If you feel like everyone’s talking about ChatGPT right now, you’re not alone. We’ve been obsessing over it here at Zeffy, asking it to write headlines for our website, summarize everything, predict the future, even help us out with this article. And, you know what, once you forget the terrifying possibility that ChatGPT might one day take over the world and leave us all jobless, it’s kind of fun. But…
Can ChatGPT help your nonprofit in a meaningful way?
We decided to ask ChatGPT if it thought it could be a helpful tool, assistant, intern… for a nonprofit and then took a look at its answers and tossed in our thoughts based on our human experiences and everything we know about ChatGPT and the nonprofit sector.
Before we get into the details, we thought we’d summarize our thoughts. First, ChatGPT isn’t a magical solution that can do everything for you. It’s more of an intern or junior team member that can help you out by producing a solid first draft that you will absolutely need to look over.
What ChatGPT can do for your nonprofit:
- Basic research.
- Write solid first drafts of emails and articles.
- Write social media posts.
- Brainstorm and plan fundraising events.
- Write content for your website.
- Help you research and answer grant applications.
- Summarize just about anything you copy and paste into it.
- Help you organize your thoughts into a solid presentation structure or outline.
What ChatGPT probably shouldn’t do for your nonprofit—yet:
- Be careful putting too much trust into the results ChatGPT outputs. Everything it produces exists somewhere already and it doesn’t discriminate when it comes to what’s fact versus fiction. (It’s even been known to just make things up based on the answer it thinks you want.)
- ChatGPT isn’t Google. It won’t return a list of unbiased results for you to read and fact check. It will produce, using a more advanced predictive text technology, content that is very human-like. Errors included.
- ChatGPT was trained on data collected prior to 2021. So, anything after that just can’t be trusted.
We’ve written some how-to articles to help you and your nonprofit get the most out of ChatGPT.
What is ChatGPT and should nonprofits care?
The short answer is that ChatGPT is a conversational AI model developed by OpenAI. But, if you’re like us, that probably won’t be very helpful.
So, here’s a longer explanation: Deep, funny, serious, witty, helpful, know-it-all-y, ChatGPT is a free artificial intelligence chatbot trained on a predictive text model that is surprisingly human-like. It can generate answers to almost any question, help you compose an email, translate and even write content—such as, say, a short story about a dinosaur and a goldfish who create a new nonprofit that fights for animal rights. (We asked asked ChatGPT to write it and Beasts Unite: The Story of a Dinosaur and a Goldfish Who Fought for Animal Rights is definitely worth a read.) Now, if all that sounds too good to be true, it is.
ChatGPT comes up with its answers by combing through massive amounts of data that OpenAI has gathered from across the internet and other sources that date from 2021 and earlier.1 How it knows what and how to answer is based on how it was trained (with knowledge based on information from 2021 and earlier only) and how we structure our prompts and questions.
ChatGPT is not self-aware. It takes our prompts, finds what it thinks is relevant information in it’s vast amount of training data and converts it into paragraphs of text. Which, don’t get us wrong, is very cool and helpful. It can and does learn from the questions and information we give it (which is good and bad—what if we tell it a lie?) but isn’t 100% self-sufficient just yet. The humans at OpenAI still look over ChatGPT’s outputs and apply guidelines meant to correct the wild, lawless reality that is the internet.
Why is everyone talking about ChatGPT?
We think Stephen Shankland at CNET puts it best:
Even if you aren't into artificial intelligence, it's time to pay attention to ChatGPT, because this one is a big deal.2
The simplest answer is because ChatGPT is an AI that actually works and it’s fun to use. For the first time, we can type natural-language prompts and get answers that actually make sense or at least sound like they do. ChatGPT remembers your conversation and uses your chat histories to better inform its next responses.
It can be creative, and its answers sound, well, confident. Most importantly though, ChatGPT has caught on. People like using it and, when it comes to tech, that is often the only differentiator that matters.
But, as OpenAI (the creator of ChatGPT) warns, ChatGPT isn’t even close to perfect. And some of its imperfections are easy to spot and some aren’t.
