Charity AI Benchmarking Survey 2024

Our Charity AI Benchmarking Survey - what's happening and links to tools, guides and training to support your charity.

Charity AI Benchmarking Survey 2024

We launched our Charity AI Steppingstones Strategy in Jun 23 and, following on from very successful implementation of Phase 1, we carried out a significant piece of work to update our strategic thinking and inform the development of our next generation charity AI.  Our aim remains supporting the sector in safely and effectively adopting AI by acting as a catalyst, particularly small and marginalised charities.  We are sharing our work as these survey results plus 2 new thought pieces that build on this.

I think what you are doing is great, charities are often small and it's great to know there are people who can help shed the light! You're stars!

Survey.  Our first charity AI benchmarking survey was carried out in mid 2024 and informed by a desktop research exercise on the wider uptake and use of AI beyond the sector.

Lots of things in the survey that I hadn't even thought about!

In light of the increasing number of systems and what we think will be differing charity needs, we have created a guide for charities on how to choose the best AI system.

Thought Pieces.  The 1st thought piece is on what an AI enabled future holds for the sector and the 2nd on how the sector and its regulators should respond to that.  Join us for the launch of both at our webinar on Thursday 27 June @ 10am.

AI and the Future of the Charity Sector.  What that might look like, including the changing world of work, new jobs, and the skills needed, as well as digital moats, AI roadkill, holistic impact & digital super exclusion.

There is no booking.  You simply create an appointment in your calendar and join us for the webinar by clicking the virtual meeting room link.

AI Benchmarking Survey Findings

  • Use of AI in charities has surged, with 60% of individuals now be using AI.
  • There is little evidence of charitable grant makers investing in AI yet.
  • Charities are using a wide range of AI systems, with the most popular being ChatGPT (57%), followed by Copilot (23%) and Gemini (14%).
  • On average, half of charities are extremely unprepared in each on the 9 key areas
  • Only 1 in 20 is extremely well prepared.
  • More than half are extremely unprepared to manage AI risk, including in the key areas of cyber security and data protection.
  • By far, what charities most want (27%) is AI to support their fundraising and, to a lesser extent, to reduce the admin burden (24%).
  • What they want help with is integrating AI into ways of working, managing data and understanding what the future will look like.

Which AI systems Do Charities Use Most?

AI Adoption.  Around 60% of charities are now using AI, which is significantly up on the Charity Digital Skills report 2023 which found only 35% of charities it but matches their findings this year.  McKinsey have noted a surge in AI use in the last year and we have had huge interest, with 400+ registering for some of our AI webinars. My thanks to Michael Nicolson for spotting a mistake in my original analysis.

I have attended one webinar already and it was excellent to get us going - thank you for all you are doing!

Interestingly, many of those attending have been volunteers from small charities or fairly junior staff who wish to begin using it.  More recently, we have seen increasing numbers of organisations providing AI training, including some of the usual 'instant experts' and others seeking to monetise their training.  Our training and guides are grounded in our work in building AI since 2022 and all is made free and accessible to ensure small charities are not excluded.

Charity Excellence is a God send. Keep up the good works. Looking forward to seeing new things.

What we found:

Use of AI in charities has surged since last year and

possibly as many 90% of individuals may now be using AI.  

AI Systems Being Used.  By far the most commonly used system was OpenAI's ChatGPT (57%), followed by Microsoft's Copilot (23%) then Google's Gemini (14%) but all 7 systems included in the survey were being used and 32% of respondents said they were using a system that wasn't listed.  Very few were using AI to create imagery, such as DALL-E (3%) and Midjourney (2%).

These findings appear to be corroborated by other reports.

What we found:

Charities are using a wide range of AI systems,

with the most popular reflecting the wider population.

More than half were using ChatGPT, followed by Copilot and Gemini. 

AI Systems for Non Profits

Thanks to Biomni, we were able to launch our first Charity AI system in late 2022 and several more since and, currently, we are working on the first of our next generation charity AI systems.  We are aware of a small number of charities which have created AI systems for their own use and we are certain that the large charities will be building their own AI systems.  AI is becoming more widely available in social media and enterprise systems.  We have seen some charity specific AI systems but nothing significant yet and these don't appear to really work well yet.  We have been approached by quite a number of small companies building charity AI seeking advice.

This is coming fast and if we don't get organised we'll get left behind!

Looking ahead, it seems likely that AI will be in almost all enterprise systems fairly soon.  The non profit offers from Big Tech, such as Microsoft and Google, will arrive, albeit currently the only discounts we can find is the just launched (May 24) OpenAI for non profit.  Smaller scale systems will soon also begin to arrive.  We think most charities will be using it within the next 12 months, whether they want to or or not,  It's likely some won't know they are.

