AI: Here & Now

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere right now. It’s top of mind for business and organization leaders and consumers alike – and it’s not going anywhere. For those in philanthropy, AI poses a unique opportunity. Many philanthropic organizations are already leaning into AI to expand their resources, while others are apprehensive. In an industry that builds itself on the authenticity of storytelling, where do we go from here? Let’s unpack the buzz behind AI in philanthropy.

What is AI in Philanthropy?

By now, everyone knows the general gist of what AI is. But many don’t know the true breadth of its capabilities – and how it can help nonprofits and other philanthropic organizations. For example, some AI fundraising tools leverage data, including donor or constituent information, to forecast future actions. Other tools can streamline manual tasks for organizations or identify optimal strategies to secure donations.

The key is balancing what to delegate to our AI assistants and what still needs the human touch.

What AI Can Help With

Many behind-the-scenes processes go into any fundraising campaign. Many of which specially designed AI tools can help with.

Automation:

Efficiency is key in philanthropy. Programs like DonorPerfect allow you to automate communications like welcome series, pledge reminders, stewardship campaigns, and more. This helps eliminate the need to bog fundraising teams down with communication responsibilities, freeing up their time to focus on the most important element of their job – raising money for their organization.

Insights:

A lot of time in philanthropy is spent researching donor behaviors, preferences, segments, and engagement patterns. AI programs like boodleAI can give you that time back by combing databases and helping build donor personas, which can be used to create look-a-like models of who to target so you can craft campaign lists, thus increasing the effectiveness of prospect stewardship.

Chatbots:

AI-powered chatbots are crucial for large organizations with small development teams. A person can only respond to so many messages in a day – on top of the endless responsibilities you’re already dealing with. Chatbots allow donors or prospects to receive answers to common questions in real time. You can program your chatbot to add personalizations, share campaign information or statistics, and provide detailed instructions for the donation process. The (appropriately named) company ChatBot even offers free chatbot software for nonprofits – helping redirect your organization’s valuable time and money to furthering your mission.

Optimization:

Building a donation page – or an entire website – can take months if doing it manually. There are a plethora of AI-powered website builders out there that can build your site in just a few minutes – like Mixo or Wix. Already have a website? Tools like Raven Tools can scan your site and identify areas of improvement, SEO keywords, most- and least-visited pages, and more.

Mapping:

The donor journey is different for everyone. Tools like DonorDock can be helpful in identifying and managing each step of the donor life cycle so your organization can get the right messaging via the right touchpoint to the right donor at the right time.

Where to Tread Lightly

AI is great and should absolutely be utilized to increase efficiency in many philanthropic processes. However, it is not the answer to everything. It’s essential to strike a healthy balance so that your communications do not lack authenticity and accuracy, leading to mistrust with donors.

Messaging:

AI tools are great for brainstorming purposes or reworking sentences that don’t feel quite right, but they should never be used to create final drafts. Why?

  • Authentic storytelling is the cornerstone of most philanthropic organizations. Donors appeal to emotion and real-life experiences. An AI tool can’t accurately describe those experiences and feelings the way a human can.
  • AI doesn’t know the nuances of your organization. It doesn’t have your brand voice. It can spit out content for an appeal letter based on the input you provide, but you have to make it your own.
  • Truly original ideas can only come from humans. AI, by design, scans the internet for existing ideas. Every idea an AI tool gives you has been done before. To be original, we have to look within ourselves.

Imagery:

Stock images can be costly, and organizing your own photoshoot can be both expensive and time-consuming. When facing tight deadlines, it may be tempting to use one of the thousands of free AI image-generating tools out there. However, you may want to think twice before doing so. Why?

  • As mentioned previously, AI tools scan the internet for already existing content. That means plucking images, designs, art, and so on that real people have put out there. This can quickly become a copyright issue, as many AI image-generating tools are essentially stealing the intellectual property of others.
  • Many AI image-generating tools don’t have the kinks worked out yet. Images of people look odd and alien-like, with unnatural skin tones, features, and body parts (such as too many or too few fingers).
  • Ensuring representation and avoiding stereotyping is nearly impossible when using AI image-generating tools. In a study conducted by the University of Washington, researchers found that AI image generators perpetuated harmful racial and gender stereotypes. When prompted to create pictures of “a person,” the tool over-represented light-skinned men, sexualized images of certain women of color, and failed to represent Indigenous peoples equitably.
  • People connect with people. When using a patient, community member, or donor story, use their photo wherever possible. The story you share will feel much more authentic if it’s tied to a real person.

Conclusion

The role of AI in philanthropy should not be ignored. AI is a tool created to help us, and when used appropriately, it can provide many benefits to philanthropic organizations, including increased efficiency and ROI. However, teams must carefully consider when and where to implement AI, as authenticity and trust are essential for any successful fundraising campaign.

If you’re struggling to find a balance, don’t worry – Graphcom can help. We specialize in helping our nonprofit, healthcare, and education clients with philanthropic outreach, communications, campaigns, and more. We’re philanthropy-focused and results-driven to help organizations like yours thrive.

Ready to start your next successful fundraising campaign?

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