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Ethics of using artificial intelligence in fundraising

Artificial intelligence (AI) offers exciting opportunities for charities and nonprofits, from automating administrative tasks to gaining insights from data. However, consideration of how it should be used in fundraising has focused mainly on practical applications, with less thought given to the ethical implications that might arise from its use. 

When attention does turn to the ethics of using AI for fundraising, the focus is often on how generic ethical issues about AI might also apply to fundraising. But AI will throw up ethical issues and challenges that are unique to fundraising and the nonprofit sector.

A Rogare project team, led by US fundraising consultant Cherian Koshy, has considered what some of these fundraising-specific ethical issues are, and developed a research agenda to explore what else we need to know to rise to these challenges.

This project considers two related but separate questions:

1 What ethical issues are associated with using AI in fundraising?


2 Can AI be used to resolve ethical dilemmas in fundraising?

The project team’s findings and recommendations can be found in the report published in February 2024 – Artificial intelligence and fundraising ethics: A research agenda.

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  • Download the report Artificial intelligence and fundraising ethics: A research agenda, optimised for reading on a desktop or tablet, or home/office printing.

  • Read the Rogare press release on Critical Fundraising.

  • Civil Society article by Cherian Koshy and Ian MacQuillin

The research agenda for the ethical use of AI in fundraising

The research agenda sets out 10 areas were further research into the ethics of using AI in fundraising is needed:

  1. Understand stakeholder perspectives on AI ethics in fundraising 
     

  2. Audit data sources and algorithms for bias
     

  3. Conceptual development of AI ethics frameworks for fundraising
     

  4. Understand intellectual property issues unique to AI in fundraising
     

  5. Clarify transparency needs and limitations for AI in fundraising
     

  6. Define accountability and liability for harms from AI
     

  7. Understand second-order effects of mainstreaming ethical AI
     

  8. Develop oversight mechanisms for AI in fundraising
     

  9. Understand AI’s limitations in applying fundraising ethics
     

  10. Utility of using AI for/to charity beneficiaries.

 

  • Full details can, of course, be found in the report.

AI ethics project group

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Project leader

iWave (USA)

  • Stuart Chell, Chell Perkins (UK)

  • Jess Crombie, University of the Arts London (UK)

  • Meena Das, NamasteData (Canada)

  • Scott Decksheimer, Avista Philanthropy (Canada)

  • Alice Ferris, GoalBusters (USA)

  • Lisette Gelinas, Impact and Main Inc/ST (Stephen Thomas Ltd) (Canada)

  • Ian MacQuillin, Rogare – The Fundraising Think Tank (UK)

  • Damian O'Broin, Ask Direct (Ireland)

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