How can Artificial Intelligence enhance a nonprofit’s mission? The evolution of Search Engines: A look back and ahead into 2024 and the Age of AI


In the early days of the internet, current search engine giants battled for top billing in the race to dominate the online world. The use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was born. Fast forward to today, and these same players are now engaged in a new battle—this time for supremacy in Artificial Intelligence (AI). As someone deeply rooted in the nonprofit sector and armed with expertise from a 2008 master’s degree capstone paper, (How can search engine marketing techniques enhance a nonprofits online visibility?) I’ve witnessed this transformative journey firsthand.

The Rise of AI in Search Engines:

The roots of Artificial Intelligence can be traced back to the predictive text in search boxes, a feature that has become ubiquitous in platforms like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The predictive words in the image below are based on AI and machine learning. Microsoft, for instance, boldly markets Bing as “Your AI-powered copilot for the web,” highlighting the evolution of search engines into AI-driven entities. This shift reflects the ongoing quest for market share and dominance among the major players in the world of SEO.

Lessons from the Past: A Glimpse into Search Engine History:

In 2008, during my exploration of search engine marketing for a philanthropy and development master’s capstone paper, the focus was on understanding the history and anatomy of search engines and how that technology could impact nonprofits. Back then, Google, born out of a Stanford University research project, gained prominence for the accuracy of its search results. Today, Google, along with Microsoft (Copilot AI), Yahoo (Blueprint), and even newcomers like China’s Baidu (Ernie AI), are vying for AI supremacy.

From SEO to AI: Transforming Nonprofit Visibility:

The evolution doesn’t stop with search engines. Reflecting on the past, my 2008 capstone paper explored how search engine marketing could enhance a nonprofit’s online visibility. Fast forward to the present, and the question has evolved: How can Artificial Intelligence enhance a nonprofit’s mission? AI is poised to revolutionize various aspects of nonprofit operations, from communication with donors and constituents to reporting and data analytics.

Marissa Mayer’s Vision: A Glimpse into AI’s Impact:

Marissa Meyer, former CEO at Yahoo and now with Sunshine, recently shared her perspective on AI in 2024 in December 2023, stating, “I knew AI was going to change everything, and I’m excited to see where it goes next.” This quote encapsulates the excitement and anticipation surrounding the transformative potential of AI from one of the former leaders in the search engine space.

ActiveEcho: Bridging the Gap Between Blackbaud and AI:

MissionBI’s ActiveEcho emerges as a key player in this AI revolution. Designed to unlock Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT and Financial Edge NXT databases from their inaccessible hosted server confines, ActiveEcho utilizes the Blackbaud SkyAPI to create a continuously refreshing Azure SQL copy of the databases. This unlocked data can be easily connected to reporting tools, be seamlessly integrated into Microsoft Fabric for reporting or connected to Azure OpenAI. While AI is a new and transformative technology, ActiveEcho can immediately serve as a bridge, unifying organizational data for immediate and meaningful analytics using tools like Power BI, Tableau, Qlik, Looker and others.

The Future: Navigating the AI Landscape:

As we stand at the dawn of an AI-driven transformation, the battle for search engine supremacy is evolving into a broader competition for AI dominance. The question of who will win remains open, but what’s clear is that the impact of AI on both nonprofit and for-profit organizations will be profound. From enhanced communication to streamlined reporting and analytics, the potential applications of AI are vast.


Just as search engines revolutionized how we find information on the web, Artificial Intelligence is set to reshape how businesses and nonprofits operate. The journey has just begun, and organizations must be vigilant, embracing the transformational nature of AI to stay ahead in this new era of possibilities.

A copy of my 2008 capstone paper How Can Search Engine Marketing Techniques Enhance a Nonprofit’s Online Visibility?

Jim Evans is the ActiveEcho Product Ambassador at ActiveEcho delivers a continually refreshing Azure SQL copy of Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge NXT and/or Financial Edge NXT databases, specifically designed to connect with the latest reporting tools and AI interfaces.

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