Most charities unprepared to adopt AI effectively and safely, survey finds

20 Jun 2024 News

By Shutter2U/Adobe

The majority of charities are not ready to effectively and safely adopt artificial intelligence (AI), according to a new survey.

Today, Charity Excellence published the findings of its first charity AI benchmarking survey, which collected the views of 378 individuals including trustees, chief executives and volunteers between May and June. 

The survey finds that while most charities are now using AI, only one in 20 respondents are “extremely well prepared”.

Lack of AI readiness 

Respondents were asked to rate statements covering nine areas Charity Excellence identified as key in achieving safe, effective adoption of AI by charities, from 1/10 (strongly disagree) to 10/10 (strongly agree).

Most (60%) said their charities were struggling with having the right policies and procedures to reflect AI, followed by managing AI risk (58%) and having ethical and responsible AI guidelines (57%).   

“All areas were rated very poorly, with nearly half rating each factor 1/10 and only one in 20 rating 10/10,” Charity Excellence said. 

“Given the very high number of people in charities now using AI, that’s very worrying, not least because some of the qualitative feedback referred to trustees/CEOs not being engaged or ‘anti AI’.”

More charities delivering AI training

Charity Excellence said it has seen increasing numbers of organisations delivering AI training, with nearly 90% of all its survey respondents saying their charities used AI.

The survey shows that the most popular AI systems used by charities were OpenAI’s ChatGPT, (57%), Microsoft’s Copilot (23%) and Google’s Gemini (14%)

Asked what they would like AI to do for them, almost three in 10 respondents said supporting their fundraising and over two in 10 said reducing the admin burden, including creating text content. 

Respondents said they would like to be supported on how to integrate AI into their ways of working to exploit its capabilities, how to ensure data consistency and compliance when using it and what skills might be needed. 

‘AI is the sector’s biggest opportunity in years’

Charity Excellence said it has seen “some charity-specific AI systems but nothing significant yet and these don’t appear to really work well yet”.

“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 discount we can find is the just-launched OpenAI for non-profits.  

“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 not. It’s likely some won’t know they are.”

Ian McLintock, founder of Charity Excellence, said: “AI is the biggest opportunity the sector has had in years but comes with real risks, and half of charities report that they’re totally unprepared to either achieve the benefits or manage the risks.”

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