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Surge in use of AI but few charities ready to adopt it safely & effectively

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AI has seen in surge in use among charities and individuals working in charities, but most organisations are currently unprepared to use it safely and effectively, a Charity Excellence survey has found.

Charity Excellence’s first charity AI benchmarking survey saw 378 individuals respond, the majority of which were trustees or management, and comprised eight questions, six of which were quantitative and two qualitative.

Majority now using AI

The survey reveals that use of AI in charities has surged with the majority of individuals now using it (perhaps, Charity Excellence says, as many as 90%) and 60% of charities. They are also investing a variety of platforms, with ChatGPT the most popular (57%), followed by Copilot (23%) and Gemini (14%).

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An introduction to AI for charity professionals by Ross Angus

However, many charities are struggling with adopting AI safely, with only 1 in 20 saying they are extremely well-prepared to use it.

Charity Excellence asked respondents to rate statements covering nine areas it has identified as being key to achieving safe, effective adoption of AI by charities. These were: policies and procedures, managing AI risks, ethical and responsible guidelines, trustee oversight, data protection, cyber security, choosing the right AI, skills and experience, and changes in ways of working. Respondents were asked to rate them based on whether their charity was doing them well, from 1/10 (strongly disagree) to 10/10 (strongly agree).

More than half extremely unprepared to manage risk

On average, it found that half of charities are extremely unprepared in each. 60% said they are extremely unprepared in terms of policies and procedures for using AI. And, despite the surge in its use, Charity Excellence found that more than half are extremely unprepared to manage AI risk (58%), including in the key areas of cyber security (43%) and data protection (42%). More than half were also unprepared in terms of ethical and responsible guidelines (57%).

Commenting on these findings, Charity Excellence said:

“The weakest areas were having policies and procedures updated to reflect AI, managing AI risk and having AI ethical and responsible use guidelines.   However, all areas were rated very poorly, with nearly half rating each factor 1/10 and only 1 in 20 rating 10/10.  Given the very high number of people in charities now using AI, that is very worrying.  Not least because some of the qualitative feedback referred to trustees/CEOs not being engaged or ‘anti AI’.”

The survey also asked respondents to identify what they want AI to do for them. Supporting their fundraising and reducing the admin burden (including using text creation) came top at 27% and 24%.

Seven other areas all came in at about 15%, including data driven decision making, beneficiary support and insights, resource management, AI imagery and automated customer service and advice, such as website bots.

In terms of support, respondents said they wanted help with integrating AI into ways of working, managing data and understanding what the future will look like.

Charity Excellence is launching two thought pieces on AI at a webinar on Thursday 27 June at 10am. The first looks at what an AI enabled future holds for the sector and the second at how the sector and its regulators should respond to that.  

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