Report finds six in ten charities use AI in their daily work

Applications of AI

According to the latest Charities Digital Skills Report, more than six in 10 organisations are now using artificial intelligence (AI) in their day-to-day work and operations.

The report has collected data every year since 2017 about charities' digital adoption, skills, attitudes, funding and support needs.

This year's reportThe report, released today, finds that the use of AI is increasing across the industry, with 61% of charities now using AI on a daily basis, up from 35% who said they were using AI tools last year.

Most charities said they were struggling to go digital for financial reasons, while many reported a lack of digital skills on their boards.

Increased use of AI

The report found that of the 61% of charities that use AI in their day-to-day work and operations, 45% are using it informally, such as trialing tools.

Online content development, such as generating social media posts and images, and administrative tasks, such as summarizing meeting notes and creating documents and reports, were some of the most popular uses and functions of AI tools.

While AI use has increased in the last year, only 22% of respondents said they feel prepared to address AI's opportunities and challenges.

“We were surprised to find that 37% of charities said they had not taken any steps to further engage with AI,” the report said.

Half of charities responding said the biggest barrier they face when it comes to AI is a lack of technical skills and expertise, followed by a lack of upskilling training (34%).

Digital Engagement

The report found that for a quarter of charities, digitalisation was a top organisational priority.

More than four in 10 organisations said they were “not good at fundraising digitally” and a further 25% said they do not fundraise digitally at all, “a worrying increase from last year, when 55% said they were not good at fundraising digitally,” the report said.

Most charities say they are struggling to move forward digitally due to finances (68%) and a lack of capacity and capacity (66%).

In contrast, just 27% said the cost of living crisis was affecting progress. In last year's report.

On social media, around 50% of charities said they had not changed their usage “despite the volatility of X”.

About 31% spent a lot of time engaging with their audience, and 14% spent a lot of time monitoring misinformation on social media.

“It is surprising that only 17% are focusing on other platforms and 10% are creating profiles on new social media platforms,” ​​the report said.

The skills gap in boardrooms

Just over six in 10 charities said that the digital skills of their trustees are 'poor or could be improved', up from 57% last year.

Some 41% of charities do not have a digital trustee (2023: 35%), while 28% say they have a board with “good digital skills” (2023: 32%).

“The report has identified a digital skills gap in boardrooms every year since the report began and this is clearly a systemic challenge,” it said.

“However, it is concerning that of charities with digital trustees, 54% still feel that digital skills at board level are low or there is room for improvement.

“This shows that digital trustees are only part of the solution to boards' digital skills gap.”

Financial pressures are “slowing digital progress”

Zoe Amar, author of the report, said: “This year's results show that charities are struggling with increasing workloads, huge financial pressures from inflation and budget cuts, and little room for innovation.”

“These pressures are undoubtedly slowing digital progress and many industries seem to be stagnating.

“However, despite the many barriers and challenges facing charities, the appetite is still there and it is encouraging that half of charities are now strategically committed to digital and 80% see digital as a priority for their organisation.

“AI is arguably the biggest positive change in the sector and has big ambitions, but for many charities, AI has the potential to bring old digital challenges to light and bring hidden secrets to light.

“If collecting high-quality data is still an issue, AI won't solve it. The right infrastructure and governance needs to be in place, otherwise the sector risks being left behind in the AI ​​revolution.”

The report is based on a survey conducted between March 6 and April 26, 2024, of 635 large and small nonprofit and social sector organizations.

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