By Craig Baum • June 24, 2019

    AI IDEAS: Jim Rutt of the Dana Foundation

    Jim Rutt is the CIO / CISO of the Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic organization focused on advancing brain research and educating the public about findings.

    dana-foundation-logoAs a veteran in the healthcare and technology space, we are honored to have the chance to speak with Jim. Per usual, we turned our connection with an industry thought leader into yours by capturing our conversation for Gravyty’s AI Ideas column.

    Jim Rutt, CIO / CISO, The Dana Foundation

    Gravyty: Thank you so much for joining us today Jim. As the CIO / CISO of the Dana Foundation, you are very assimilated with both the Tech and Healthcare industries. We are hoping to hear about your thoughts on tech in the nonprofit space?

    Jim: Thank you for having me. When I first came to Dana I had not heard of the technology solution providers in our space. It was apparent to me that this was a very insular sector. However, with the move to the cloud about a decade ago, we began seeing the adoption of top tier technologies that have well-known brands across industries, such as Salesforce and Dropbox. Because of this shift, I’m seeing more willingness to look at things outside of the typical provider ecosystem.

    Here at Dana, we began our migration to the cloud roughly eight years ago. By understanding the vision early, we were able to act quickly and have now been cloud-based for six years. This includes our grant management platform, which we host in Salesforce.

    Dana Foundation at Work

    Gravyty: That's great that you mentioned Salesforce. They are great partners of ours and such an important player in so many digital transformation stories. Speaking of transformation, are you seeing AI applications emerge as an option within philanthropy?

    Jim: My introduction to AI was well outside of the philanthropic sector. For the last four years, I’ve been quite interested to understand the practical applications of AI in all sectors. What I realize is that there’s still an education that needs to happen so we’re not inaccurately describing machine learning or heuristic models as pure solutions.

    What’s promising is that as all of this education happens and the early successes of true AI companies become apparent, nonprofits will see benefits in lockstep with for profit. Be sure to look for automation to operate a lot of the manual work currently being done.

    One area that I think AI will have huge successes is in automated security, which is certainly an area that nonprofits could benefit from. Additionally, conversational AI will also be tremendously helpful for philanthropy relationships with donors.

    Gravyty: At what point do you see organizations proactively looking to AI as a solution?

    Jim: Let’s put it this way: data is only as good as the actions you can take from it. AI is an opportunity to do just that. We’ve all been collecting data for years – nonprofit and for-profit organizations, alike. We, as people, can infer that if we have a lot of data that somewhere it is the answer to our problems. Yes, AI applied to this will help but you can’t solely rely on it and discount human intuition. I laugh my head off with the notion that automation will put everyone out of work by 2021 because, in reality, it is not the case. You need a healthy mix of both humans and AI to really succeed.

    Dana Foundation: Brain Health

    Gravyty: What is the biggest misconception about AI?

    Jim: The biggest misconception is that people think we are further ahead with AI than we really are, and what people perceive as AI from providers is not actually AI. There has been some great progress, especially with conversational AI as seen in SaaS apps and social media. But I personally don't think we are anywhere near where we need to be with AI.

    In general, I am very pleased with the efforts to solidify AI and AI related technologies as usable applications that brings tremendous value. But work still needs to be done. It’s just like with the cloud – initially, people focused on the threat to old 'on-prem' service administrators, rather than the apps and efficiencies that we now have ten years later. We need to move the conversation to these opportunities and outcomes.

    Gravyty: Thank you so much for your time, Jim. It was great to hear about your thoughts on AI in the nonprofit sector as well as what the future holds for AI.

    To hear from other nonprofit technology leaders on their views of AI, where the sector is headed, and everything in-between, check out Gravyty's other great AI Ideas interviews.

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