Stephen Cotterill: Should fundraisers fear the rise of AI?

08 Jun 2023 Voices

Should fundraisers fear the rise of AI? Probably not... but journalists should.

So, page six of this issue is a bit of an eye-opener. Artificial intelligence (AI), and in particular ChatGPT, has been in the news a lot over the last few weeks following the resignation from Google of Geoffrey Hinton, the generally accepted “godfather of AI”. As he departed, he warned of the impacts of advancements in the technology and what its implications are for society and humanity as a whole.

Interest suitably piqued, I asked ChatGPT to write a 750-word article on how AI can be used in charity fundraising. It took the AI chatbot around 25 seconds. Apart from going marginally over word count, the piece was exactly to remit – coherent, ordered and informative. Other than amending the US spelling and trimming down to fit page word count, the article is published pretty much exactly as it appeared on screen. Frankly, scary for a journalist. But not so much so for fundraisers, and here’s why.

First, the platform itself admits that developing donor relationships is a human endeavour – one that only in the realms of science fiction is AI likely to replicate successfully at any point soon. Second, AI has obvious applications for streamlining some of the more formulaic tasks of fundraising, such as data analytics and management, donor segmentation and other routine work. This frees up more time for fundraisers to be creative, plan strategically and build donor relationships – in short, the things at which they are great. And third, the very fact that it could potentially threaten my job based on this experiment proves that its talents could extend to promotional and campaign copywriting, social media posts, storytelling and even funding applications.

Despite being in our consciousness for many years – either in fiction or fact – AI appears to be nearing a tipping point where its often talked-about potential may well be realised. For fundraisers, this is an exciting opportunity with many everyday applications across the sector. As for editors and journalists, us humans may have to up our game!

@stevejcotterill is editor of Fundraising Magazine

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