When and when NOT to use AI for fundraising, designing, and communicating with your audience.
There is no doubt that AI is making an impact on everything, everyone, and every industry. It is changing the way we work, write, research, and plan. But it cannot and should not replace real people. Your stakeholders want you to tell (and show) them real stories about the human experience – ones they can relate to – and that very often takes more than a robot’s copy-and-paste.
The Human Touch
Content creation tools: Opportunities and limitations
“When AI is used properly, it can help save resources, perform (certain) tasks, and help raise more funds – but it can’t do everything.” – Stephanie Tsirgiotis, Marketing & Communications Director at Phil
There is no doubt that AI is a powerful, versatile tool. Content writing platforms, like ChatGPT, and design software, namely Canva, are easy-to-use and free, allowing your team to spend less time on the little stuff, like producing Tuesday’s social media post, and more time on the big stuff, like raising money for your charity.
The big stuff – the very crucial thinking, strategizing, and building relationships stuff? That’s when human expertise and intuition will always outshine AI.
“For fundraising, ChatGPT can save time by automating generic messaging, like qualification or thank-you emails, social media posts, catchy CTAs and headlines, fundraising proposals, and event descriptions or invitations. But it is very limited when it comes to the human touch and fostering emotional connection. ” – Stephanie
Successful not-for-profit communications and fundraising campaigns rely on building strong connections with different stakeholders, especially donors. If you want to drive action, people need to feel things. However, AI misses the mark when it comes to crafting impactful strategies and emotional, case-specific content that truly resonates with audiences based on their distinctive set of needs, wants, and motivations.
“What AI can’t do is tell a story – a story about the impact your not-for-profit or foundation is making on your community. AI doesn’t know your donors or the uniqueness of your brand. You need to be able to stand out, not blend in. Telling stories, connecting with people on an emotional level, building relationships with donors, that’s what raises money. And you need a human for that.” – Stephanie
Graphic design software
The AI industry is making a huge profit from graphic design tools. It can definitely be an asset, for research or design development, but relying too heavily on the tools—especially for graphic design amateurs—can lead to a generic look that does not reflect the heart of your organization or brand.
Design in the not-for-profit world is a highly creative and intuitive process, but some of the key parts of this process are compromised when AI is used.
“Designs generated by AI will almost always lack personalization. Because AI generates ideas and concepts through available data, nothing new is ever really created. So when you want to create a design that is original, your best bet is a real life designer. Understanding subtleties, cultural sensitivity, and being able to create original and impactful designs that will resonate with your audience is something that requires a human touch… one that intimately knows you, your brand and your audience.” – Amélie Côté, Art Director at Phil
Checks and Balances
Content, design, and accountability
If you strike a balance between automation and human intervention (there’s even a term for it, “cobotting”), then you will build the kind of transparency and accountability that is key to building trust with your stakeholders.
But, too much automation is where avoidable errors can multiply and become costly. AI does not just pull content out of thin air. Content-generation platforms use web scraping to gather data from various sources on the Internet, including social media, open data sources and knowledge databases. It rewrites and reuses ideas and core concepts from copyrighted works without crediting the original creators, therefore you don’t know where the information is coming from and whether or not it’s accurate or factual. Fact-checking AI-generated content before going public is a major must.
“There is a way to use AI ethically and responsibly, but it takes time and work.” – Stephanie
The type of work we are talking about is thinking critically and being honest with donors about the type of data you are sharing with the internet, fact-checking to ensure you are not plagiarising someone else’s hard work, and making sure you are not introducing or amplifying societal biases in your decision-making.
“If the training data used to develop AI models contains existing societal biases, the AI system may learn and sustain those biases. These biases can lead to unfair resource allocation, reinforcement of inequities, cultural misrepresentations, exclusion or marginalization, and loss of trust.” – Stephanie
The Bottom Line
Not-for-profit communications and fundraising professionals play an essential role in understanding and adapting to the changing tides of donor and stakeholder relationships. In order to tailor your messaging for the right audiences, you ultimately need a professional, experienced human being who can grasp the intricacies of those relationships and motivations.
The return on your investment in a human is much greater. While the pressure of choosing a cost-saving tool like AI may seem like the right decision to make at that moment, it won’t lead to the same kind of impact. For instance, you may save time and money using AI to write your annual appeal, but donations go down because donors miss that human touch, your organization hasn’t benefitted or grown from that experience at all.
Creating brand-aligned designs, communications plans, media strategies, and more with expert guidance ensures that the final product serves a strategic purpose for your organization and puts you in a better position, especially financially, to fulfil your mission.
Helping you stand out, not blend in.
“AI tools should be used to enhance, not replace human engagement. AI can’t interview and survey your stakeholders; it can’t speak to a refugee about how your not-for-profit saved their life; it can’t design a new brand or a unique, multifaceted fundraising campaign; it can’t create a personalized, multi-layered communications strategy or strategic plan that will help you reach all of your goals based on your reality. It will save you some time, but it won’t make you stand out. Automated communication tools powered by AI are great for handling routine tasks, but keep the more strategic, creative, and emotional work for the professionals.” – Stephanie