What We're Reading: Hey funders, don’t freak out about AI-supported grant proposals

"A while ago, a colleague mentioned a funder who required a whole-ass grant proposal from their current grantees to renew their grant every year. Requiring a full proposal for renewal is very annoying, but common enough, like the philanthropic equivalent of pinkeye," said Vu Le for Nonprofit AF. 

"This one funder, however, specified that grantees could not copy and paste information from previous year’s proposals. This forced grantees every year to spend time rewriting their mission statements, community needs, program descriptions, evaluation methodologies, budget narratives etc. using different words and phrases, even though most of that information remains the same."

With AI-supported grantwriting platforms like Grantable increasingly being used in our sector, nonprofits can better deal with clueless funder malarkey and shenanigans like the above. Someone can paste answers from last year’s grant proposal into ChatGPT, for example, and ask it to paraphrase, saving them time and energy that can be used on much more important work, such as running programs or turning some milk crates into a makeshift filing system.

With the rise of AI-assisted proposals, I bet some funders are probably experiencing a combination of fear, anxiety, and possibly resentment. With the barriers being lowered, they may be flooded with more grant proposals. They may no longer be able to judge and discard proposals based on ridiculous and inequitable criteria like spelling and grammar. They may use AI themselves to read, summarize, and possibly even select proposals for funding, which brings with it some ethical considerations of its own. This article from our colleagues in Australia provides a good summary of how many funders will respond to increasingly-AI generated grant applications.

However, I am less interested in how funders WILL respond, and more on how they SHOULD. While there are tons of crappy, fustilarian funders in our sector, there are plenty of amazing ones. For those who are trying to be thoughtful about the increase in AI-generated content and what that means for their work, here’s some advice:

  • Let go and have a Zen-like acceptance of a new normal:
  • Refocus on your value of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Recalibrate your criteria and parameters
  • Reimagine your grantmaking process and accept the One Proposal
  • Don’t punish nonprofits for using AI
  • If you’re using AI yourself, be intentional about equity

Whether funders like it or not, AI is here, and it will be used to write grant proposals. It will save many organizations a lot of frustration and grief that often come with traditional grantmaking practices that have been inflicted upon the sector over decades. Funders can use their energy to resist this, or use this as an opportunity to reassess inefficient and inequitable granting processes and work with nonprofits on a more meaningful level to tackle systemic issues plaguing our communities.

Read the full post here.