AI In Fundraising Innovation

What charity AI means for fundraising innovation, including exploiting AI in fundraising, free charity AI for fundraising tools, and AI Fundraising FAQs

AI In Fundraising Innovation

What charity AI in fundraising innovation means - AI and fundraising, including how fundraising jobs will change, how to exploit AI in fundraising, who the winners and losers will be, and access to free charity AI for fundraising services right now, including our free AI funding bid writer.  At the end are AI for fundraising FAQs.

Free Charity & Fundraising AI Tools

In addition to the 6 systems within Charity Excellence, we provide a range of free charity and fundraising AI tools.

  • Enabling you to find funding, help, resources and data.
  • Ask Me Anything – answering almost any question about running your charity.
  • Funding Bid Writer Service.
  • Welfare support and funding for individuals.
  • Charity & non-profit facts and popular questions, for the public and media.

Just click the AI bunny icon in the bottom right of any web page or in-system and tell it what you need.  Ask as many questions as you wish to, they're free, available 24/7 and will not collect any personal information.

Charity AI Tools & Guides:

AI Training

We have created 2 one-hour training webinars.

  • Introduction to AI.
  • Using ChatGPT.

CURRENT USE OF AI IN FUNDRAISING INNOVATION

Increasing numbers of people are using ChatGPT to create content, or one of the many emerging imagery apps, as well as in other ways, such as this article by UK Fundraising - 5 ways AI is being used in fundraising (Jun 21).  The implementation of the new generative AI systems, like ChatGPT, brings many risks, which I highlight in my blog on the impact AI will have on the sector.  But I think there is a very specific risk with fundraising.  That is, the major charities already get the vast majority of charity sector funding, but could use their very considerable tech capabilities to exploit AI and secure an even greater share.

In response, we launched our first AI service at the beginning of Jan 23, using Biomni’ s Tenjin software and now provide 4.  We believe that we can flip the large charity funding risk into an opportunity by enabling any charity to access AI and, in doing so, begin to level the already very unequal playing field.  Our existing services enable any charity to find the funding, guidance, free help, resources and data to support their fundraising and, like all of our systems, is optimised for small charities and marginalised groups. In Mar 23, we launched our free funding bid writing service, which uses the Tenjin software to 'talk to' the ChatGPT software.

Getting ChatGPT to write a funding bid is easy, but getting it to write one that works well isn't.  We had to build 5 versions to get it to work and it can't do everything yet. However, it was built, tested and launched it in a matter of a few weeks, can write up to 120 bids a minute, 24/7 and you don't need any fundraising or IT expertise to use it.  Biomni have now launched a version of our tech bunny that any charity can have - Charity Bot. It has all the usual benefits of having a bot, but we've also created ways it can be used to build engagement, including encouraging donations and fundraising volunteering.

IMMEDIATE FUTURE FOR AI IN FUNDRAISING

We will certainly be bringing out new AI services as we move towards creating a single AI concierge service to very simply and quickly meet the needs of any charity or other non-profit. Expect lots of others to do so too - we think, primarily commercial companies and agencies touting their use of the new AI content creation platforms.

We don't necessarily know what data the new AI systems have been trained on or how, and even those that are building these, don't necessarily know what they can do. And it's not just about the huge potential in ChatGPT, but the rate of growth in that potential. It launched in Nov 22, but the much more powerful GPT4 upgrade launched in Mar 23 and there are now a very rapidly growing number of other systems emerging, as the tech giants pour £ billions into development.

There have been growing calls for a halt and even the CEO of OpenAI (which built ChatGPT) recognises the potentially huge risks. However, it seems very unlikely that the US and China would be able to agree what that might look like, in case they give the other an edge, and the potential profits are simply too eye wateringly large.

Expect to see rapidly growing numbers of systems and the capabilities of existing systems rapidly increasing. The tech giants are building AI into everything, so by this time next year, we'll all be using it, whether we know it or not. We think that the use of imagery and text systems to create content will rocket and that we'll begin to see some charity specific AI systems appear, albeit more slowly.   In due course, the big charity sector software providers will build it into their systems.

