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By Adam Martel • September 21, 2017

Artificial Intelligence: Tool or Friend?

Do you think an AI fundraising program should be your good friend or a powerful tool that helps you do your job? At Gravyty, we believe that AI applied to nonprofit fundraising is best used as a tool, and we’d like to explain what that means to you.

By any measure, artificial intelligence is an impressive technology, decades in the making and just now coming into its own. AI is now helping industries worldwide become more efficient and effective. However, it’s not a genie that emerges from a magical lamp, ready to do your fundraising bidding. Companies that are building AI capabilities for their customers must decide how to use their resources: should they make their systems more conversational with users, or more able to help those users get the job done? We call this “humanizing AI” or “dehumanizing AI” and we’ve voted for “dehumanizing AI” as the technology applies to NPO fundraising.

Granted, “dehumanizing” anything sounds bad, but we are pointing to the fact that it takes great effort to get AIs to understand human language and interact with us naturally. As anyone who has used Siri or Alexa knows, these programs sound like real people and sometimes act like real people, but it doesn’t take long to discover their limits.

For example, if you ask Alexa who Genghis Khan was, she will take a look at Wikipedia and give you the answer. However, if you ask Alexa whether Genghis Khan was a good person, she will say, “Hmmm, I don’t know that.”

Other examples of humanizing AI would include Replika, a program that engages you in “sessions” to find out more about you and explicitly tries to befriend you. Eventually, it seems to become you! Other chatbots exemplify the humanizing trend as well, with software like “Cleverbot” willing to converse with you as long as you have the patience to keep chatting.

At the “dehumanizing” end of the spectrum are driverless cars, which (so far) don’t want to talk with you while they navigate the streets and highways. Then, there is Amazon’s “suggestions” program that suggests books you might like to read. No one is lulled into thinking the automobile has a personality or that the suggestions for books are coming from “Bob the Amazon Bot.”

It takes thousands of hours of work for a programmer to create an AI that can come close to interacting intelligently with a person. Those lines of code could be aimed at sorting through your portfolio of major gift prospects, looking closely at their behavior and interests, and deciding who should get your attention right now, today! Even better, we’ve proven that AI can contain algorithms that drafts an email to your top prospect, which you can edit and send in a few minutes, allowing you to move on and think about cultivating the next person on your list.

Actually, “dehumanizing” AI means “humanizing” you! With First Draft, our proprietary platform, you will have more time to interact with your colleagues and prospects in a relaxed, informal, human way. Why? Because you’re not poring over spreadsheets, wading through mounds of data, and trying to think of something interesting to say in yet another email.

As the saying goes, if you want a friend, get a dog. If you want to raise more money, get First Draft from Gravyty!