How is AI Impacting the Charity Sector?
It seems that barely a day goes by at the moment without AI being mentioned in the news – whether it’s catching litterbugs in the act, or Steve Wozniak warning that AI content should be labelled and regulated. Recently we’ve looked at how AI is impacting on the Education sector and Central Government - here we look at its potential to affect the Charity Sector.
AI for the present and the future
With the recent announcement of an initial £100 million to enable the UK to develop the next generation of safe AI the Government has its eyes firmly fixed on the power of AI to grow the economy in the future. However, many charity and not-for-profit organisations are already harnessing its abilities to make a difference to their fundraising and administrative tasks. Let’s take a look at some real-world examples of how AI is currently being utilised.
Many commercial organisations now have a Chatbot facility on their web pages to enable customers to find out more about their products and services. Recently we’ve seen a growth in chatbots on charities’ websites too. Bowel Cancer UK, for example, has piloted a new chatbot service which provides answers to a range of common questions about both the disease and how the charity can support people affected by it. In its open and honest statement about its use of a chatbot service Bowel Cancer UK acknowledges that its chatbot is still learning and asks users to keep their questions short and simple so it can provide the best possible answers.
Advanced Machine Learning
Advanced Machine Learning (AML) helps computer programs to learn as they run, preventing the need for additional programming, and improving their computing power as they develop. It’s currently being used by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in a partnership with the Alan Turing Institute to analyse data and patterns taken from people affected with the condition in order to improve treatment and identify the disease before it becomes too serious.
AI Tools for charities
Various tools exist for charities to use to increase fundraising on behalf of their organisations. Some will analyse websites’ layouts to highlight where viewers’ attention falls so that those areas can feature fundraising content in the most prominent places. AI can also provide analysis and insight into large datasets to improve a charity’s understanding of the fundraising campaigns they are currently running.
Donations via smart speakers are now also being used – the NSPCC has already implemented a system, powered by goDonate using AI which allows people to donate via their Amazon Alexa, to increase the ease and simplicity by which people can contribute.
Other applications include fraud detection – using a combination of predictive analysis, and machine learning to detect suspicious activity. Some charities have employed a system called NetReveal which has become a useful tool for charities where every penny counts, and provides reassurance to donors and end-users for whom confidentiality is vital.
AI can also be used to automate many processes which were formerly time-consuming and laborious, including ‘back-office’ functions, and many can be implemented at a reasonable cost, freeing up both time and money and enabling charities to concentrate on their core functions.
Amidst all the good that AI can potentially achieve, a note of caution must be sounded for the charity sector. AI is still in its infancy in terms of safety and potential, and regulations are not yet in place to ensure that it is used for good, not in order to harm. The Government’s ‘Pro-innovation approach to AI regulation’, published in March of this year, outlines the opportunities and challenges of AI and suggests that it will take a light approach to regulation in order to encourage innovation.However it also warns of potential harm to physical and mental health, infringements on individuals’ privacy and the undermining of human rights if regulation is not comprehensive enough. It’s essential that charities factor these issues into any use of AI that they might be considering.