One of the Thread team’s favorite adages is that fundraising is all about experimentation. By trying new tools and tactics, you might just discover the next big lift for your fundraising program.
Over the last few months, it’s been hard to miss the media attention about OpenAI’s ChatGPT (and if you’ve missed all the buzz, this article from Business Insider will catch you up. Julia Campbell’s Nonprofit Nation podcast also has an excellent episode about it). With so much conversation about how this Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool could change work, Thread wanted to test ChatGPT ourselves to see how nonprofit fundraisers could use it for individual giving copywriting.
First, by way of quick introduction to ChatGPT, it is a form of AI in the category of “large language model tools.” In layman’s terms, ChatGPT is simply a content generation tool: based on its learning from a massive data set of human-generated conversation and content, ChatGPT produces new and original content based on the parameters you give it.
For example, you can prompt it to write a fundraising appeal letter asking for $20 monthly gifts to support your organization’s expanded afterschool programming, newly renovated building, or for general operating support, and faster than you can blink, it produces a draft solicitation.
So, what does Thread think of it, and how might you use it to help with your individual giving copywriting? We have some ideas and suggestions to help you out.
Don’t be shy – play with it!
If announcements of new technology make you want to summon your inner ostrich and stick your head in the sand, we understand. If you’re already working with limited organizational capacity and a long wish list of tech upgrades or optimizations, the prospect of yet another new tech tool can be daunting.
However, unlike other tech tools or software, ChatGPT is easy. There is no data migration, software integration, or new skill involved. All you do is tell it what you want, and it produces content to that effect. No technical expertise required.
So, go ahead: play with it! Give it a prompt and see what it comes back with.
If after playing with ChatGPT you want to ignore it, then by all means do. But we at least want you to make that decision from an informed place – not an overwhelmed one.
Use it to clear the blank page
Whether it’s a newsletter article, a blog post, or an appeal email, getting started with writing and filling the blank page is always the hardest part. In our experience, we find it is easier to get the creative juices flowing when you have some text to react to, no matter how rough or polished that text might be. Something is indeed easier to work with than nothing.
To that end, ChatGPT is a wonderfully useful asset for getting over the hump of getting started. You can use it to create a baseline of content and from there you can elaborate, expand, and edit. You should not look to ChatGPT to get you a final draft, but a first draft? Absolutely.
Make the ask more than ChatGPT would
One of our core pieces of advice about writing fundraising appeals is to make the ask to give early and often. Repetition is a powerful force in building a donor’s enthusiasm to donate, and your appeal should be deliberately stoking that interest in giving by repeatedly inviting the donor to do it.
As we looked over ChatGPT’s solicitations, we noticed that while it makes a clear ask to donate, it typically only did so once or twice and always very later in the appeal. If you’re using ChatGPT to generate a baseline draft for you, be mindful that you’ll want to work in more direct invitations to give than the AI knows to do.
Write back in your voice, style, and personality
While ChatGPT does an impressive job of sounding like a human, the fact remains it is not a human, and it is most certainly not you or your organization. It cannot anticipate and imitate your organization’s voice, style, and personality. You need to write those elements back in! You will need to edit ChatGPT content to sound like you, reflect your values, and share your stories.
Remember that just because ChatGPT is impressive does not mean that it knows better than you. It is not an experienced fundraiser. It is a computer code. People give to people, so even if you decide to use AI to write a first draft of your appeal, it’s imperative that the final draft sounds like a person.
Infuse the story
Memorable, compelling, and successful individual giving copywriting inspires rather than informs the donor. The first drafts of appeals we’ve seen from ChatGPT, however, have erred toward the informational and factual – not the inspirational and emotional. We needed to write in emotion and values, and we needed to edit in the quintessential story arc we look for in a fundraising case for support: the vision of the ideal world we’re trying to create, the obstacles inhibiting that vision, the actions necessary to clear those obstacles, and the positive immediate impact of those actions.
Finally, be aware that ChatGPT can be wrong and inaccurate. ChatGPT is generating content based on learning from large data sets, and while it is excellent at predicting what language should come next, it is not designed to assess veracity or accuracy. You absolutely have to fact-check it!
To offer some final words, we hope you notice that all of our advice and ideas hinge on using ChatGPT as a starting block, not the finish line. You will need to still write and edit to elevate what ChatGPT produces. ChatGPT can facilitate the writing process, but it cannot automate it. People give to people to invest in something mutually valued, but ChatGPT doesn’t have values and never will. You need to ensure your AI-produced writing conveys the values you want to see.
Have you experimented with ChatGPT or other AI? We’d love to hear about it! Email us at [email protected] to share your experience!