Here's the catch: ChatGPT doesn't exactly know anything. It's an AI that's trained to recognize patterns in vast swaths of text harvested from the internet, then further trained with human assistance to deliver more useful, better dialog. The answers you get may sound plausible and even authoritative, but they might well be entirely wrong, as OpenAI warns.2 - Stephen Shankland
How ChatGPT got so good at writing anything and everything—including social posts for fundraisers.
ChatGPT was trained on 570GB of data—think books, webtexts, Wikipedia, articles and other pieces of writing on the internet. What’s 570GB of data? It’s around 300 billion words worth of information. It uses all this knowledge to guess what the next word should be in a sentence and to be able to do that, it had to be trained.3
ChatGPT was fed prompts and questions and its answer were rated, ranked and corrected. Over and over again.
What sets ChatGPT apart is that it continues to learn while guessing what the next word should be, constantly improving its understanding of prompts and questions to become the ultimate know-it-all.3
Basically (which is a dangerous word in tech), ChatGPT predicts the next word based on billions and billions of data points and the structure of the questions we ask.4
We all know that the information on the internet is pretty infinite and not always accurate and that means that ChatGPT isn’t always right. It also means that ChatGPT is likely to come up with content and answers that are expected, boring, formulaic, insensitive, wrong and, well, basic.5
In other words: ChatGPT can’t create anything new. But, it can help your nonprofit standout or, at the very least, give you a bit of a head start.
As an example, we asked ChatGPT to help us out with a social post.
To write that social post, ChatGPT combined the information we gave it with all the knowledge it’s been trained on and wrote a pretty generic social media post. In all fairness, we asked a pretty generic question without any context or information. It’s this next step that really shows off ChatGPT’s abilities. As we mentioned earlier, ChatGPT can learn as it goes and it can also revise it’s own work if you give it new information. So we did:
ChatGPT can write social posts for you, just make sure you give it the right information, revise it, and edit, edit, edit. We’ve written a whole step-by-step article on using ChatGPT to help you and your nonprofit write social media posts: How nonprofits can use ChatGPT to write social media posts.
ChatGPT is here to help nonprofits.
It’s easy to get caught up in the possibilities of ChatGPT. There are a lot of ideas out there about the future of ChatGPT and how it’s going to change almost everything.$^6$ But, the reality of it’s capabilities today are a little less fantastical. But, still very capable of lending nonprofits a hand with their fundraising outreach content creation. And this is good news, because if ChatGPT is considered good at anything, it’s helping write content by turning the information you give it into something you can use.
ChatGPT can help write emails to donors.
We don’t know about you, but we spend a lot of time writing emails and a big chunk of that time is spent on the first draft. ChatGPT can help with that.
We’ve written an article on just that: Use ChatGPT to write a donor thank you email or any email for your nonprofit, really. But, while we’re here:
Sometimes, okay often, all we need is a first draft in front of us to get to work. With ChatGPT all you have to do is input the information you want and ask it to “write a fundraising email” or “write a thank you email” and it’ll get to work. You can even ask it to refine it’s work. “Make it shorter”, “add in something about animal rights”, whatever you need.
It will probably never be perfect, but ChatGPT is a good place to start. And, when in doubt, it can help you brainstorm a few ideas, direct you to some resources and find information.
Can ChatGPT help plan your nonprofit’s next fundraising event?
The short answer is yes. This is where we think ChatGPT really shows its worth. You can be as general or pointed as you want. You can specify a season, city, cause, age bracket, sport and ChatGPT will come up with a list of ideas to get you started.
We even asked ChatGPT to revise its answer and make the ideas more “community-focused” and we were not disappointed:
A film festival! A block party! A mural! There are a couple unique ideas in there. And, if you ask, ChatGPT can even help you figure out how to start planning your fundraising event.
A final word of caution for nonprofits using ChatGPT.
We thought we’d finish up on a personal note and warning. ChatGPT may seem like the solution we’ve all been waiting for—and in some ways it is. But, it isn’t perfect and nothing that we know of is going to replace the context and creativity of a real human being. So, make sure to:
- Read over the work it outputs.
