Some in the charity sector think that AI will take over our world, with huge job losses, blah. Other charities don't think AI will impact them at all. We think both are wrong.
The adoption of AI in the charity sector will create fundamental change, in the same way as the advent of the Internet. We think the change AI will bring for charities will happen quickly and be a bumpy ride, and a major risk for some kinds of charities, if they ignore it.
But we also think AI is a huge opportunity, it won't lead to significant job losses and the major challenge for charities won't be the AI itself, but in making sure we enable access to it for everyone. AI is an opportunity to level the playing field for small charities. At the end are links to all our free charity AI services and AI for charities FAQs.
Put very, very simply, AI is the ability of a computer to learn and think, which enables it to perform tasks typically done by people. For example, our AI bunnies use 40 knowledge banks that collectively are (sort of) the World's biggest charity FAQs page. That's just too much for a human to read to find the right answer and, whilst a computer can, it doesn't know what the correct answer is. What AI does is teach it what the right answer is.
If you ask a question a Charity Excellence AI bunny can't answer, it comes and tells me, and I create one. Equally, they learn from feedback provided by users, training by me on the suggestions they make and other automated learning. Providing a service that can answer any question anyone asks about running a UK charity is a huge ask, but (as at end Mar 23), the percentage of questions they were able to answer was up from 73% on launch in Jan 23 to 87% and that's despite a massive expansion in their knowledge bases across that period. They can now answer 20,000 questions and they will continue to be able to both answer more questions and answer questions better.
AI for charities comes with often confusing new terminology, from Chat GPT to stochastic parrots. For a plain English explanation of any AI term, ask an AI bunny.
Generative AI describes algorithms that can be used to create new content, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, and videos. ChatGPT is the best known, but only one of the new kinds of generative AI systems.
It's different to existing AI (described above) - it's the AI that creates the content itself using often huge resources taken from the Internet. It is then trained by its controllers on what is and is not a good response. This makes it hugely powerful, but also brings with it not insignificant problems, which is why we don't use it for answering questions and when we do use it, we design in controls to minimise the problems.
ChatGPT only launched in Nov 22 and now has more than 100 million users worldwide. It's a bit like auto complete on your phone, but it can 'auto complete' and pass university level legal and medical exams. The tech companies are pouring £s billions into its development and are already beginning to integrate it into browsers and even Excel. Very soon, pretty much all non-profits will be using it and, even if not, the very widespread use of AI in systems that impact on their work will.
Whether we like it or not, AI will fundamentally change the sector and in the near term. And that might include some very good things - read this by Dr Kate Darling of MIT on how it might be used to counter hate speech.
But AI is also bringing problems for the charity sector. The new AI systems aren't sentient and can't discern in the way a human can - that's why they struggle with the image above. We can train them to deal with that and to appear very human, but they are not.
They are also 'black box' - we can see what goes in and comes out, but we're not sure what they actually do. We know they can hallucinate, lie convincingly and make mistakes, and Chat GPT doesn't know about anything that has happened after 2021. In using charity AI you must understand its limitations and test it relentlessly, and its outputs must be checked for accuracy, bias and fairness. For our own AI services for charities, we've designed this in and we've also published the Charity AI Governance Framework, Charity AI Risk Register and Charity AI Design Principles so others can too. However, in the rush to make potentially huge amounts of money, how many won't?
There's also a huge job of work to be done in regulatory terms, because AI is now far ahead of both the legal and ethics issues it has created. Making legal changes can take a very long time and I'd argue that generative AI isn't inherently unethical, but it reflects our society and its problems. The emerging AI systems have guardrails, but you can still talk your way round these and changing how AI collects and uses data can't fully fix these issues, because it's at least partly a societal, not an AI problem. Fixing these issues will take years and we're likely to be in for a bumpy ride in the meantime.
Ultimately, some aspects may not be fixable. For example, AI struggles with differentiating black faces, because it was primarily trained using white faces and there are other racial biases within the AI data and how it's been created. It may be that we have to accept this for low risk facial recognition, such as unlocking your phone (because you also have a PIN) and accept that it shouldn't be used in policing. The use of AI in criminal justice alone, is likely to result in significant, very important, and probably acrimonious debate for society. We're taking a risk based approach. If we can't fix something, or we can't be confident that we have and it's important, we won't use it.
The issues outlined above will impact on society as a whole, but what about specific AI issues for charities?
