I Get By With a Little Help From AI: 4 Ways to Use ChatGPT in Your Fundraising 

By Mariah Hickey, CFRE, Senior Consultant

With stress and burnout as the leading causes for nonprofit staff turnover, organizations are looking to AI to lighten their fundraising workloads. Are you wondering how to tap into this new resource, too? Senior Consultant Mariah Hickey shares 4 easy ways to use ChatGPT in your fundraising practice. 

Photo generated by Midjourney AI.

The nonprofit voluntary turnover rate escalated to 19% in 2022, which is higher than the overall labor market at 12% and reports show difficulties in filling vacancies. Along with salary competition, stress and burnout are consistently identified as top causes for resigning.

With these high rates, the adage of “working smarter, not harder” is more critical to strive toward than ever. Thanks to Open AI’s ChatGPT, we fundraisers and nonprofit professionals have an opportunity to create efficiencies and prevent, or at least slow down, the risk of burnout while we inevitably continue to wear the multiple hats fundraisers wear.

And any time you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain. Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders. – The Beatles

What is ChatGPT and how does it work?

In late 2022, Open AI launched ChatGPT, a bot that writes original responses to questions and requests curated and sent by the user. It does so by searching the Internet for content and echoing different tones and writing styles.

Although miraculously beneficial for so many industries and purposes, ChatGPT exists with several limitations – the most glaring of which is its dated knowledge base from 2021 and older; however, with how quickly AI is evolving, this may soon be a problem of the past, and right now ChatGPT can surely be beneficial to fundraisers as long as it’s used along with the human eye for editing.

So, how are fundraisers and nonprofit professionals using ChatGPT? There is an endless variety of uses and this versatility will only grow with time as more and more users inform its development. In the meantime, let’s start with a few simple tasks that can streamline your day-to-day communications workflow and leave more time for the parts of the job you really enjoy. Here are a few functions that ChatGPT can take on that will lighten your fundraising load.

1. Write a Strengths-based Acknowledgement Letter.

One major use it has in fundraising work is to overcome writer’s block and catalyze the writing process. For example, let’s transform a body of text that centers needs-based messaging and donor-centric fundraising into a narrative that centers strengths-based messaging and community-centric fundraising.

Many nonprofit organizations are adopting the community-centric fundraising model and strengths-based messaging approach. When it comes to crafting new messaging and ways of representing the people your organization serves, writer’s block can be a huge obstacle.

When this happens, we can turn to ChatGPT. Recently, I provided the bot with the following prompt:

I am a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization that provides services and programs for youth living with learning difficulties in historically disinvested communities. Our acknowledgment letter to donors begins by saying: “Thank you for your donation! Because of your generosity, we expanded our programming for at-risk youth to an additional low-income neighborhood.” This uses needs-based language and describes the people we serve by their deficit. Rewrite this sentence using strengths-based language and describe the people we serve by their strengths. Make the youth the hero, not the donor.

ChatGPT responded with:

Is it perfect? No. Did it provide me with a launchpad to rewrite this sentence? Yes! It’s particularly impressive in that it identified and replaced the needs-based terms, such as “at-risk youth” and “low-income neighborhoods.”

#2. Craft a Strengths-based Mission Statement

Using the same fictional organization from above, I used ChatGPT to help me reframe a mission statement using the following prompt:

I work for a nonprofit organization. Our current mission statement is: “We help at-risk youth in low-income neighborhoods avoid becoming a negative statistic.” This current mission statement uses needs-based language and describes the people we serve by their deficits. Rewrite this mission statement using strengths-based language and describe the people we serve by their strengths.

ChatGPT responded with:

This time, you’ll notice that the bot did not replace “low-income neighborhoods.” I provided a follow-up prompt:

“Low-income neighborhoods” is still using needs-based language. Rewrite the mission statement to reference the systems that have created disinvestment in those neighborhoods.

ChatGPT responded with:

Tip: Since ChatGPT draws its knowledge from the web, which is authored by humans with implicit and explicit biases, remain skeptical of its responses and use ChatGPT as a way to get your creative juices flowing, rather than as the replacement for a writer for your organization.

Check out our free on-demand webinar on strength-based messaging to learn more so you can easily edit where ChatGPT falls short.

#3. Transform a lengthy blog article into a social media post.

In a world where people encounter new information in a variety of ways we are constantly drafting, writing, editing and rewriting the same content for different mediums. Below is a prompt I provided ChatGPT to help me extract a social media post from a blog article:

Please summarize the below article in a conversational and fun voice for a social media post using a maximum of 1500 characters: [I then pasted the text from this article titled 6 Trends to Watch in Philanthropy and Fundraising in 2023].

I want the social media post to entice audiences to click and read the full blog article, so I provided a follow-up prompt:

Reference the blog post and make the audience want to read the full blog post.

Not bad for less than a minute of work!

#4. Summarize content for a grant proposal to meet maximum character count.

The number one most frequent question we hear from our clients who transition to strength-based messaging is ‘How do we meet grant proposal length restrictions using strength-based messaging when this typically adds more words?

My response used to be about getting creative and seizing the opportunity to become a stronger writer. My new response? Try using ChatGPT.

I didn’t provide a sample ChatGPT response here because I didn’t want to use a grant response I wrote for clients (for confidentiality purposes). An example of how you might handle this in ChatGPT would be to enter a command such as ‘Summarize the following text for a grant proposal to meet a maximum of 500 words:’ and then paste the text that you would like it to mine using quotation marks.

Tip: The more detailed you are in your prompt, the more “accurate” ChatGPT’s response will be. Try stating who you are (e.g., I am the Director of Development at XYZ organization…) and the tone/writing style you are seeking (e.g., Write it in the voice of William Shakespeare.). Also, give it details such as the maximum number of sentences, words or characters.

Keep Calm and Fundraise On.

ChatGPT certainly does not resolve all our challenges and can present many of its own, but with it, I’m confident we can make our professional lives a bit easier and our working days a bit more productive. I’m confident that we can weather this storm and can get by with a little help from AI. Try out ChatGPT for yourself and let us know how you’re using it to overcome writer’s block, save time and create efficiencies!

I only had two alternatives. Give up or carry on.Paul McCartney