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Sarah Hansen

Channel Marketing Manager

How AI can help small charities

Sarah Hansen

Channel Marketing Manager

AI has the potential to save your small charity both time and money.

AI is a game-changing technology. Like the internet and mobile phones, it’s having a significant impact on how we live and work.

In 2023 the UK government identified AI as one of the five critical technologies for the UK through to 2030. The potential for AI to transform the sector for the better is vast.

But what is AI? What are the benefits? What are the risks? And how can small charities use it to improve their work?

Read on to learn more...

What is AI?

The official Oxford English Dictionary definition of AI says it can be ‘used to perform tasks or produce output previously thought to require human intelligence’.

We see this daily in the use of:

  • chatbots
  • automated telephone services
  • at-home virtual assistants like Alexa
  • our social media feeds, which are curated by an AI algorithm.

Generative AI technology goes a step further. It not only automates tasks but also creates new, original content. It can mimic human creativity and generate innovative solutions.

Examples of generative AI include ChatGPT and extensions provided by Microsoft Copilot.

What are the benefits and risks of AI?

Last year’s Charity Digital Skills Report found only 44% of small charities are using or planning to use AI. This is compared to 64% of large charities.

The report also found small charities are more likely to face barriers to prioritising digital and AI. These range from a lack of funding to a lack of time, resources, and skills.

But this is exactly where AI can shine! The Road Ahead highlights how AI is being used across the sector to:

  • summarise meetings
  • create social media content
  • help write board papers
  • bring campaigns to life
  • support service delivery.

The panel at a recent All Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering meeting agreed that AI can be helpful for smaller charities and could save them both time and money.

While there are opportunities for charities to use AI, there are also risks. These include risks relating to GDPR, cyber security and the growth of misinformation and deepfakes.

You can learn more about the landscape of AI and its risks at our upcoming free event on 25 June: How you can use AI to unlock your charity’s full potential.

How can AI help small charities?

Our recent Small Charity Week survey revealed some of the challenges small charities face fit neatly with AI's strengths and possibilities.

Here are five key areas where generative AI could help small charities.

Communications, marketing, and PR

Generative AI can help develop content ideas. It can also assist with writing or editing press releases, emails, or case studies.

Fundraising

AI algorithms can speed up data analysis and segmentation. This can help streamline your fundraising programmes and understand your donors’ behaviours.

You can use chatbots to help to raise funds as part of your stewardship or customer service programme. You can use generative AI to help create quality, tailored grant applications.

Governance

AI tools like Microsoft Teams’ Intelligent Recap can help with routine admin associated with charity governance. For example, taking minutes and summarising meetings.

Generative AI or chatbots can help summarise dense regulatory guidance that can be difficult and time consuming for staff or trustees. This can be especially useful in small organisations where staff members are wearing many hats.

Strategy and planning

Generative AI tools can transform the way you do your strategic planning. They can save you time, help avoid major headaches and make your planning processes more agile.

As well as assisting with basic planning and goal setting, AI can go much further. It can help you to scenario plan by giving you situations on demand. It can also help you gain insights through virtual focus groups.

Evaluation

AI can help collect, optimise, and analyse vast volumes of data. You can use it to design surveys, generate insights and recommendations, and produce reports.

When using AI for evaluation you must ensure data is handled responsibly and ethically. Use our guidance on data protection and cybersecurity.

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