AI Tools for Nonprofits: 5 Practical Use Cases for AI in Grantmaking

When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), nonprofits stand at a critical crossroads. They know how important it is to embrace innovation, especially in mission-driven work, but some are understandably uncertain about how to use AI tools responsibly. The key to success lies in viewing AI tools as just that—powerful tools that require human oversight, insight, and context to be effective. 

Integrating AI into the nonprofit sphere means taking a measured, thoughtful approach. AI tools are for empowering humans, not replacing them. 

Today’s AI tools for nonprofits provide practical, immediate benefits: saving time, streamlining administrative processes, and helping nonprofits focus on their core mission. In this spirit, our AI tools are strategic support systems that help funders and grantmakers do even more for the greater good. 

Here are five practical use cases for AI tools and nonprofits: 

1. Create forms via chatbot

Form creation can be one of the most time-consuming tasks for grant administrators, especially those managing multiple, complex programs at once. Instead of agonizing over creating the perfect application form, harness the power of AI chatbots to create forms in seconds via natural language prompts.

By prompting a chatbot within your grant management software, you can generate an application template tailored to your program. Then you can tweak questions, and add or delete any that don’t fit. This template creation saves you from starting from scratch every time you need to build an application form.

AI chatbots can also search through all your help documentation for you, keeping your forms as up-to-date and compliant with your requirements as possible. These chatbots can populate pre-existing templates with all the correct information, cutting down the hours spent on manual data entry and formatting.

2. Extract information from PDFs

Think of how HR software nowadays can scan a job applicant’s resume and automatically parse their work history into an online form. Similarly, AI tools can scan PDF documents such as 1099 and W2s to seamlessly populate that data into corresponding grant application forms. 

AI can dramatically reduce the hours spent manually inputting data from PDFs into forms. Whether that work usually falls to applicants or funders, it’s a big win. Funders can allocate more time to building relationships with and evaluating applicants, and they don’t have to worry about overburdening applicants with administrative work. These tools can also minimize the amount of human errors that can occur with manual PDF transcription.

3. Help applicants apply for funding faster

The application process is not only time-consuming for grantmakers, but for applicants as well. Grantees are often applying to many different programs, but have to tailor their answers to each specific form. AI tools can save applicants’ answers, enabling them to copy and reuse their responses in future forms.

For example, a Chrome extension could integrate directly into the applicant’s browser, automatically recognizing form fields and suggesting previously saved answers that are relevant. Applicants can maintain a library of saved responses, which they can curate, edit and organize—anything from their basic contact information to their organization’s mission statement. This way, grantees can keep their portfolio of answers ready at their fingertips to input with ease.

AI tools such as these can help applicants significantly increase the number of applications they submit without compromising the quality of their answers. Especially for organizations applying to multiple grants simultaneously or applying on a tight deadline, that extra time saved is precious.

4. Deploy chatbots as a support resource

AI-powered assistants can upscale the support experience for the community you serve, your grant applicants, and your staff. Chatbots are available 24/7, providing immediate, accurate responses to common inquiries. When someone reaches out with a question about grant application deadlines, or what to expect from the evaluation process, they can receive assistance without delay, with the most up-to-date information available.

These chatbots aren’t intended to replace your human support staff, but to free them up to address more complex support needs that require a personal touch. Responsible use of AI tools comes down to optimal allocation of resources, empowering humans to dedicate their time and skills where they’re most valuable. 

5. Make content more accessible

Nonprofits serve diverse communities, including those who might face barriers to accessing information. AI tools can help you make your resources and applications more accessible to everyone, embracing inclusivity and equity in grantmaking

Ensuring content accessibility through AI includes:

  • Automated subtitles and transcriptions for video or audio content: Make multimedia materials accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Language translation: Translate forms and resources into multiple languages. Especially helpful for nonprofits serving multicultural communities where English may not be the primary language.
  • Support for voice-to-text and text-to-voice services: For individuals with visual impairments or who have difficulty typing, make digital platforms and text input much more navigable.

Keys to unlock AI tools for the greater good

AI tools should help nonprofits and applicants do more good, together. To that end, nonprofits must follow a handful of essential best practices. 

1. Keep humans in the loop

As Beth Kanter, co-author of The Smart Nonprofit: Staying Human in an Automated World, emphasizes, AI tools are there to augment, not replace the human element. Kanter’s notion of “co-bonding” with AI, akin to Microsoft’s “co-piloting,” speaks to a human-driven partnership where technology and human insight work in harmony.

“That’s the whole thing about responsible use, that it’s not a cheap replacement for staff. And it’s not something where you can cut and paste the output from it without human judgment and editing. It’s not a magic fairy dust where you push a button and it does it,” Kanter advises. “You have to learn how to work with it.” 

And learning to work with it means making sure there’s always a human in charge of your AI tools, keeping your use of AI ethical and responsible.

2. Use data responsibly

Privacy and security are paramount when using AI tools. Collect, store, and use data only as necessary. This includes obtaining informed consent from individuals whose data is being collected, ensuring data is only used for its intended purpose, and protecting data from unauthorized access, such as entering public models.

3. Be transparent

Applicants want to know when they’re interacting with AI. Any part of your application powered by AI should be labeled as such and have an option to opt out. 

Within your organization, set clear guidelines for when and how to use AI responsibly. Make sure your staff knows in broad strokes how AI tools work. They don’t need to go deep into the science, but everyone who uses these tools should have a cursory understanding of how they function so they can explain it to applicants as necessary. 

4. Monitor for bias

Despite claims to the contrary, AI tools are not immune to human-like bias. AI systems learn from vast datasets, and if those datasets contain biases, the AI’s outputs will likely perpetuate those biases. 

Monitoring for bias is crucial to ensure that AI tools are fair, equitable, and serve everyone without discrimination. Regularly evaluate your tools to make sure your AI-powered processes do not inadvertently perpetuate inequity. It’s also a good idea to involve diverse teams in the development and monitoring of AI tools to further reduce the risk of overlooking potential biases.

5. Stay focused on your mission

As you fold AI into your processes, keep your mission front and center. Because as much as AI can help you move faster and more accurately, adopting AI should never become your main goal.  

The AI landscape is young and burgeoning still. As you explore the use of AI, share your successes with the wider nonprofit community. By learning from each other, we can accelerate the philanthropy sector’s collective ability to use AI for good.

Take a human-centered approach to AI

AI is already impacting the way the world works. As Beth Kanter says, it’s time to start adopting it, but we need to do so thoughtfully and responsibly, in a way that is human-centered.

“We have to be in charge,” says Kanter. “It’s our human creativity, our judgment, the thing that makes us human, that we have to retain.”

AI cuts down on much of the manual, grunt work, the copy-and-pasting and so on, freeing up human time. It’s up to us to decide how to reinvest this newfound time. For nonprofits, this means deepening impact, extending reach, and taking a look at how to better serve communities.

AI truly can make the world a better place, especially with responsible, mission-driven humans at the helm. 

Hsing Tseng

Hsing is a content marketer and ex-journalist who writes about tech, DEI, and remote work. Beyond the screen, she enjoys building custom mechanical keyboards and playing with her dog. You can find more of her work at