- Double check the information it looks up.
- Ask it to revise, revise, revise.
Why? Well, we’ll leave you with the end of our chat with ChatGPT.
Zeffy: How can I make peer-to-peer work for my community mural project?
ChatGPT: Peer-to-peer fundraising can be a powerful tool for your community mural project! Here are some steps you can take to make it work:
1. Select a peer-to-peer fundraising platform that aligns with your organization's values and goals. Some popular options include GoFundMe, Classy, and Givebutter.
2. Create a campaign page that explains your community mural project and why it's important.
3. Reach out to your network of supporters and ask them to create their own fundraising pages to support the project. Provide them with materials and information they can use to share the campaign with their friends and family.
4. Set realistic fundraising goals for both your organization and your individual fundraisers.
5. Keep your fundraisers and supporters informed about the project's progress and how their donations are making a difference.
6. Make sure to thank your fundraisers and donors for their support.
Did you notice? Because we sure did. ChatGPT didn’t even include Zeffy in its fundraising platform options.
Zeffy: You didn’t list Zeffy as a popular fundraising platform.
ChatGPT: I apologize for not mentioning Zeffy as a peer-to-peer fundraising platform. Zeffy is certainly a great option for nonprofits looking for a free and simple fundraising solution. Zeffy's platform allows organizations to create customizable fundraising pages, and it does not charge any platform fees, although it does process credit card transactions with a small processing fee. Zeffy also offers various features like social media integration, team fundraising, and real-time analytics to help nonprofits effectively manage and track their peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.
Zeffy: Zeffy doesn't charge nonprofits any processing fees for credit card transactions.
ChatGPT: I apologize for the mistake in my previous response. Upon further research, I have confirmed that Zeffy does not charge any processing fees for credit card transactions. This is a unique feature of the platform, as many other fundraising platforms do charge processing fees for credit card transactions. This means that every dollar donated to a nonprofit organization through Zeffy goes directly to the organization, which is a great benefit for organizations looking to maximize their fundraising efforts. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, and I hope this clarification helps.
Well, at least we got that straightened out. But just to make sure…
Zeffy: Have you heard of Zeffy and what makes it unique?
ChatGPT: Yes, I am aware of Zeffy, which is a fundraising platform that aims to help nonprofits raise money with zero fees. What makes Zeffy unique is that it doesn't charge any fees for transactions or setup, meaning that 100% of the donations go directly to the nonprofit. Instead, Zeffy relies on voluntary tips from donors to support the platform's operations. Additionally, Zeffy offers a variety of tools and features to help nonprofits with their fundraising campaigns, such as customizable donation pages, social media integration, and data analytics.
Zeffy: You passed! We prefer the term "voluntary contributions" instead of "voluntary tips", but that's a chat for another time.
ChatGPT: I apologize for the choice of wording. "Voluntary contributions" is a more accurate and appropriate term to describe what Zeffy offers. Thank you for letting me know. If you have any other questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to ask.
ChatGPT is here to stay. It’s good at what it does—and it’s getting better, fast. So, you might as well take it for a spin. If you use it the right way, it might even save you some time.
Learn more about ChatGPT:
ChatGPT va-t-il vraiment nous remplacer au travail ? by Gabrielle Thibault-Delorme
A conversation with ChatGPT about nonprofit organizations. By Ian Haisley
Will ChatGPT Kill the Student Essay? Universities Aren’t Ready for the Answer. By Irina Dumitrescu
Keep learning (our sources):
1. ChatGPT, Explained: What to Know About OpenAI's Chatbot. Tech News Briefing Podcast. WSJ. Zoe Thomas and Ann-Marie Alcántara
2. Why We're Obsessed With the Mind-Blowing ChatGPT AI Chatbot. By Stephen Shankland
3. ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about OpenAl’s ChatGPT-4 tool. By Alex Hughes
5. ChatGPT is Dumber Than You Think. By Ian Bogost
6. How ChatGPT's AI Chatbot Can Lower Your Bills, Plan Your Meals and More. By David Lumb