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AI vs Fundraising Writing — a head-to-head comparison

Published about 2 months ago • 8 min read

This is the 124th Fundraising Writing Newsletter.
If you find value here, please tell your fundraising friends.
(Your fundraising friends can ​subscribe here for free.)

In this issue:

AI vs Fundraising Writing — a head-to-head comparison

Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Hi Reader,

My dad is now trying to sell a property, and the promotion he created is kind of hilarious and all kinds of awesome.

Here's 1 of 38 slides he created and embedded in a website sales page:

As you can see, my dad took a map image and added about 50 text box captions.

It's so homemade, so human.

Here's another promo slide my dad created:

Notice that my dad is promoting the property he's selling by advertising the fact that one new neighbor in the area will be a tech park campus housing an AI titan. Therefore:

"Getting ready for the AI revolution."
"Developer won't say exactly who will anchor campus but it will either be APPLE, GOOGLE, MICROSOFT or AMAZON."

What I love most about this is that it nicely captures the appeal of the human touch in the context of the AI age.

In other words, AI is clearly poised to be terribly important for our collective future, yet what really jumps out here is not the AI promise but the homemade feel of the promo. The human X factor is what's so persuasive.

And Brett and I remain convinced this principle is key for today's fundraising. So we've got an example for you...


AI vs Fundraising Writing — a head-to-head comparison

The following example is from a donor newsletter we recently wrote for a client.

I'm going to share the 3 things with you:

  1. the story notes we received from our client
  2. what AI (GPT-4) wrote based on the notes
  3. and what Brett wrote based on our client's notes

It's a head-to-head showdown!

First, the notes:

Clyburn was lying on the sidewalk, screaming his heart out. His leg hurt too much to walk – all he could do was meow at the top of his lungs and hope someone would help him.
Finally, someone did. The good Samaritan who found Clyburn brought him to us. He had a seriously injured front leg – a wound with what felt like a fracture. And it was infected. It looked like a bite from a larger animal.
Dr. VanZant was kind enough to take X-rays for us. And yes, the leg was fractured right at his wrist, a tough place to repair. And the infection just made it worse.
But Clyburn was such a good boy. He tried so hard to be petted and purred constantly. We had to try to fix his leg. Dr. Steve Schrader, an orthopedic surgeon, volunteered to fix the fracture. He used a very small pin to join the ends of the fractured bones. And it worked!
Now the challenge was to keep Clyburn quiet so the fracture would heal. With his pain gone, Clyburn wanted out of his cage. Opening the cage doors became a battle of wills as Clyburn thought he should be allowed to visit everyone.
After weeks of antibiotics, bandage changes, good food, and love, Clyburn was finally ready. And he was adopted on the second day he was available!
Without you, such a severe injury could be a death sentence, especially in a shelter- something none of us even want to think about. Your love and support gave Clyburn all the time and care he needed to heal from his injury.
Because of you, Clyburn is living his best life!

These are the good bones of a powerful story of impact!

Now let's see what the AI did with this...

Second, a draft of the donor newsletter impact piece as written by ChatGPT-4:

In the heart of a bustling city, on a path walked by countless indifferent feet, a small cry for help pierced the mundane hustle. Clyburn, a spirited cat with an indomitable will, found himself in a dire plight. Unable to move, his cries echoed off the concrete—a desperate plea met by the compassionate heart of a passerby. This moment marked the beginning of Clyburn's journey from despair to hope, a journey made possible by your unwavering support.
Upon his rescue, Clyburn was discovered with a grievously injured leg, marred by an infection that suggested a violent encounter with a larger foe. The complexity of his condition required immediate attention, and through the kindness of Dr. VanZant, the severity of his plight was revealed: a fractured leg, compounded by infection, threatened his very survival.
Yet, Clyburn's resilience shone brightly. His spirit, undampened by his pain, endeared him to all who met him. His purrs of gratitude and longing for affection underscored a remarkable will to thrive, compelling us to act. Dr. Steve Schrader, an orthopedic surgeon moved by Clyburn's plight, stepped forward to offer his expertise, mending Clyburn's fractures with delicate precision.
The road to recovery was fraught with challenges, not least of which was Clyburn's own spirited nature. His newfound freedom from pain ignited a desire to explore, to connect, to live fully—a testament to his enduring spirit and the efficacy of his care. Through weeks of meticulous care, your generosity provided Clyburn with the sanctuary he needed to heal, not just in body, but in spirit.
Clyburn's journey from the cold concrete to a warm, loving home was nothing short of miraculous. Adopted within days of his recovery, his story is a beacon of hope, a testament to the power of compassion and community. It is a vivid reminder that behind every act of kindness, there lies the potential for transformative change.
Your support is the lifeline for souls like Clyburn, turning the tide from despair to hope, from survival to thriving. Each contribution, each act of kindness, weaves into the fabric of a larger story—one of healing, love, and the unbreakable bond between humans and their furry companions. Clyburn's tale, now a symphony of joy and contentment, is a tribute to your generosity and love. It is because of you that Clyburn, and many like him, are living their best lives.

