Lessons Learned From Nonprofit Implementations


Microsoft Copilot is an AI-powered tool designed to streamline document creation and editing. It generates high-quality text based on user input and context, making it ideal for summarizing meetings, developing action items, drafting emails, and analyzing spreadsheets. Copilot is multi-modal meaning that it can generate both text and visual content. 

For an introduction to AI, see Community IT’s webinar Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Ethics for Nonprofits.

A reminder: Community IT is vendor agnostic. We only make recommendations to our clients and only based on their specific business needs. We never try to get a client into a product because we get an incentive or benefit from that. But we do consider ourselves a best of breed IT provider. It’s our job to know the landscape, the tools that are available, reputable and widely used, and we make recommendations on that basis for our clients based on their business needs, priorities and budget.

Many nonprofits are using Microsoft tools and the Microsoft 365 platform. If you are using Microsoft, you have access to Copilot. If you have been thinking about rolling out Copilot, we’re providing these tips from early implementations in our network.


Before implementing Copilot, familiarize yourself with AI adoption resources such as TAG AI Adoption in Philanthropy and the Community IT AI Acceptable Use Policy Template. Understand Microsoft Copilot’s privacy protections and data handling protocols. You can also assess your organization’s readiness using Microsoft’s “Readiness Assessment” AI Compass.


Encourage staff to use the protected features of Microsoft Copilot instead of free alternatives for enhanced data protection. Ensure all users access Copilot with their work accounts linked to Microsoft Entra ID for authentication. Licensing is currently $30/user and requires a 12-month commitment. There is no non-profit pricing or discounting available at present.

Licensing should be assigned to a specific user. Microsoft does allow licenses to be reassigned, so you can easily move licenses between users while the license is still active. Only users with an assigned Copilot license can use Copilot features such as meeting summaries and action items. 

Data Protection & Privacy

Microsoft ensures data privacy by removing user information from chat data at the start of a chat session. This information is used only to determine eligibility for commercial data protection. Microsoft does not retain prompts or responses, and chat data sent to and from Copilot is encrypted both in transit and at rest. Using Copilot through the Entra ID protected https://copilot.microsoft.com link instead of the public https://chatgpt.com is preferred.

Usage & Access

For optimal performance and features, use Microsoft Edge. Access Copilot at https://copilot.microsoft.com. The Work Tab provides access to files, email, and calendar information in the organization’s tenant, while the Web Tab offers protected access to GPT-4. These options allow for prompts up to 4,000 characters. The “Notepad” feature allows for prompts of up to 18,000 characters. The expanded prompt can be helpful if you are looking for analysis of a large set of copied text. 

Copilot also integrates into many standard Office Applications including Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams. All files must be saved in SharePoint or OneDrive in order to use the associated Microsoft Copilot. Data in Excel spreadsheets also need to be formatted as a table in order to interact with the data by referencing the column headers.

Copilot follows the permissions associated with the user that has the assigned license. If your organization has relied on security by obscurity, then Copilot may uncover information that was intended to be private but lacked the correct security controls. Start with a review of your SharePoint site and folder permissions to ensure that data is secured properly before adopting Copilot.

Challenges & Solutions

Adopting Copilot involves adapting to a new way of working and communicating with a conversational AI service. It’s important to familiarize users with this new tool to ensure the accuracy and reliability of Copilot’s responses and actions, manage the privacy and security of the data and information that Copilot accesses and generates, and evaluate the impact and value of Copilot on work performance and organization goals.

A Community of Practice (CoP) is a good way to start on your AI adoption journey. A CoP is a group of people who share a common interest or passion and who interact regularly to learn from each other and improve their practice. A CoP can help us learn and share best practices by providing us with a platform to:

Advanced Use Cases

Most of the initial Copilot adoption will be around using it as a tool to review and explore data that is generally available to you as an end user. Copilot does include a lot more capabilities to build out custom chatbot solutions. You can explore Copilot Studio for creating custom chatbots tailored to specific organizational needs. You can design, test, and deploy your own bots for various scenarios and audiences.

Copilot also supports integration with other data sources such as Microsoft SQL, Dynamics or even file shares and CSV files. You can learn more about integrating external data sources with Copilot here: Microsoft Graph connector experiences – Microsoft Graph | Microsoft Learn.

Conclusion: Microsoft Copilot Implementation Roadmap Concerns for Nonprofits

Don’t take for granted that your staff will use AI responsibly or effectively, especially with so many free online AI tools available for writing, creating images, and analyzing data.

If you are going to use Microsoft’s Copilot at your organization, have an implementation plan.

Be proactive in training staff on AI tools that can make their daily work easier, and help staff share tips and best practices with each other. Create an organizational Community of Practice to encourage adoption of Copilot together.

Above all, create structure to keep your organization secure by reviewing your access permissions and creating thoughtful policies using an ethical framework to guide you, and revisit those policies frequently as all things AI change rapidly. 

Ready to get strategic about your IT?

Community IT has been serving nonprofits exclusively for twenty years. We offer Managed IT support services for nonprofits that want to outsource all or part of their IT support and hosted services. For a fixed monthly fee, we provide unlimited remote and on-site help desk support, proactive network management, and ongoing IT planning from a dedicated team of experts in nonprofit-focused IT. And our clients benefit from our IT Business Managers team who will work with you to plan your IT investments and technology roadmap, if you don’t have an in-house IT Director. 

We constantly research and evaluate new technology such as Microsoft’s Copilot and other enterprise AI tools to ensure that you get cutting-edge solutions that are tailored to your organization, using standard industry tech tools that don’t lock you into a single vendor or consultant. And we don’t treat any aspect of nonprofit IT as if it is too complicated for you to understand.

We think your IT vendor should be able to explain everything without jargon or lingo. If you can’t understand your IT management strategy to your own satisfaction, keep asking your questions until you find an outsourced IT provider who will partner with you for well-managed IT.

If you need outsourced IT assistance and are looking for help implementing Microsoft Copilot, let’s talk. We can do an assessment and help you determine how Copilot or other AI tools can help you achieve well-managed IT at your nonprofit.

It may not surprise you to learn Copilot AI was used in the drafting of this article; conception, editing, and proofreading was performed by humans.