Thematic Convenings Recap: Nonprofits & the Power of AI

Gathering to explore artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential role in the social impact sector’s work, 50+ participants convened on June 13 at Emerson College’s Hollywood campus for the first of CNM’s Thematic Convenings discussion series, produced in partnership with Microsoft. In a conference room filled with film and TV posters of productions that Emerson alumni had worked on, participants experienced secondhand the entertainment industry’s glitz and glamour.

Sandra Hill-Glover, CNM’s VP of Learning & Innovation, welcomed participants by asking them what they hoped to gain from the event. Attendees spoke excitedly about using AI tools to power their nonprofit missions and their desire to network with peers.

Tirzah Van Damme, Microsoft Tech for Social Impact’s Senior Specialist, then joined virtually from New York for keynote remarks. She performed a live demonstration, showing how generative AI can draft a compelling grant proposal in just a few steps.

Next was a dynamic panel discussion moderated by CNM President & CEO Efrain Escobedo, featuring Erika Smith (Microsoft), Todd Terrazas (Artificial Intelligence Los Angeles), and Jen Garcia (Employ California).

Panelists shared use cases of AI for nonprofits, ranging from chatbots to refining administrative processes. They acknowledged the general public’s skepticism and fears around AI, making events like these necessary to demystify AI and discuss responsible AI practices, principles, and ethics.

“There’s been talk about how AI is going to take our jobs,” said Terrazas. “But there’s still employment right now.” He emphasized how workers can use AI to upskill: “A person who learns new skills, including generative AI, will take somebody else’s job.”

After lunch, Joey Zumaya of The Zumaya Group talked about LinkedIn for Nonprofits and LinkedIn’s AI courses. He urged participants: “Don’t come up with AI strategy. Try to find AI wins by implementing AI into day-to-day things to save time and do things a step quicker.”

Hill-Glover wrapped up the event by thanking participants for their insights and willingness to adapt and develop through this new technological frontier. “It’s not all or nothing – bringing your own story and perspective is important. AI is a tool that can supplement the incredible, powerful work that nonprofits already do,” she said.

This event highlighted the growing interest in AI among nonprofit leaders, who often face challenges due to limited resources and capacity. While AI cannot replace grant funding or social workers, it can become a valuable tool in the nonprofit sector. By adopting thoughtful and transformative AI solutions, the social impact sector can become more effective and better equipped to drive change and serve communities.

Stay tuned: CNM will offer additional sessions in 2024 to help the social impact sector dive deeper into the topic of AI.

Sign up for CNM's eBlasts

Required *