Thank you for your work. I think we need to discuss safeguards against large NGOs using AI to further tilt the fundraising market place further in their favour, oblivious to the detrimental impact it can have on the smaller grass roots charities they affect.

AI Grants for Charities

We have found a few AI grants but almost all were Government grants primarily for niche areas, with a small number for more general AI application.  We have not found any charity sector AI grants but are aware that some grant makers have offered funding for AI to some charities.

We think this will grow over the next year, as increasing numbers of charities seek to move to AI.   Given the widespread lack of understanding, we are likely to see some white elephants and probably security and/or data protection breaches in due course.  We have used our own work to create AI design guidelines for those commissioning, funding or buying AI systems but there is always the risk of 'shiny new toy' syndrome combining with the lack of understanding to create car crashes.

Are Charities Adopting AI Effectively and Safely?

Respondents were invited to rate statements covering the 9 areas we have identified as key in achieving safe, effective adoption of AI by charities.  These were rated from 1/10 (strongly disagree) to 10/10 (strongly agree) that their charity was doing each well.

The weakest areas were having policies and procedures updated to reflect AI, managing AI risk and having AI ethical and responsible use guidelines.   However, all areas were rated very poorly, with nearly half rating each factor 1/10 and only 1 in 20 rating 10/10.  Given the very high number of people in charities now using AI, that is very worrying.  Not least because some of the qualitative feedback referred to trustees/CEOs not being engaged or 'anti AI'.

We have included some summary data below, together with tools we have created over the last 2 years to support charities.   All of our AI services, guides, toolkits, policies and training can be found on our AI web page.

Key Area 1/10 10/10 Charity Excellence Resources
Policies & procedures 60% 5% Charity AI Policy & Downloadable Policies
Managing AI risk 58% 5% Charity AI Risk Register & Threat Toolkit
Ethical & responsible guidelines 57% 4% Charity AI Ethics & Governance Framework
Trustee oversight 48% 6% Charity AI Ethics & Governance Framework
Data protection 43% 7% Charity Data Protection
Cyber security 42% 7% Charity AI: Cyber Security
Choosing the right AI 39% 5% Best Charity AI and the AI Design Toolkit
Skills and experience 34% 4% AI & Charity Sector Jobs
Changes in ways of working 34% 4% AI & Charity Sector Jobs

I haven't thought of half these things....! 

What we found:

On average, half of charities are extremely unprepared in each on the 9 key areas

Only 1 in 20 is extremely well prepared.

More than half are extremely unprepared to manage AI risk.

Including in the key areas of cyber security and data protection.

What charities told us:

It's so new and so huge it's hard to even imagine where to start with dealing with AI.

What AI Systems Do Charities Actually Want?

What we found:

Respondents were invited to identify what they actually want AI to do for them.  

By far, what charities most want (27%) is AI to support their fundraising.

To a lesser extent they want it to reduce the admin burden, including using text creation AI (24%).

 The 7 other areas rated were all at about 15%.  These included data driven decision making, beneficiary support and insights, resource management, AI imagery and automated customer service and advice, such as website bots.

The most common form of support requested was webinars, videos and toolkits, with some asking for case studies.   Using AI for fundraising was popular.

How a small charity can best use AI to improve its functions, use it to find funding opportunities and prepare business cases.

finding appropriate funding, engaging with audiences in a new way,

But a number also asked for support in managing safety and preparing for the future.

Managing safety, security, risks. Imagining charity sector with AI.

Webinars on safe use, positive and negatives of AI

There were not many comments about integration but we think this is probably because charities do not yet understand the implications and what's coming.

Understanding how AI can be used with m365, emails and Quickbooks Integration by classifying data and automation

What AI Support Do Charities Want?

Respondents were invited to rate the importance of a 8 ways in which AI support might be delivered to them.  The highest rated was how to integrate AI into our ways of working to exploit its capabilities, followed by how to ensure our data is consistent, complete and compliant when using AI and what the charity of the future will look like and the skills we will we need.

What charities want is help to integrate AI into working, manage data and understand what the future will look like.

We've issued our initial guidance on data protection in an AI enabled world, our latest 2 webinars look at the future of the charity sector and the skills that will be needed and our next stage of AI work will begin to help us understand 'what good looks like' when integrating AI.

This is a new journey for us and we need urgent help to engage with AI.

