Introduction of AI into fundraising risks repeating scandals of 2015, ShelterBox director warns

But artificial intelligence could help to even out problems with fundraisers' pay, Richard Lee argues

Richard Lee
Richard Lee

The introduction of artificial intelligence into fundraising could risk repeating the problems that led to the fundraising scandals of 2015, according to Richard Lee, director of fundraising and communications at the emergency relief charity ShelterBox.

Speaking at a panel event on the future of fundraising hosted by the recruitment company Charity People in London yesterday, Lee said people could find themselves receiving huge amounts of fundraising material from charities if computers were used to determine whether the charity could contact them.

"When we move into AI and when it starts really driving things, there is a real danger that we’re going to have one response to everybody and repeat the issues we’re trying to face," he said.

"You only have to have somebody that’s interested in children, international issues and cancer, and the amount of charities that could legitimately argue the person will be interested would actually increase exponentially."

But AI might even out problems with fundraisers’ pay, which tended to take into account only how many people they were managing, rather than what work they did, he said.

Lee said that in the future "unique players are going to become the fundamental value of fundraising".  

He added: "There’s going to be a group of people who lose their jobs because machines can do them better, but there’s going to be a group of relationship managers who probably aren’t going to be as replaceable because people aren’t yet ready to talk to machines in sales positions."

And he said there would be a group of managers and coordinators who would be fundamental to the charity’s work.

"We shouldn’t be paying on how big a team you manage," he said. "We should be paying on what kind of value you bring to this organisation."

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