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Intro to AI Webinar

Is your association considering implementing artificial intelligence (AI) into its operations? 

In today's rapidly evolving technology landscape, AI implementation is becoming increasingly prevalent. However, while the benefits are apparent, the financial implications can often be ambiguous and daunting for organizations to navigate. Below, we delve into the intricacies of approaching an association's board of directors regarding the costs of AI implementation, strategies for building confidence through quick wins, and the importance of setting revenue percentage benchmarks.

1. Understand the Financial Landscape

It’s important to get a sense of cost when evaluating AI implementation opportunities at your association. To do this, you need to dig into the financial landscape for AI projects. The cost of AI implementation can vary significantly depending on an organization's goals and current capabilities. For some, the initial steps may involve basic education-centric initiatives and tools, resulting in relatively low costs. For others that are further along in their journey, more advanced training and platforms could be appropriate investments.

Building a plan, or a roadmap, with clear priorities allows for better resource allocation—both in terms of dollars and time. It's crucial to secure board support for larger-scale initiatives. Some organizations allocate a percentage of their annual revenue toward AI initiatives. This investment is crucial for fostering organizational knowledge and capacity-building. However, it's essential to manage expectations, understanding that not all investments will yield immediate tangible outcomes but are critical for future organizational growth.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

Setting realistic expectations for AI implementation involves acknowledging the financial and organizational implications involved. Implementing AI is not just about allocating funds but also about understanding the time and organizational capacity required. It's important for organizations to recognize that AI initiatives may vary in cost and complexity depending on their specific needs and priorities. While some organizations may start with low-cost approaches, others may require a more substantial investment.  

Communicating these realities to the board is crucial for garnering support and understanding for proposed AI initiatives. Educating the board about the transformative potential of AI is a critical first step. Once you’ve done that, it is also key to set realistic expectations and be transparent about the investment's intended use.  

Importantly, it is a good idea to get the board to approve an overall budget and provide staff leadership with the authority to make decisions without going to the board on specific tools and projects. This will allow your association to move faster with multiple small experiments and then decide where to go big based on those results.

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3. Build Support from Your Board of Directors

Building board support for AI initiatives requires a strategic approach. It begins with educating them about the transformative potential of AI and its implications for the organization's future. Tangible examples from other associations can be invaluable in illustrating the potential benefits and creating a sense of urgency. However, it's equally important to address the board's concerns about outcomes and the risks associated with investment.

When approaching the board, it's essential to present a clear plan or roadmap for AI implementation, highlighting the allocation of resources and expected outcomes. It may also require a shift in mindset from the board, as investing in AI often involves uncertainty and experimentation, where some initiatives may fail but contribute to organizational learning and growth.

Ultimately, gaining board support for AI initiatives requires building trust over time and demonstrating the potential value of these investments. You should be prepared to educate the board, provide evidence of AI's impact, and make a compelling case for the necessary financial commitment, emphasizing the long-term benefits for your organization.

4. Set Financial Benchmarks

One effective strategy for framing AI implementation discussions is to establish revenue percentage benchmarks. Allocating a percentage of annual revenue—preferably between 2 to 5 percent—can serve as a guideline for investment in AI initiatives.  

This approach not only provides a clear guideline for investment but also ensures that financial resources are appropriately aligned with the organization’s scale and strategic priorities. By linking AI expenditure directly to revenue, your board of directors can better understand the expected return on investment and make informed decisions about resource allocation. This strategy fosters a systematic approach to budgeting for AI, enabling your organization to effectively leverage technology while managing financial risk.

5. Hit "Pause" on Legacy System Projects

It’s common for organizations to regularly commit significant resources to large-scale projects like upgrading their association management system (AMS). These decisions are often driven by the desire to enhance operational efficiency and member services, with the expectation that new features and smoother processes will significantly improve overall functionality. 

However, while these upgrades might offer some benefits, they often deliver only incremental improvements that do little to propel the business forward. At the same time, they absorb a huge amount of organizational energy and financial resources. On an absolute basis, if you compare the tangible benefits of these upgrades to the complete cost, it is usually a losing proposition. 

In contrast, redirecting even some of these resources toward AI can unlock significant innovations, enabling smarter automation, enhanced data analytics, and more personalized member experiences—changes that can fundamentally redefine organizational effectiveness. Most importantly, this reallocation will prepare your association and your staff for the future rather than continuing to say, “We’ll get to AI when the big project is wrapped up.” Well, AI won’t wait for you. There are opportunities to move faster if you’re willing to pause large legacy system investments. 

This shift isn’t just a reallocation of funds or about the tech; it’s an investment in people that can transform your culture, your engagement model, and your ability to reimagine your association’s future. 

If you're about to start upgrading a legacy system, ask yourself this: Could the resources allocated for this upgrade be better utilized by investing in AI to achieve more substantial and impactful advancements? Even if you’re midway through such a project, consider this: What could we achieve if we hit “pause” for three to six months and redirected our resources? 

>>> Read More: Top 10 Generative AI Tips Associations Can Use to Create Content and Drive Efficiencies

6. Build Confidence Through Quick Wins

Navigating the approval process for AI initiatives requires a nuanced approach. While some organizations may have established governance structures that facilitate decision-making, others may require more advocacy and persuasion. To build confidence and momentum for AI implementation, prioritize quick wins.  

These smaller-scale projects will allow for iterative learning and demonstrate the tangible benefits of AI in a relatively short timeframe. For example, when implementing Betty Bot, a conversational AI tool for associations, the developers didn't initially seek board approval but instead moved forward and presented the results afterward. This approach accelerated acceptance and showcased the potential of AI to deliver tangible outcomes. By showcasing such examples and educating your board of directors about the transformative impact of AI, you can generate enthusiasm and support for broader implementation efforts.

Learn How to get Quick AI Wins at our Intro to AI Webinar

Proposing AI implementation to an association's board of directors requires careful consideration of the financial landscape, setting realistic expectations, and building confidence through quick wins. By framing discussions around revenue percentage benchmarks and demonstrating the transformative potential of AI, organizations can effectively navigate the approval process and secure the necessary support for their initiatives. Learn more about this process and how to successfully secure quick AI wins at your organization by joining our upcoming free Intro to AI Webinar. Register by clicking the image below.   

Intro to AI Webinar

Allison Kral
Post by Allison Kral
April 25, 2024
Allison is a senior consultant at Ready North. She joined the agency in March 2021 and is a 2014 graduate from Ohio University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. With a background in magazine journalism, Allison harbors a love for writing and storytelling. She loves creating compelling content that engages readers and ignites conversations. Allison enjoys working in a fast-paced industry where she can grow, learn, and test her skills. She thrives in environments where she’s able to wear many hats—including writing, editing, marketing, social media management, and more.