Desktop Research - AI Reports and Statistics Used

Detailed below are some of the reports and information we used in creating this report.

Global.  On 30 May 24, Mckinsey reported that As generative AI adoption accelerates, survey respondents reported measurable benefits and increased mitigation of the risk of inaccuracy.  A small group of high performers lead the way.  They found that, for the past six years, AI adoption by respondents’ organisations had hovered at about 50%.   This year, their survey found that adoption had jumped to 72%.

For individuals, a Reuters Survey in May 24 found that ChatGPT is by far the most widely recognised generative AI product (around 50%), with the next most widely used being Google Gemini and Microsoft Copilot.  However, in the UK, frequent use is still rare (2%). Younger people are much more likely to use it on a regular basis - 56% of 18–24s said they had used ChatGPT at least once, compared to 16% of those aged 55 and over.  Nonetheless, most expected AI to have a large impact on virtually every sector of society in the next five years

UK.  In may 24, Forbes reported that around one in six UK organisations, totalling 432,000, have embraced at least one AI technology and that 68% of large, 33% of medium, and 15% of small companies have incorporated at least one AI technology.  The most commonly adopted AI solutions in the UK focus on:

  • Data management and analysis (9%)
  • Natural language processing and generation (8%)
  • Machine learning (7%)
  • AI hardware (5%)
  • Computer vision and image processing and generation (5%).

They found that 85% of us are aware of AI language models such as Chat GPT, Google Bard and Bing Chat and 59% have concerns about the use of AI.

The Feb 24, DfDE&I survey found that 57% of us recognise the personal benefits of data and 44% acknowledged its societal value. There was alignment between the public’s perception of the key areas where data can contribute to societal good - health, cost of living, and the economy - and public perceptions of the greatest issues facing the UK. However, there was still scepticism around the equal distribution of these benefits across society, with only 33% in agreement that all groups reap the benefits equally.

The more dated 2023 ONS survey found that public awareness of AI appeared to have increased to 72% of adults who could give at least a partial explanation of AI compared with 56% in 2022.  When it came to day-to-day use of AI, 5% of adults reported using AI a lot, 45% a little and 50% not at all in the month before data collection.

Charities and Generative AI

Charities.  The Charity Digital Skills Report 2023 found that 35% of charities were using AI for certain tasks, an 26% planned to implement AI in the near future but only 4% were developing services that use AI as part of their operations.  Of those polled, 73% said they did not feel prepared to respond to the opportunities and challenges the technology brings and 48% said they were worried about the consequences of AI.

The 2024 Report launched in July, 61% of charities are using AI tools in their day-to-day work or operations, with half of large charities (53%) saying that AI tools are a priority, whilst only a quarter of small charities did (26%).  Almost two thirds of charities see AI as relevant to them, but less than a quarter feel prepared to respond to the opportunities and challenges.

The Enthuse 2024 Charity Pulse report reported that 5% of charities were using AI to help personalise donor journeys, while 9% were trialling it.

A charity AI survey by CAST in Mar 24, with 164 respondents, found that There’s a healthy appetite for — and attitude towards — AI from an individual perspective, but this is set against a pronounced lack of support on an organisational and wider sector level.  This very much reflects the high levels of enthusiasm we've seen from the many individuals attending our webinars.  It asl found that 53%of respondents had already used AI in their organisation’s operations or projects.  This was much lower than our own survey findings.  Just 6% of respondents stated that their organisation already had an AI policy in place and only 20%stated that their organisation was actively involved in conversations and / or policy-making regarding ethics in AI.  This reflects our own findings of widespread lack of preparation.

Sources of AI Information.

McKinsey: The state of AI in early 2024. - May 24.

Forbes: UK AI Statistics And Trends In 2024 - May 24.

DfDE&I: Public attitudes to data and AI: Tracker survey (Wave 3)- Feb 24.

Reuters Institute - Public views on AI in 6 countries. 28 May 24.

ONS: Understanding AI uptake and sentiment in the UK - Jun 2023

Charity AI Survey Respondents

A total of 378 individuals responded to the survey, which was run in May/June 2024.  It comprised 8 questions - 6 quantitative and 2 qualitative.  It was promoted using our newsletter (62k) but also our social media, a range of social media groups and a mailshot to 100k charities on the Charity Commission E&W register.

The profile of charities responding appears to be under represented at micro charity level, but otherwise reflected the overall pyramid shape on charity income bands in our sector model.  We're not sure why but as no-one knows how many micro charities there are, possibly our estimate of 100k UK wide may be too high, but we don't know.


The majority of respondents were trustees or management (94%).


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