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Bot or not: Can you tell if fundraising copy was written by ChatGPT?

In the world of nonprofit organizations, fundraising is an essential component of sustaining operations and achieving goals. However, crafting effective fundraising appeals can be a challenging task. It requires a deep understanding of the audience, a persuasive tone and a compelling message.  

To make the process more efficient and effective, nonprofit organizations are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to write fundraising appeals. In this blog post, we'll explore how AI can be used to create compelling fundraising appeals that resonate with donors and help nonprofit organizations achieve their objectives. 

AI algorithms have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, and their capabilities have expanded beyond basic data processing and analysis. AI can now generate human-like text, known as natural language generation (NLG), by analyzing data and generating text that closely mimics the writing style of humans. This technology is being leveraged by nonprofits to ... 


Hold up a sec.  

Yep, that’s right. Everything you just read up there was written by AI. I told Chat GPT to “write a blog post about the use of AI to write fundraising appeals for nonprofit organizations.” 

Not bad, huh? The writing makes sense. It flows pretty well. It presents good information. 

Yet something still feels … off. Go back and read it all again—I'll wait here.  

Now that you know the text was generated by AI, it’s a little easier to spot that the style is a bit stiff, a bit formal. So let me give this topic a shot. 

This is a blog post about the use of AI to create compelling fundraising appeals. And the AI was off to a pretty good start.  

In recent months, we’ve seen more and more chatter about Chat GPT, Google Bard and Microsoft’s AI-enabled Bing. If you’ve had the chance to tinker with any of them, you’ve seen that what these machine-learning tools can do is truly stunning. And it can seem at times that you’re talking to a real person. 

Yet we’ve also seen numerous hilarious examples of “AI gone wrong.” As these tools learn to write, they’re only as good as what they train on—which is us. Humans are pretty flawed, and that was quite clear when Bing turned into a manipulative, gaslighting liar in several conversations.  

A test of human intelligence 

The rise of ChatGPT has some writers concerned that AI will soon make their jobs obsolete. But before we wave the white flag in surrender to our new robot overloads, we decided to see just how good AI is at writing fundraising appeals.  

I sat with Jenn Thompson, RKD’s VP of Digital Client Strategy, and we fed ChatGPT a host of prompts for fundraising copy. We asked for text messages, social copy, emails, direct mail appeals, news articles and more. Then, we gathered up some fundraising examples that our incredible copywriters at RKD produced for our clients.  

We tested two of our experts—Lianne Raices and Chris Weiland—to see if they could spot the difference between the AI and human examples.  

We blinded the copy by removing any obvious identifiers (like organization names). We started with shorter examples, like text messages and social media posts, before finishing with the longer copy of two emails. 

Check out the video above to see how they fared as we quizzed them, then come back to see our conclusions. 

What we learned 

One thing became quite clear as we recorded: The longer the copy gets, the easier it becomes to spot the bot.  

AI just doesn’t have the creativity to keep the copy fresh and appealing to the human brain and our emotions. It’s not really thinking—it’s simply compiling and aggregating what it has studied and spitting it back out to us.  

So, while ChatGPT and the rest aren’t quite ready to steal the spotlight from human writers, can they actually help us when it comes to writing? The answer is yes.   

AI is a tool based on data and technology. We use AI in many forms already to boost productivity. In fundraising alone, it’s the basis of advanced tactics like segmentation and modeling 

And many text-based programs already incorporate AI. Just think about how Microsoft Word and Outlook will attempt to finish your sentences as you type—that’s AI at work.  

ChatGPT could be used as a starting point of an idea for a fundraising appeal or a thank-you letter to a donor. Consider the time that alone could save. The key is to go back over the copy and add those elements of personalization and personality that make it feel more human.  

Our brains and our hearts can spot the difference between complex, passionate copy and a simple copycat. Great writing still makes a difference, and AI can help great writers amplify what they do by covering the more mundane tasks that writing can entail. 

Chris Weiland, our creative expert in the video, put it best: “To me, [AI] empowers creative people who can think strategically to use this incredibly sophisticated pencil to create work that couldn’t be created before. It offers a lot of hope to people who are creative.” 

Can you beat the experts? 

Think you can do better than our experts? Let’s see it. 

We’ve put together a 10-question quiz featuring a variety of donor communications from a range of channels. Some have been written by human fundraising experts. Others have been generated by AI through prompts to ChatGPT. 

Can you tell if it’s a bot or not? 

Quiz Button


Ronnie Richard

Ronnie Richard is the Content Marketing Manager at RKD Group. Ronnie oversees content production and research at RKD and is a host of the award-winning Group Thinkers podcast. A journalist turned marketer, Ronnie has more than 20 years experience in news writing, content marketing, editing and SEO.

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