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The Musings Of A Houston Fundraiser

  • Writer's pictureJuliana M. Weissbein CFRE

Navigating the Ethical Terrain: Insights from Rogare's Report on Artificial Intelligence and Fundraising


As artificial intelligence continues to evolve at warp-speed, nonprofits face the pressing need to embrace innovative approaches that harness its potential to enhance donor engagement, streamline operations, and amplify mission impact. But at what cost?

 

As a proud fangirl of Rogare, Cherian Koshy, and the ever-evolving ethical considerations our sector needs to consider when utilizing artificial intelligence (AI), my mouth watered when Artificial Intelligence and Fundraising Ethics: A Research Agenda dropped last week. While AI offers exciting prospects for boosting efficiency and effectiveness, it also prompts crucial ethical considerations that warrant careful attention and deliberation. This is where the intersection of AI and ethics comes into play.


Rogare's research agenda provides us with valuable insights into this complex intersection of technology and ethics and offers a comprehensive analysis of the ethical implications of AI in fundraising, shedding light on both its potential benefits and risks.


At the heart of the discussion lies the tension between leveraging AI to optimize fundraising outcomes while also ensuring ethical principles are upheld throughout the process. On one hand, AI presents exciting opportunities for improving donor engagement, personalizing communication, and optimizing resource allocation. By harnessing data analytics and machine learning algorithms, organizations can tailor fundraising strategies to individual preferences, ultimately fostering stronger donor relationships and driving greater support for their cause.


On the other hand, the widespread adoption of AI also brings forth a myriad of ethical challenges. Chief among these concerns is the issue of privacy and data protection. As organizations collect and analyze vast amounts of donor data, questions arise regarding consent, transparency, and the responsible use of personal information- considerations not unique to our sector. Moreover, the inherent biases embedded within AI algorithms raise concerns about fairness and equity in fundraising practices, potentially perpetuating existing disparities and marginalizing certain donor groups.


In response to these challenges, the Rogare team emphasizes the importance of developing robust ethical frameworks and guidelines for the ethical implementation of AI in fundraising. Such frameworks should prioritize principles of transparency, accountability, and fairness, ensuring that ethical considerations are embedded into every stage of AI development and deployment.


Moreover, the report emphasizes the importance of continuous dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders, including fundraisers, donors, regulators, and technologists. By fostering a culture of ethical awareness and responsible innovation, organizations can navigate the ethical terrain of AI in fundraising with integrity and confidence.


This project addresses two related yet distinct questions:

What are the ethical issues associated with using AI in fundraising and can AI be used to resolve ethical dilemmas in fundraising?

This report surmises that:

  • Generic concerns about the ethical use of AI can’t be overlain on to fundraising, since its use in fundraising throws up ethical dilemmas specific to this application;

  • AI currently doesn’t have access to sufficiently-sophisticated thinking about ethics to be able to tackle ethical dilemmas in fundraising;

  • Ethical and data literacy across the fundraising profession must be upskilled to ensure the most rigorous human oversight of the use of AI in fundraising.


The report presents a thought-provoking research agenda for addressing the ethical implications of using AI in fundraising, emphasizing the need to tailor ethical considerations to the specific context of fundraising rather than relying on generic ethical principles. By outlining a 10-point agenda, Rogare provides a structured framework for exploring key challenges and opportunities in this domain. One significant insight is the recognition that AI currently lacks the sophisticated knowledge of fundraising ethics necessary to make ethical decisions autonomously. Instead, AI can serve as a tool to assist human fundraisers in navigating ethical dilemmas by providing guidance and prompting critical questions. This underscores the importance of human oversight in ensuring the ethical use of AI in fundraising practices.


Moreover, the report highlights the crucial role of ethical and data literacy among human fundraisers tasked with overseeing AI applications. It rightly points out the potential gap in skills and competencies within the fundraising workforce, necessitating efforts to upskill individuals to effectively monitor and regulate AI-driven processes. Additionally, the report raises an important concern about the potential loss of valuable knowledge and expertise if AI displaces human fundraisers, underscoring the need for strategic workforce development initiatives to mitigate such risks. A luxury mostly exclusive to nonprofits with robust budgets.


However, while the report effectively identifies key challenges and provides recommendations for addressing them, it could benefit from further exploration of practical strategies for training fundraisers and ensuring effective human oversight. Additionally, the report could delve deeper into the potential implications of widespread AI adoption on organizational culture, power dynamics, and decision-making processes within fundraising contexts. By addressing these aspects more comprehensively, the report could offer a more robust roadmap for navigating the ethical complexities of AI in fundraising and maximizing its benefits while mitigating potential risks. Perhaps a reason for a second edition?


"As we continue to navigate the dynamic intersection of technology and ethics, let us remain vigilant in our commitment to ethical fundraising practices, ensuring that our use of AI aligns with our values and aspirations for a more just and compassionate world."

In conclusion, while AI holds immense promise for transforming fundraising practices, its ethical implications cannot be overlooked. Artificial Intelligence and Fundraising Ethics: A Research Agenda serves as a timely reminder of the ethical responsibilities inherent in leveraging AI technology, urging organizations to approach its adoption with caution and mindfulness. By upholding ethical principles and prioritizing the well-being of donors, organizations can harness the power of AI to drive positive change and advance their mission with integrity.


As we continue to navigate the dynamic intersection of technology and ethics, let us remain vigilant in our commitment to ethical fundraising practices, ensuring that our use of AI aligns with our values and aspirations for a more just and compassionate world.


Thank you to my friend, Cherian, and the rest of the team at Rogare for the insightful read!


 

Juliana M. Weissbein, CFRE is a respected leader and decision influencer in regard to fundraising operations best practices. With over a decade of experience, Juliana thrives on professional growth, team success, measurable results, and inspiring fundraisers to utilize data-based strategies. Juliana currently serves as the Associate Director of Development Operations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She has served as an AFP Global Board Member, AFP Global's 2019 Outstanding Young Professional Fundraiser and is a member of the AFP Global Women's Impact Initiative. Juliana is immediate past chair of the AFP New York City chapter’s Emerging Leaders Committee and currently serves on the chapter’s board chairing their mentorship program. She resides in Houston, TX and never turns down a good kombucha.

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