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AI Week Recap: Nonprofits Using Artificial Intelligence

By March 25, 2019

AI for Good

How 3 Leading Nonprofits are Using AI for Good

There’s a lot of hype around AI in the news today, and while you may have heard bad news or science fiction, there is some good news, too: Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are tools you can use to advance your nonprofit’s mission.

What does that look like?

Here are a few nonprofits using AI today in program management and more. Get inspired!

AI Helps Program Management and Employee Training

Example of using Salesforce Einstein Vision to help classify the quality of clean cookstove installation, to provide fast feedback to nonprofit employees in the field

Proyecto Mirador is a nonprofit that builds clean cookstoves in rural Honduras. Their work empowers women, creates jobs, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, with their work offsetting 1.4 million tons of carbon, saving 7 million trees, and changing the lives of 800,000 people. And, Salesforce has gone net zero in carbon emissions thanks in part to carbon offsets with Cool Effect and Proyecto Mirador.

But to serve rural communities, it takes time for stove technicians to travel from one home to another. So, Proyecto Mirador worked with Nonprofit Cloud to use technology to scale up their impact. Proyecto Mirador became “AI ready” by getting off of paper and moving to the cloud.

A nonprofit employee takes a photo of cookstove installation to get feedback in near-real-time, using Mogli SMSNow, using an AI vision tool implemented by Mogli Technologies, Proyecto Mirador technicians can get near-instant quality control feedback on their chimney installations via Mogli SMS for text messaging. Using text, any employee can submit images to determine a good or bad chimney installation.

Einstein Vision helps Proyecto Mirador train more cookstove technicians in order to reduce training time and implement efficient quality control to manage 2,000 stove installations a month. For more information on how they set this up, watch their 20 minute Dreamforce presentation.

Program Management with AI for Coaching First-Gen Collegians

College Forward is an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit that coaches motivated, underserved students to achieve the benefits of higher education. College Forward is powered by CoPilot, a student information system custom built on the Salesforce platform that uses predictive analytics to empower the college success industry to create sophisticated, proactive coaching services to first-generation college attendees.

In 2017, College Forward took a step forward with AI and entered the pilot program for Einstein Prediction Builder in the summer of 2017.

After a simple four-step process — using clicks, not code — the AI tool sifted through the nonprofit’s rich six-year trove of student data and generated a valuable new data point for College Forward counselors: a risk score assessing each student’s likelihood of dropping out of college.

“For the first time ever,” said Austin Buchan, their CEO, “our coaches could rapidly identify on a day-to-day basis which students were in most need of their support.”

By using the latest predictive analytics technology, College Forward is accelerating their work to build and share effective solutions for practitioners across the nation and to shed light on the importance of leveling the academic playing field for millions of first-generation, low-income students.

For more about their story, read this article or watch this video from Dreamforce 2017 as they discuss program management.

The Data Journey: Data Collection, Understanding, and Action

Since its founding in 1997, Endeavor, a global nonprofit that supports high-impact entrepreneurs, recognized the importance of data. It captured information about its entrepreneurs’ performance, their satisfaction with Endeavor services, the quality of mentor matches and more. But storing data is very different than understanding it and using it to inform decisions. Endeavor turned to Einstein Analytics to give its 400+ staff the visibility they need to work smart, not just hard. Analytics allows Endeavor to answer crucial questions, such as:

  • What’s the cumulative assessment of an entrepreneur applying to the network?
  • Who are the top mentors in each of the 35 offices and how have they been engaged thus far?
  • What are the trends of Endeavor entrepreneurs’ performance by industry, business model and more?

Though currently in beta before its worldwide rollout, the impact of Analytics is already being felt. “Analytics will be a game changer for us,” said Nathan Cohen, Director of Operations. “Everybody says they want to become data-informed, but that’s really hard without a super visual, intuitive way to consume data. And Analytics so easily blends qualitative and quantitative information, you get this great experience where the comments contextualize the numbers, and the numbers ground the comments in reality. I’ve had Managing Directors from all over the world saying that this is the tool they were looking for.”

Get Started by Centralizing Your Data and Mapping Processes

The best way to use AI isn’t to just get an algorithm and hope for the best. It helps to have a goal in mind first. Once you have a goal or a problem, it’ll be easier to define what data you need to answer that question, and determine if (yes, I said if!) a machine learning model or AI is the right answer.

The Data Science Hierarchy of Needs, by data science & AI advisor Monica Rogati (@mrogati on Twitter). Used with permission.
The Data Science Hierarchy of Needs, by data science & AI advisor Monica Rogati (@mrogati on Twitter). Used with permission.

Monica Rogati created a “Data Science Hierarchy of Needs” which identifies that the first step to AI is collecting data. It’s hard to train an AI model without lots (think tens of thousands to millions) of examples, so start by laying your foundation with your CRM.

For more examples and resources, see:

About the Author
Katharine Bierce serves as editor-in-chief of the blog and helps create e-books, research reports, and other digital content at She is a lifetime member of Net Impact, a StartingBloc fellow, and volunteered in producing “tech for good” events and content with the SFTech4Good Meetup from 2014-2018. A self-described “full-stack human,” she is an avid meditator and yogi. When she’s not managing digital content, you can find her taking or teaching yoga classes around the San Francisco bay area. Follow her on Twitter: @kbierce