The Benefits & Dangers of AI for Nonprofit Comms Professionals
Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the way nonprofits and communications industry professionals work. While this technology has the potential to bring enormous benefits to these sectors, from automating tedious tasks to uncovering insights that would be impossible to detect manually, it also presents new dangers and concerns. In this blog post, we'll explore the benefits and dangers of AI for nonprofits and communications professionals—as well as look into the results of a small-scale experiment.
What is AI?
The term AI has been floating around public consciousness for a while, be it from sci-fi shows or technology enthusiasts. But with new advancements in machine learning and deep learning, this technology has now arrived for day-to-day use. Most of what this article discusses is related to black box AI (if you have the time, John Oliver has a great explanation for what this means).
You may have heard of AI-generated art or AI for self-driving cars, but did you know that AI can also be used for Natural Language Processing (NLP)? AI-powered systems can process and analyze large volumes of textual data and understand human language to answer questions, translate text, or generate written content. In other words, people can now use AI to automatically create text.
Among the most popular text AI creators is ChatGPT, a free online chatbot, which responds to user-inputted requests. It is based on the GPT-3.5 architecture, which is one of the largest and most advanced neural networks for natural language processing available today.
Because of the conversational format of ChatGPT, users can intuitively use the program by asking the bot simple questions and requests. In researching for this blog post, I had ChatGPT create song lyrics, translate French to English, and respond to interview questions using an inputted resume to inform its answers.
What does this mean? AI programs can automatically create text for a variety of uses, and it can do so somewhat seamlessly. In other words, we may be able to use this technology to create the same quality of content in a fraction of the current time.
How similar is AI to human-generated content?
To test this, I had ChatGPT create a series of tweets celebrating Women’s History Month. I also wrote a few tweets, myself, and put all of the tweets together into a quiz. I then asked a small focus group of coworkers to judge which tweets were AI, and which were created by me.
Here’s an example of two of the tweets, can you tell which is written by a human?
It’s no surprise that AI-generated tweets are becoming so convincing. AI are trained on vast amounts of data, and these algorithms learn from massive datasets of human-generated text, allowing them to pick up on nuances of language and writing style. This allows them to create text that is not only grammatically correct but also stylistically accurate and engaging.
What’s more, the rapid pace of innovation in the field of AI means that these algorithms are continuously improving. As more data is fed into them, and as their underlying neural networks become more sophisticated, AI-generated tweets will only become more and more indistinguishable from human tweets.
Limitations and Ethical Concerns
As the line between human and machine-generated text continues to blur, it raises important questions about how we can maintain trust and authenticity in the digital world.
Within the nonprofit communications community, it is particularly important to be aware of these questions and issues as they arise. For one thing, AI can raise ethical concerns around privacy, bias, and transparency. If the data used to train AI is biased or incomplete, even due to subconscious or implicit biases of the AI’s creators, it could lead to AI models that perpetuate those biases.
Similarly, AI could be used to generate fake news or propaganda, potentially dealing serious damage to society. We saw this in action in February with a ChatGPT-generated email Vanderbilt University sent out to its students following a shooting.
But the fact is this: despite its holdups and potential problems, AI is here. It is a fast, advantageous system for content creation that is widely accessible. Whether an individual chooses to embrace this new technology or not, it is an aspect of the communications world in which we live.
Tool for Building Capacity
If you choose to use AI for communications technology, get ready to save some time. ChatGPT can automatically generate press releases, tweets, emails, and even opinion pieces. With keen editing, you can create two or three hour draft projects in a handful of minutes.
For reference, let’s look at some more AI-generated Women’s History Month tweets. Here, I’ll show you what prompts I input into ChatGPT and how long the program took to generate. (For each prompt the program output five tweet ideas, but I’ll shorten it to three here for the sake of brevity.)
Prompt: Draft some sample tweets about women's history month from the perspective of a nonprofit organization (GENERATION TIME: 25 SECONDS)
- "Happy Women's History Month! This March, we celebrate the incredible contributions of women throughout history and honor their ongoing efforts to make the world a better place. #WomensHistoryMonth #NonprofitOrganization"
- "As a nonprofit organization, we believe that women's history is an essential part of our collective story. This Women's History Month, we're committed to amplifying the voices and stories of women from all walks of life. #WomensHistoryMonth #EmpowerWomen"
- "Did you know that Women's History Month was established to recognize the often-overlooked achievements of women in American history? This March, join us in celebrating the diverse, dynamic women who have shaped our world. #WomensHistoryMonth #NonprofitOrganization"
Prompt: Draft some sample tweets about women's history month, related to the rights of Black and indigenous women, from the perspective of a nonprofit voting rights group (GENERATION TIME: 10 SECONDS)
- "During Women's History Month, we honor the contributions of Black and Indigenous women who have been instrumental in the fight for voting rights. We must continue to center and amplify their voices in our ongoing efforts to protect and expand voting rights. #WomensHistoryMonth #VotingRights #BlackWomen #IndigenousWomen"
- "Black and Indigenous women have been at the forefront of the fight for voting rights for generations. This Women's History Month, we celebrate their leadership and commitment to justice, and recommit to protecting and expanding access to the ballot box. #WomensHistoryMonth #VotingRights #BlackWomen #IndigenousWomen"
- "The right to vote is essential to achieving gender and racial equity. This Women's History Month, we honor the Black and Indigenous women who have worked tirelessly to secure and protect voting rights, and recommit to fighting voter suppression and ensuring equal access to the ballot. #WomensHistoryMonth #VotingRights #BlackWomen #IndigenousWomen"
To compare, here are some human-made tweets (generation time: 30 minutes):
- This March, we stand with trans activists in the fight for equality and affirm that Women’s History Month MUST include trans women. #WomensHistoryMonth #TransRights
- This Women’s History Month, we honor the contributions of women to our nation and to our world. This is a great time to learn about and celebrate the achievements of women from all backgrounds and cultures, and remember – women's history is everyone's history. #Women’sHistoryMonth #EmpowerWomen
- During Women’s History Month, we celebrate the contributions of women throughout our history and reaffirms our commitment to advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls. #WomensHistoryMonth #EmpowerWomen
- Women’s History Month celebrates the many women who've shattered glass ceilings & advanced gender justice. To honor these legacies, join us in the fight to support reproductive rights across America. #EmpowerWomen #ReproRights
At first, I was skeptical of the idea that a machine could provide meaningful and personalized communication. But, after learning about the capabilities of ChatGPT, I began to see the potential for AI to enhance and improve communication in many ways. While this technology is undeniably scary in its potential, it is also a massively useful tool.
One of the key benefits of AI chat models is that they can speed up projects like social media content development, freeing staff to focus on more complex tasks. This could be particularly beneficial for smaller organizations with limited resources, as it could help them to scale up their capacity without hiring additional staff.
AI programs like ChatGPT have the potential to revolutionize the way that communication materials are generated. While there are concerns around the use of AI in this context, if used responsibly and ethically, it can save time and resources, provide a fresh perspective, and ensure consistency and quality in the content that is produced. As AI continues to develop, it will be important for organizations to consider how it can be integrated into their communication strategies while also addressing potential risks and ethical concerns.