How Technology Can Help the Non-Profit Sector

Eli Colussi is a 23-year-old entrepreneur who is deeply passionate about the intersection of technology, volunteering and community service. We are SO excited to share his journey into volunteering and how he believes technology can help the non-profit sector.

Please tell us about your journey into volunteering and how it led you to start your AI business.

My journey into volunteering began in high school when my dad, George, asked if me and a couple friends wanted to be a part of the Oaklands Spirit Garden clean up. I begrudgingly said yes, but to my surprise I left the clean up with some new friends, a sense of pride with what I helped accomplish and a sense of community. Without volunteers like me that day, the garden would be overgrown and sad. The direct impact of our collective efforts on the community ignited a desire in me to do more. This experience not only showed me the importance of giving back but also sparked the idea that technology could amplify our efforts.

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This realization led me to start Proxy-ai, an AI automation agency focused on integrating software and AI solutions into businesses and nonprofits. Our aim is to streamline operations, enhance efficiency and ultimately enable these organizations to serve their communities more effectively. We believe that by harnessing the power of technology, we can unlock new possibilities for impact and service.

What other experiences have you had with volunteering?

Growing up, my family consistently demonstrated that working for a cause you believed in combined with improving your community was a surefire way to be satisfied in the workplace. My mom and dad were always doing stuff for the community—my mom helped with the BC Schizophrenia Society, and my dad worked at the Boys and Girls Clubs in Vancouver. Their good deeds and passion inspired me to volunteer too. I’ve participated in a plethora of different volunteering jobs, like walking for cystic fibrosis at Royal Roads University, painting fun murals at Fisherman’s Wharf and repacking soap at Soap for Hope to give to people who really need it. Each of these experiences taught me something new and showed me how many ways there are to help and make a difference. The foundation these volunteer opportunities gave me left me inspired to keep volunteering in new sectors.

One of my best memories is helping at Soap for Hope with Ann, who was in charge there. She was super funny and made the whole experience a blast. We were there for about three hours, but it flew by like it was just 20 minutes. Anne showed me that volunteering can be a lot of fun, almost like a mini vacation from daily life. It made me see that helping can make you and the people around you really happy. This is something cool I learned, and I think lots of people would enjoy volunteering just like I did if they gave it a try.

Do you think different sectors have different volunteer needs?

While it is true that the needs for volunteers can vary depending on the specific requirements for the job, at the end of the day different sectors require different types of volunteers. While all volunteers bring enthusiasm and a willingness to help, the specific skills and expertise needed can vary widely. I suppose as long as the person volunteering is comfortable, he or she could work in any sector. For example, a health-focused nonprofit might benefit from volunteers with medical or public health backgrounds, whereas an educational initiative might seek volunteers skilled in teaching, public speaking or curriculum development. Understanding these nuances is key to effectively matching volunteers with opportunities where they can make the most impact.

What do you believe technology’s role in the non-profit sector is?

Technology has the power to transform how non-profits operate, offering tools to streamline administrative tasks, enhance data analysis and expand outreach efforts. Unlike for-profit companies, which often use technology to drive profitability, nonprofits can leverage technology to extend their services, reach underserved communities and achieve their mission more efficiently. From fundraising platforms and social media to data analytics and AI, technology empowers nonprofits to do more with less, ensuring resources are directed where they’re needed most. I would recommend that all nonprofits start out with a good CRM (customer relationship management) platform from which they can store data, schedule their volunteers and keep tabs on everything happening from a birds-eye view. To be honest, there are designated platforms that have features specific to non-profits, which is great! But the benefits I have seen in designing a few custom solutions and then letting them run on autopilot far outweigh the pros that a lot of these volunteer specific software’s have.

In the spirit of community service and technological advancement, could you share some insights into the benefits that nonprofits might experience by partnering with an agency focused on AI and automation? Specifically, how can these technologies be employed in a meaningful way to enhance nonprofits’ ability to connect with people and further their mission?

Embracing AI and automation can significantly enhance how nonprofits serve their communities. Not only are a significant chunk of nonprofits slow to adopt new technology, but an even greater chunk is also not utilizing AI in any capacity. As time progresses there will be a scramble to get up to speed on AI, while the nonprofits that took a proactive approach will be miles ahead. Tech in any capacity, but specifically AI and automation, offer an immense boost in efficiency, freeing up time and allowing members to focus on furthering the mission, vision and mandate of the organization. Tasks like volunteer queries, scheduling, managing and social media can all be automated. It is the compounding effects of automation that leave lasting results. Approaching technology partnerships with humility ensures solutions are aligned with the nonprofit’s objectives, deepening community connections and fostering a more effective future. These are just a few reasons as to why any agency that specializes in AI is wise to consult with.”

Do you have any advice for young people wanting to start volunteering?

My best advice is to start with your passions. What are you already good at? Do you play a sport? Do you love video games? Asking yourself these types of questions can help guide you to an organization that is related to something you like, and more times than not pave the way for you to have a really positive first impression of volunteering. Search for the issues that move you deeply and seek out organizations working in those areas. Don’t underestimate the value of contribution, regardless of size. Inversely, think of an area that you want to develop or are uncomfortable in. Going into a foreign environment can at times be more beneficial to your growth than being 100% comfortable in your volunteer placement. Literally just have fun and dip your feet in the water.

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