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AI Gaining Foothold in University Advancement

Who would benefit from artificial intelligence in advancement for the organization

Who would benefit from artificial intelligence in advancement for the organization. Source: the "State of AI in Advancement Report" from the AI in Advancement Advisory Council (AAAC)

In a recent survey from the AI in Advancement Advisory Council (AAAC), nearly a third of advancement professionals (28 percent) reported that they're using artificial intelligence in their work or intend to within the next six months, while the remainder have no plans for using AI applications within the year (42 percent) or deploying or researching AI at all (30 percent). At the same time, 89 percent of organizations agreed that AI could make their advancement teams "more efficient." Yet the laggards might be risking competitive advantage, according to one assessment.

The AAAC's "State of AI in Advancement Report" is based on responses from 210 advancement professionals who completed the survey in April and May 2019. More than half (54 percent) came from higher ed. AAAC was established last fall by Massachusetts-based Gravyty, a provider of AI-enabled fundraising software, and includes members from multiple institutions of higher education. Its mission: to "open discussion" about where AI technology will influence nonprofit fundraising.

Most of the respondents (87 percent) said they consider ethical use of AI either important or highly important. To that end, the report included a pledge that the AAAC recommended all nonprofit advancement organizations take "to ensure the ethical, effective and fair use of AI within advancement." Among the issues the pledge touches on are "promotion of human values," "full transparency," "shared benefit," "open dialog," "elevating trust," and — because job loss is a concern — provision for workforce training.

Gravyty found that of 23 job roles identified within the advancement organization, seven faced a "high" risk of automation and nine faced a "medium" risk. Eleven of the roles, the company suggested, should have pathways developed for them to help affected employees "gain new skills and continue to add value to the industry."

"Artificial intelligence should improve all that it touches and now that we're seeing the impact of AI on advancement, it's critical that we apply this standard to the lives of those that our industry employs," said AAAC member Rod Grabowski, vice president for advancement at the University at Buffalo, in a statement. "Together, the AAAC is going beyond simply identifying the jobs and roles that are changing because of AI. We will take action to create pathways to ensure advancement professionals have reskilling opportunities as AI transforms our industry."

"We've entered an amazing chapter of innovation and progress with artificial intelligence," added AAAC member Reed Sheard, vice president for college advancement and chief information officer at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. "In order to truly harness this technology in a way that helps us build successful organizations, it will be critical to utilize AI in a manner that always seeks to benefit society. It is important to ask both 'What can we do?' as well as 'What should we do?' The early results we've seen represent new opportunity and I am excited about what the future holds."

The report is openly available through the AAAC website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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