We'll all struggle with ensuring the legal and ethics issues are dealt with effectively and making sure that these are for whatever system you're using will be important.  For example, we see no barrier in principle to using AI to create content for fundraising, as long as you can be sure that the facts, figures and arguments in it are fair and accurate.  AI can be biased, lie convincingly and hallucinate.  A surprisingly substantial amount of the work in building our own AI services has been in ensuring ours don’t. That's a huge global issue for everyone.  We've used our developing understanding of AI to create our Charity AI Ethics & Governance Framework that any non-profit can adapt and use.  You can't buy-into AI, without checking it's safe and works properly.

AI In Fundraising Innovation - Summary

  • There seems little doubt that the new AI will be a complete game changer, but.
  • May favour large charities, tipping the playing field further and potentially to a dangerous extent.
  • We think the immediate changes are probably over-hyped and.
  • The long-term changes under-estimated, or at best, as yet unknown.
  • We think that there will be huge change in jobs long term, but.
  • Do not think it will result in a loss of fundraising roles and.
  • The huge ethical and legal issues will take years to sort out, so expect it to be a bumpy ride in the meantime.

LOOKING BACK - THE AI STRATEGIC CONTEXT

In my May 2021 blog for Charity Digital, I posed the questions - Do charities face a growing digital divide?   Essentially, a small number of very large charities already had more than 90% of the income and, with their large and highly-effective digital capabilities, had the potential to secure an even larger share of funding.  Even before the pandemic, online giving was increasing year-on-year and rose hugely during it, but it was the large charities that benefitted most.

The playing field was already uneven and becoming steeper for smaller charities. I highlighted what I believe to be a growing risk of what Warren Buffet called ’deepening economic moats’ – large organisations building their already significant competitive advantage over smaller ones.

I also highlighted that emerging new technologies, such as AI and blockchain offer potentially even greater opportunities.  I hadn't foreseen the massive recent growth in AI.  I think that risk has now become much greater and a lot nearer.

LONG TERM FUNDRAISING OUTLOOK

Given the huge steps that have been made already, the variety and rate of deployment of new AI systems and the massive investment, I think the change will be huge and fundamental.  Moreover, we don't really yet know what these new systems are capable of or how we will manage the legalities and ethics, let alone what else might be coming.

However, whilst the new AI systems are like nothing we've seen before, that step change in tech innovation is something we've experienced before.  The rate of tech development has been so fast that the invention of the Internet, mobile phones and Windows are still (relatively) recent history.  I think we can make some estimates based on the lessons from history.  Listed below is our best guess at what that might look like.

Impact of AI on Fundraising Jobs

Here's our resource on the impact of AI on charity sector jobs and what charities need to think about and do in managing the changes AI will bring and integrating AI into roles and work procedures.  Here's how we think AI might change fundraising roles.

  • Some jobs will go and, in areas such as content creation in the private sector, already are.
    • However, I think the major impact will be in a fundamental change in how we do our jobs and.
    • Although some jobs will be consigned to the dustbin of history, new ones will be created.
    • There are already new roles being created by AI, such as prompt writers.
  • Those roles most likely to change/be replaced will be those that create something or provide information based on existing data.
    • For example, content creation and advice lines.
  • Roles that require face-to-face or human empathy/intent will be less amendable to change.
  • There is not and, almost certainly, never will be a 'big red button' that does everything.
    • Understanding what you are trying to do, how to use the AI and what its limitations are, will be critical and highly valued skills.
    • The day of the 'ChatGPT whisperer' may have arrived.

