their systems for data collection and data analysis.
Foster Data-Driven Culture
If it wasn’t obvious enough, data is the magic word of this century. To completely harness the power of machine learning, nonprofit organizations must embrace data-driven culture. That starts with educating the staff on the importance of data – discussing how they can use it to make better decisions in the workplace.
Of course, educating them on data must not be limited to this. In a similar vein, it’s wise to delve into cybersecurity practices so employees learn how to protect their data.
Part of the AI boom, machine learning is undoubtedly one of today’s fast-growing technologies, and many organizations across industries have been quick to adopt it in their day-to-day activities. However, doing so may take time and may involve a significant change in management processes. But one thing’s for sure – nonprofit organizations that are quick to embrace this new technology will certainly reap a myriad of benefits.