Boon or burden?
A leading fundraising think tank has warned against using artificial intelligence (AI) to maximise donations.
A report undertaken by Rogare said that while AI offers exciting opportunities, integrating it requires navigating complex ethical considerations unique to the fundraising sector.
The report – Artificial intelligence and fundraising ethics: A research agenda – has been put together by a multinational project team lead by American fundraising consultant Cherian Koshy, a leading thinker in both the use of AI and fundraising ethics, and a member of Rogare’s Critical Fundraising Network.
Two overarching themes emerge from the project group’s deliberations.
The first is that AI does not currently have access to sufficiently-sophisticated knowledge of the ethics of fundraising to be able to make ethical decisions.
But it can be used to guide fundraisers through the process of making ethical decisions, such as priming them about what questions to ask, as might be the case in gift acceptance/refusal dilemmas.
The second emergent theme is that because AI lacks sufficient knowledge of fundraising ethics, human oversight is needed to ensure any use of AI in fundraising practice is done ethically and in accordance with best practice and regulatory codes.
Koshy says: “Not only does this oversight require a high degree of ethical literacy on the part of human fundraisers, it also requires a high degree of data literacy.
“However, it is questionable whether both the ethics and data skills, knowledge and competencies exist to the required degree across the entirety of the fundraising workforce that will be tasked with oversight of the use of AI in fundraising.
“As AI enters and becomes widespread in fundraising practice, we must upskill the human overseers with this knowledge and these competencies. Skilled and knowledgeable human oversight of AI in fundraising is absolutely essential.”
Unique intellectual property issues require clarification as AI enters fundraising, such as who owns outputs like synthetic media.
And determining accountability for potential harms from AI systems presents challenges, the report states.
And as charities increasingly adopt AI, maintaining public trust will require transparency, assessing workforce impacts, and developing governance aligned with supporter expectations and sector values.
“With careful oversight, AI presents opportunities to advance nonprofit missions. But as this report emphasises, we must proactively address the ethical dimensions,” the authors state.