Impact of AI on Charity Sector Structure

  • These changes will not only impact roles but also the way in which charities operate and interact with other organisations.
  • Sector Structure.
    • It's likely that work currently outsourced, because charities don't have the expertise may be brought increasingly in-house.
    • The value of insight from those with depth of expertise and creativity won't go away, but simply providing advice, data and analysis will largely be done by AI.
      • There will be at best, less need for fulfilment houses, call centres and.
      • Those that run grants databases and resource bases, or.
      • Publish reports analysing facts and stats.
    • Those that move quickly to exploit the huge opportunities and manage the risk well will potentially do incredibly well.
    • Those that do not, will become increasingly inefficient and ineffective, becoming marginalised or eventually closing.
    • AI will impact all of us, but there will always be a place for our volunteer led micro charities collecting in the street and doing fantastic work locally.
    • We think it is those with staff and systems which have most to gain and are most at risk.
  • Big Versus Small Charities.  Either we work to ensure that these small/medium charities are given the support, skills and systems they need to level the playing field, or the large charities will take an even greater share of the funding available than they do already.
  • We argue that there is unquestionably a huge need for organisations that can deliver economy of scale, but equally.
    • Small/medium charities bring more agility, greater ability to reach marginalised groups and a huge breadth of services that large charities cannot.
    • Both are vital to a strong and vibrant charity sector and the smaller charities are now at increasing risk.
  • We think that the big charities will be able to exploit AI more effectively, but that its accessibility offers small charities the opportunity to hold the line on fundraising, or even to push back.
  • But they have very limited skills and often lack confidence.  We think there are 2 potential ways to respond to that.
    • Organisations, such as Charity Excellence providing access using platforms built specifically to meet the needs of smaller charities.
      • We are already delivering increasingly accessible AI services and moving towards creating a single AI concierge service for any non profit.
    • Infrastructure organisations, such as CVSs, either using platforms like Charity Excellence to provide support to front line charities, or teaching them how to use these platforms.
      • We are currently discussing a pilot to do this with an infrastructure organisation.

How To Approach Thinking About AI In Fundraising.

Given the pace and scale of change, making any long term predictions is very challenging.  However, the reason Charity Excellence has grown so fast to become the largest charity community is that we don't focus on what other sector organisations do, but on what our community needs and wants.  We then ask ourselves how we can use tech to better meet those needs and do that by focussing relentlessly on the 4 things you can improve - quality, quantity, cost and timeliness.

Identifying AIs advantages and limitations and mapping these against these 4 key areas gives us a way to start thinking about how we might use these to improve fundraising.  I am a man of meagre talents, but fundraisers are endlessly inventive and this gives them a process to begin thinking about how we might work to deliver the future.

AI Fundraising Innovation - Opportunities & Limitations

AI offers huge opportunities for fundraising innovation but also limitations.

The Opportunities.  Chatting to our AI bunnies isn't the same as talking to a human, but they.

  • Don't just answer questions, but also carry out processes and find documents for you.
    • AI won't replace humans, but the heavy lifting in creating plans, content and bid writing is likely to go, freeing staff up to do more.
  • Whilst bots are not sentient, they can behave in a very human way and we find people often respond to the tech bunnies in a very friendly way.
    • AI can deliver a very personalised and friendly service that won't replace humans, but.
    • Will give us a way to start relationships in a far more effective and sophisticated way.
  • Can access data from across the entire Internet using their knowledge banks.
    • Fundraising research for grants, individuals, impact data and everything else will be far more effective and easier very soon.
  • Always respond.
    • Getting a response to a phone call or from a hello@ or info@ e mail, can sometime be almost impossible.
    • I know there is huge pressure of work, but how much has your charity missed out on, because of that?
  • Are tireless.
    • To all intents and purposes, the bots can handle limitless queries.
  • Available 24/7.
    • People want help when they want help, not just during office hours.
  • Cost almost nothing.
    • In a sector starved of resources, being able to deliver the above at very low cost is exceptionally attractive.

AI Fundraising Limitations.  Firstly, the large charities will almost certainly race ahead in adopting AI.  Secondly, not a single grant maker will fund Charity Excellence.  Grant makers simply aren't interested in infrastructure funding.  Ultimately, the new AI fundraising platforms coming will almost certainly be commercial and, as the sector is too small to merit any significant investment, it's likely to be the usual modified versions of commercial systems that don't necessarily meet our needs, with prices small charities often can't afford. Without funding we can't compete, but we are well ahead of the competition and will aim to offer an alternative and help to shape a constructive debate to promote the sector's interests, not profit.

