One Place to Never Use AI in Major Gifts Fundraising

Artificial Intelligence Human and AI hands

Artificial intelligence is today’s most relentless buzzword, as teachers, bosses, online daters, and everyone else learns the advantages and disadvantages of algorithm-predicted answers in our daily lives. But there is one place in your development department where AI does not belong.

AI and Nonprofits

A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy touts the benefits of Chat GPT for nonprofits. This piece says AI can quickly accomplish tedious tasks, like scheduling social media posts or brainstorming your next appeal letter with an AI sample based on your organization’s keywords. 

I agree. There are certainly places automation can be useful to help you accomplish more tasks, especially if your organization is a small shop. I mean, I relied on that Mail Merge Wizard to develop donor lists for many years!

But this article also suggested another task for AI automation that I think is misplaced advice. Nonprofits that wish to stand out among the sea of other nonprofits in your community, should avoid using AI technology in their thank-yous. Especially on their websites … as it would be construed as spam and penalized by Google (see below).

Why Avoid AI-Generated Thank-Yous?

Every development department probably uses several different types of thank-you vehicles during their calendar of stewardship activities. Major gift donors should experience eight or more “touches” each year for an appropriate level of engagement with your highest donors. A “touch” defines any stewardship activity, whether that is a quarterly newsletter, wine and cheese event, or thank-you note.

AI technology has not evolved to the point where it is yet undetectable. It can insert awkward phrases and cause other issues—some of which are easy to spot, some more difficult (but no less problematic). Many professors and HR screeners claim they can spot an AI-generated document from a mile away! It is best, then, to resist the urge to use a shortcut that can lead to easily avoidable errors.

In addition to this technical difficulty, I think it is important to maintain a different level of customer service when it comes to your major donors. Major donors represent those people who contribute the most significant amount to your mission. When communicating with these influential people, it is not an unreasonable expectation to use only authentic, human sentiments.

By investing in genuine thank-yous built only with a human mind, you can stand apart from your fellow nonprofits. Think about it: so many of our thank-you letters operate as little more than an IRS-approved acknowledgement letter. If the majority of nonprofits decide to use AI-generated thank-yous, the quality of this meaningful stewardship asset will continue to degrade. You can set yourself apart by deciding your organization is dedicated to thoughtful donor thank-yous.


It is no understatement to say AI tools will influence our lives in unknown ways in the years to come. For those who are always looking for efficiency tools or those who like to work on the cutting edge, automation is a terrific option.

However, major donors should be managed with a strictly human touch. Avoid using AI tools for major donor thank -yous to maintain an authentic relationship with these influential donors.

John Mueller of Google:

“For us these would, essentially, still fall into the category of automatically generated content which is something we’ve had in the Webmaster Guidelines since almost the beginning.

And people have been automatically generating content in lots of different ways. And for us, if you’re using machine learning tools to generate your content, it’s essentially the same as if you’re just shuffling words around, or looking up synonyms, or doing the translation tricks that people used to do. Those kind of things.

My suspicion is maybe the quality of content is a little bit better than the really old school tools, but for us it’s still automatically generated content, and that means for us it’s still against the Webmaster Guidelines. So we would consider that to be spam.

All of our blogs, products and services are proudly conceived, created, reviewed, and disseminated by real humans — not A.I. (artificial “intelligence.”)

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