Game Changer: What A.I. Means
for Fundraisers

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

In a recent podcast, economist Tyler Cowen said artificial intelligence is one of the most remarkable human innovations ever created, comparable to the invention of the printing press. Others are positing similar ideas, comparing it to the industrial revolution or other major, rapid technological advances in human history. In short, A.I. is going to make everything different.

This includes the world of fundraising.

While most people have heard about ChatGPT, there are more than thousand A.I.-powered tools covering a range of industries and services, and that number is expanding rapidly. I recently spent some time using ChatGPT to determine how it could simplify—or eliminate—some fundraising tasks. The results were interesting!

I will begin, however, with a few caveats. This type of A.I. is very new. While I think all of these areas of use will improve over time, right now they should all be taken with a grain of salt.

  • First, don’t believe everything it spits out. Some information is biased, fake, or just plain wrong. A.I. is not great when it comes to context. Use other sources to verify data.
  • Keep in mind that Chat GPT has data through September 2021, so don’t expect help with current events.
  • Your data and chat history are not necessarily private. It is shared internally by ChatGPT and they have the right to share it externally as well.
  • Your data and chat history may not be secure. Earlier this year, ChatGPT had a security breach and there have been a number of questions about its security.
  • It’s free…for now. ChatGPT and many A.I. tools are free, but that’s not likely to be the case in the future.
  • Finally, don’t plagiarize. Use AI as an idea generator and then put things in your own words.

Okay, now on to some of the ways I think A.I. is, or will be, useful in fundraising.

  • Creative Writing. In seconds, ChatGPT can generate drafts of proposals, emails, thank you letters, event invitations, speeches, or social media posts. Will the pieces need editing and personalizing? Definitely. But they give you a good start.
  • Provide feedback. Let’s say you’ve written a donor report, but it needs some polishing. Ask ChatGPT for feedback (what’s good, what’s bad) and suggestions for improving it. Further, it can, in some ways, be trained to remember things you have said in the past, so it can do things like match a style of writing.
  • Comparison. You can ask it for the similarities and differences between your organization and another nonprofit in your space. This could help you determine your comparative strengths.
  • Research. Use ChatGPT to answer specific questions such as,
    • What are the charitable registration requirements in New York?
    • What are research resources that nonprofits can use to identify potential major donors?
  • Generate Lists. When I asked Chat GPT to generate lists of private foundations that give to various causes, it was definitely hit or miss. In some cases, it included other nonprofits—not grantmaking foundations. Other times, the information was just incorrect. I had more luck when I asked it to identify top experts in particular fields.
  • Create donor profiles. You can generate some background information about a high-net-worth donors, if they are in the news. But I found the information to be dated and incomplete. Moreover, Chat GPT does not maintain real-time contact information for individuals.
  • Make recommendations and brainstorm ideas. Use A.I. tools to recommend resources or help you understand the implications of something like establishing a donor giving club. Or use it to generate a range of ideas such as, “Give me 3 email subject lines for a year-end fundraising appeal. Limit to character count recommended by MailChimp.” Or “Give me 5 ways to thank a recurring donor for their gift.”
  • Role play scenarios. Artificial intelligence can help you develop scripts for donor meetings. In some cases, you can also interact directly with the system to role play where ChatGPT acts as the donor.
  • Summarize text. If your program staff has written a policy report that you need to summarize and explain to donors, just upload the text and ask Chat GPT to do the work. Then, you could ask to have it rewritten in language to appeal to specific audiences.
  • Explain concepts. Do you know the difference between private foundations and donor-advised funds? ChatGPT does. How about how to structure an endowment gift to protect the corpus? Yup.
  • Language translation. Ok, this may not be a huge need for many nonprofits, but you can have your text translated to another language. And get the correct pronunciation, too.
  • Ask Chat GPT to help. Finally, you can ask ChatGPT about what to ask it so that you get more accurate answers.

Fundraising is—and will remain—all about relationships between people, but A.I. promises to be a great tool. While it has potential to save a lot of time and effort, we need to remember it is just that – only a tool to assist us. And it is currently very new, with many bugs.

We can, and should, be on the forefront, learning how to harness AI to our advantage, but we should not ever take our eye off the prize, and we should never leave behind the one thing we know it can’t do – build human relationships.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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