There may be questions about the use of AI in charities to create content, such as funding bids. Our view is that assessing a bid should be about facts and information - the unmet need, the project, its planning and budgets etc, not how well it's written. Currently, the smaller and marginalised groups lose out to professional fundraisers who are better able to write compelling bids. The bid writer we've created enables those using it to think through what to include in a simple, structured way, but it only uses the information it has been provided with and its ability to draft these well, makes writing funding bids accessible to those who otherwise may not be able to. Unpaid volunteers with very little time, those who don't know what should be included in a bid or how to structure it and, not least, those for whom English is a 2nd language, or people with learning disabilities or people who just don't have expertise in writing well crafted prose. It helps to level a currently very unequal playing field and also supports grant makers by helping to ensure that the bids submitted are complete and contain the information they need and want.
Those deploying AI content will also need to think about legal and Intellectual Property (IP) issues. In our case, our Ask Me Anything service extensively accesses Crown Copyright material, but this is available to use free of charge under the Open Government Licence. We also promote the work of 1000s of charities and other organisations that support the sector, often using text from their websites on a 'fair use' basis and actively welcome them submitting changes. However, you will still have to check that anything you create does not breach copyright and much of what's on generative AI systems, such as imagery software like DALL E, may potentially do so.
Our Charity AI Governance and Ethics Framework has been created to promote responsible use of AI by non profits, by providing a simple, practical and flexible framework within which to manage these ethical challenges.
There's been quite a bit of talk about AI taking charity jobs, but we don't think so. The same was said of the Internet, personal computers and Windows. There has been huge change, but whilst some jobs were lost, many more we thought would go, simply changed (often for the better), and new jobs were created. We think generative AI will have a similar impact.
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.
We see AI as a major risk, but one that can be flipped into a huge opportunity for a resource starved charity sector. We are developing and designing AI services for charities not only to deliver better services to make that happen, but also using our growing AI expertise to publish advice and guidance to support everyone.
To access our AI services, click the AI bunny icon in the bottom right of any screen and ask it short questions, including key words. Our services work for any of the 0.5 million UK non-profits, the estimated 14 million charity people and members of the Public. These are free, available 24/7 and can handle an almost unlimited number of tasks.
Our AI fundraising report assesses the impact AI will have on charity fundraising techniques and donations, including looking at how jobs and the sector will change, providing ideas on how to exploit the innovation offered, who the winners and losers will be and ideas and access to free AI right now, so your charity can begin benefiting.
There have been calls to halt the development of generative AI, but there are eye watering amounts of money to be made, so we don't see that happening. The UK government AI white paper appears to see AI primarily as an economic opportunity, with a potentially 'light touch' to regulation. The tech giants are pouring £s billions into development and embedding it into existing systems, including browsers and even Excel.
By end 2024, many of the tech issues will have been dealt with, it's likely to be much more powerful, and pretty much all of us will be using it in one way or another, even if we don't know we are. Longer term and taking a lesson from this history, we think the immediate changes are probably over-hyped and the long-term changes under-estimated, or at best, as yet unknown.
In March 2023, the ICO issued data protection guidance on AI, but it will take years for regulatory systems to catch up with the enormous legal and ethical issues. It's going to be a bumpy ride for everyone.
It will massively change our world, but whether it's an opportunity or a threat depends largely on what you and your charity do about it. Our aim is support the sector in making sure that's an opportunity for everyone by creating a single charity sector AI concierge service. It will be:
Join us on the journey by registering now and become one of the tens of thousands of non-profits that make up the UK’s largest and fastest growing charity community.
AI will bring huge opportunities for charities but may create a threat of potentially some very good charity services becoming obsolescent. Those most at risk will be those who ignore it and being really good at what you do may be the right answer to the wrong question.
This Charity AI Toolkit helps you find out if your charity may be at risk. It explains why, provides examples of how AI is already changing what we do and gives you the questions to ask yourself to find out if AI is currently a threat, or the opportunity it should be. In times of change, there are always winners and losers. Our aim is to make sure that charities aren't the losers.
For a risk assessment of the AI risks facing all of us and charities in particular, try our Charity AI Risk Assessment.
Listed below is just some of our free support, but you also have our AI tech 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.
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 60+downloadable funder lists.
Quick, simple and everything is free.
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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.
In addition to the 6 systems within Charity Excellence, we provide a range of free Artificial Intelligence (AI) services.
Just click the AI tech 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 Insight Briefings: Impact on:
Charity AI Toolkits & Guides:
We have created 2 one-hour AI training webinars.