Navigating the Intersection of AI and Philanthropy

  • Published June 28, 2023
  • / By Frank Interlichia

Embrace the Power of Technology

The book I Robot by Isaac Asimov was published in 1950, nine years before I was born. I remember reading it as a young teen, fascinated by its stories of the interaction among humans, robots and morality. It seemed so impossible, so far away.

This morning, I spoke to a robot named Siri, who sent a message to a watch worn by someone across the country. I ordered a product — which was suggested to me because a hidden algorithm has been fed a virtual mountain of data about me over the years — to be delivered to my door. Tomorrow.  My Instagram feed suggests products to me that I’m sure I never typed into a search, but only talked about (this is somewhat disturbing). And I’m considering buying a pair of virtual reality goggles to trick my brain into “experiencing” a trip around the globe.

And just as the philanthropic sector is beginning to understand and apply the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to understand and predict the likely behavior of donors and prospective donors, news of a new technology, ChatGPT, has flooded our screens and our consciousness.  For the uninitiated, ChatGPT is a natural language information processing technology that allows you to have human-like conversations and much more with the “chatbot.” 

For instance, I asked the chatbot that now lives in my phone:  “Will robots replace humans?” (Isaac Asimov would have loved that I was asking this question of a robot!). The answer, in part:

While robots have the potential to replace humans in certain tasks, it is unlikely that they will completely replace humans in the workforce. Robots are designed to perform specific tasks and can do it with speed and efficiency, but they lack the creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional intelligence that humans possess.


The next question is more interesting for those of us in the philanthropic sector: “How can we use this technology wisely and responsibly?” 

Here are some examples of what we’re seeing and hearing:

  • Creating mid-level acknowledgment letters.  While it may take 15 minutes to write one individualized letter, one medical center uses ChatGPT to generate batches of letters in about 15 seconds. The letters are checked, personal notes are added (by a human!) and the process is done.
  • Generating email introductory messages to secure visits with new prospects. The same can be done for phone outreach scripting.
  • Beating ‘blank-screen syndrome’ by using ChatGPT (or another similar tool) to get started on a myriad of tasks that often start with a roadblock of “Where do I begin?”. Instead of stressing over the first sentence of your message, determine your audience and prompt the tool with what you’re looking for. Seconds later, you have a first draft that you can edit for authenticity.  (Or, if you’re like me, you have a title for this article.)

There are three things to bear in mind as we all move forward in this brave, new world:

  1.  You will always be behind. The amount and pace of technological change is staggering, and armies of people are working on the next great thing. 
  2. Don’t worry about it. Take the time to thoughtfully evaluate and weigh the pros and cons.    Don’t apply new innovations because it is the fad. Envision how it can improve your work and your impact in the long term. It’s okay if you’re not among the earliest adopters.
  3. Be brave. Apply new innovations, but always remember the balance between technology and humanity. There are ways technology can make tasks more efficient, but the domain of empathy, relationships, connection, love and hate belongs to humans. The combination of the two can be powerful.