Then there are the huge ethical and legal problems AI presents and great care will need to be taken to ensure that our fundraising remains at all times fair, ethical and trustworthy.  Our AI Ethics & Governance Framework provides a simple toolkit to update your fundraising policies and procedures, and in using or commissioning AI. But in the rush for money, how many will make ethics a priority and, even if we do, will the commercial companies?  Beyond that, scammers are already using AI to create more effective frauds.  Impersonating genuine charities will become easier, potentially undermining the public’s trust in us.  We must all make this a priority and it needs to be written in to the Code of Fundraising practice.

Questions To Ask. To explore this further, you may wish to have a look at UK Fundraising's article - Questions on AI's implications in fundraising (31 Mar 23).

So How Might AI Drive Fundraising Innovation?

The answer is nobody knows, but by matching AI's strengths to what people need and want offers us insights into what that might look like.

  • Our AI bid writer has 2 potential major benefits.
    • For those who don't know what goes into a funding bid or struggle to write well, the tech bunnies make drafting a case for support quick and simple.
      • We want to level what is currently a very unequal playing field and using a bot to do that is not cheating or unethical.
    • For professionals it could be used by your groups/staff to collect the data you need from people and to draft an initial bid.
      • It doesn't and will never have your in-depth expertise and understanding of which trusts want what and how, but.
      • It can potentially take a big chunk of work off you and enable you to do more.
  • You may ask AI to prepare the planning and marketing material for your event, but it will still be your staff and volunteers who talk to people and will be there on the day.
  • A high net worth donor won't talk to your bot, although his/her bot talking to yours may be the start of that relationship.
  • A website bot can chat to people to help encourage donations, volunteering and signing up to campaigns/newsletters, including asking for information and connecting them to action buttons or sending them materials.  Charity Bot is already able to do this.
    • Tell me how you'd like to help us? 
    • Let me have your details and I'll e mail you our guide to help you plan your event and our fundraising pack with lots of great resources and ideas. 
    • Call us on .... during office working hours and let's have a chat. 

START USING AI FOR FUNDRAISING RIGHT NOW

Listed below is just some of our free support, but you also have our AI bunnies with you every step of the way.  Just click the icon in the bottom right of any screen and tell it what you need - help with registration, finding funding, advice, expert free support, resources, guides, data, raffle prizes, whatever.   Available 24/7, they'll go and get you what you need.   Login to use the in-system AI bunny to write funding bids for you.

Within the system itself, use Funding Finder, to find a huge range of grants and Help Finder to find lots of free fundraising support and also companies that make product/financial donations. There's also a fundraising online health check, with 500+downloadable funder lists.

Quick, simple and everything is free.

To find the funding and free help you need - Register Now

Thank You - Biomni

The AI software Charity Excellence uses is provided pro bono by Biomni and we also receive significant pro bono support from their AI developers, without which we would not be able to deliver our growing suite of AI services.  To exploit the potential of AI in your own charity, speak to them about having your own Charity Bot.

AI and Fundraising FAQS

  • How will AI impact fundraising?  AI will impact fundraising in 2 main ways.  Firstly, it will remove a significant amount of routine admin (digital debt), saving you time and, secondly, it will augment your existing fundraising capabilities, enabling you to achieve more.
  • How do you use AI in fundraising?  AI can be used in charity fundraising in a wide range of ways, including for creating ideas, summarising, contrasting and comparing, and having fun and being creative.  Imagery AI can also be used in creating compelling graphics and images for fundraising material.
  • Will AI make charity fundraisers redundant?  Some routine fundraising jobs will be replaced by AI, but most will be changed and new jobs will be created, so it will not negatively impact charity sector jobs.  In removing the more mundane tasks it may well make fundraising more attractive and enjoyable as a job.
  • Can ChatGPT write a charity funding applications?  ChatGPT can write good charity grant proposals, but it knows nothing about your charity, its plans or your project, so you must include the significant amount of detail required for a grant application or it will not be very good and/or will include made up information (hallucinating).
  • Can ChatGPT replace charity funding bid writers?  AI can write very effective charity grant bids, but it will not replace grant writers because it does not have the insight, flair or creativity of a good grant writer and lacks understanding of context and can struggle with long form content.
  • Is there a free ChatGPT tool for charity funding bid writing?  The Charity Excellence in-system AI bunny can write funding bids for you, but you must register and login to use it – everything is free.
Register Now
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