👉 Notice that this AI draft is too wordy, does not sound very conversationally human (e.g., "Clyburn, a spirited cat with an indomitable will, found himself in a dire plight," and fails to properly highlight details that would bring the story to life. 😟

That's because AIs think like committees. When a committee writes something, it usually collects everyone's opinion and then takes a safe path straight down the yawning boring middle.

AI is the same. It collects a multitude of "opinions" from its training data and then it predicts a safe path straight down the yawning boring middle. Its output represents an average of all the similar ideas it's ever heard on a topic.

Hence, the AI output is at best mediocre.

And now for something completely human...

The Fundraising Writing draft that Brett wrote:

(The highlights show human-relevant details that were not in the notes nor in the AI draft.)

Title: Your love brought Clyburn from brink of death to forever home

If you’d been there, you would not believe your ears. The cat lying hurt on the sidewalk was not crying, was not shrieking — he was screaming. The sound would send chills down your spine. It would keep you up at night, echoing in your worried heart.

I bet you’d have done what the Good Samaritan who found poor Clyburn did. You’d have picked up the injured cat and rushed him to us for treatment.

In a way, that’s exactly what you did. First, you were generous without even having met Clyburn or any of the other animals in need at Fayette Regional Humane Society. Then, as a crisis began to unfold, your kindness was already there waiting with open arms to help this little furry one in need.

Your care brought Clyburn to the examining table. That’s where I saw he had a seriously injured front leg — a wound that appeared infected and felt like a fracture. “It looks like a bite from a larger animal,” I thought, and sighed.

Your goodness brought Clyburn to the X-ray machine. That’s where Dr. VanZant confirmed a fracture in Clyburn’s wrist, a tough place to repair. The infection made it even worse.

Your love brought Clyburn to the operating table. That’s where orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steve Schrader joined the ends of the fractured bones with a tiny pin. It worked!

Through it all, Clyburn was such a good boy. When one of us tried to pet him, you could tell it hurt. You could also tell that he did his best to ignore the pain and welcome the attention. He purred constantly.

With his surgery a success, now the challenge was to keep Clyburn quiet so the fracture could heal. He did not understand doctor’s orders, and made it known he wanted out of his cage! Whenever we fed or treated him, a battle of wills ensued. Clyburn insisted he should be allowed out so as to visit everyone.

After weeks of antibiotics, bandage changes, yummy healthy food, and warm cuddles at every turn, finally Clyburn was ready for adoption.

So was his forever family. On Day Two of Clyburn’s availability, they met him, fell for him tail over paws, and brought his happy self home for good.

Without you being there from the beginning, such a severe injury could easily have been a death sentence for Clyburn (especially in a shelter).
Your big heart gave our good boy all the time and care he needed to heal. Today, that haunting scream on the sidewalk is a distant memory for Clyburn. He’s all meows now.

I trust you'll agree that this version feels human.

Which can make all the difference.

Your donors don't want to listen to (or arm wrestle) a robot. 🤖

Because: As more people opt for the safe and easy AI path straight down the yawning boring middle, your human touch is what will stand out and feel real. And most donors are not moved to action unless and until they feel it.


Do you need help with your digital and print donor communications? Let's talk about it.

We have an opening for a one new client. If that might be you, please schedule a free call to chat about how we might work together.

"Wait. Remind me. Who are you?" you say.

We're Julie and Brett.

We help nonprofit professionals like you get to the next level of revenue and impact with expert fundraising communications.

We prioritize: taking things off your plate, giving you options, providing you with flexibility, and responding quickly to your needs, communications, and timelines.

You can do more of the work you love, with more money for your mission — and transform more lives every day of the year.

When you're ready, let's talk about your fundraising needs. The first call is always free. Book your call now.

You and your donors heal the world every day.
We help you keep it that way. 💛


Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

For your brain, heart, and funny bone...

  • Fundraisingly Informative Why is clear writing so hard? by Jeff Brooks (a blog post about how writing clearly is the ethical thing to do, and how ironic it is that academia tends to struggle in this department)
  • Meaningfully Hearty Math or Magic? via This American Life (a 56-minute podcast episode featuring stories of people who believe finding love is a numbers game, of others who believe it's magic, and of questions as to whether it might be both)
  • Philanthropically Smiley 100 Kids Smile for the First Time via Beast Philanthropy (the newest MrBeast video where they give children suffering from cleft conditions new smiles and hope for a brighter future)

Until next time: May you always stay golden by staying human!

Grateful,

PS: Join us March 21st?

March 21st is the big day when legendary fundraising copywriter and author Tom Ahern will be hosting his once-only-in-2024 webinar "How to Write a Fabulous Case."

After the first 90 minutes of training, you'll enjoy an All-You-Can-Eat unlimited Q&A session featuring Tom, special guest Harvey McKinnonone of North America's leading fundraising giants, expert case-writer, and author of 5 acclaimed books — and moderator Julie Cooper.

(In Tom's last webinar, the Q&A lasted 4 hours, a new record. In other words, you can literally get all your questions answered. Priceless.)

See you then?

We hope so!

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