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Nonprofit guides

Yes, ChatGPT can help nonprofits with their grant applications—as long as you know how to ask.

May 10, 2023

ChatGPT can do a lot of things, and helping nonprofit grant-writers with their grant applications is one of them. But, it’s not perfect.

Can and should you use ChatGPT to help you write grant applications? Can ChatGPT fill out grant applications for you… AKA, is it a dream come true? Is ChatGPT the best solution? Are there any problems with ChatGPT’s grant application knowledge and knowhow?

In this article we’re going to explore what ChatGPT can, can’t and probably shouldn’t do when it comes to helping nonprofits write grant applications.

So, can ChatGPT help nonprofits write a grant application?

Yes! ChatGPT can help you and your nonprofit write a grant application but, it can’t do it all for you. We’ve got a few tips that will help you help ChatGPT output the best answers it can. (You’ll still have to check its work though.)

To get the most out of ChatGPT, give it clear and specific prompts.

You have to develop a relationship with ChatGPT. Seriously. The more you use it and your past chats, the better it will get at answering questions for you. Ambiguous or vague prompts (inputs) can lead to some pretty random, irrelevant or just straight-up unhelpful outputs.

How you ask ChatGPT a question matters. The more specific your prompt, the more accurate ChatGPT’s output will be.

For example, instead of asking ChatGPT to: “Write a summary of what [your nonprofit’s name] does.”, you could ask it to: “Describe [your nonprofit’s name]’s mission and the key programs and services we offer.”1

If your prompt doesn’t work the first time (ChatGPT does needs to get to know.) You can always try again—it’s important to keep using the same chat.

Doing this helps remove a lot of the guess work and allows ChatGPT to search and assemble the information you’re looking for. (Remember that ChatGPT is actually based on an advanced version of a similar predictive text technology to what Gmail uses to suggest words and sentences as you type.)

Some helpful ChatGPT prompts for grant-writers:

What does [your nonprofit’s name] do?

What is our founding mission and what are our operations? (You may have to give ChatGPT your website to help it find the information it needs.)

What problem/issue/community need does [your nonprofit’s name] address?

Summarize the following fundraising campaigns. [Paste fundraising campaign data here.]

What expenses are associated with a [Type of project/program.] project/program?

What are some ways to measure the success/failure of a [Type of project/program.] project/program?

Find examples of nonprofits that have accomplished projects or programs similar to [Type of project/program.] and what those projects/programs were.

Write a [x character] biography using this information: [Paste info. here.]

Shorten the following answer to [x] characters.

Turn this [Paste paragraph here.] into bullet points.

Rewrite this [Paste paragraph here.] to include the following: [Paste paragraph here.]

Download our full list of ChatGPT prompts for nonprofit grant writers.

Give ChatGPT examples.

Believe it or not, ChatGPT loves examples. An example or two of a style or writing, a similar question and answer from another grant application, and even examples of your nonprofit’s projects, etc. will help ChatGPT output a more accurate and relevant answer.1,2

You can (and probably should) develop and fine tune ChatGPT’s answers over multiple prompts.

Just like us humans, ChatGPT will rarely get it perfect the first time around. Do you think a particular section would be clearer as bullet points? Do you want to add or remove specific information? Did ChatGPT get the dates wrong, again. You can ask ChatGPT to clarify an idea, check it’s research, re-format a section, make it shorter or longer.

And then ask again:

And again:

ChatGPT doesn’t know everything (yet) and can output some biased answers.
ChatGPT comes up with its answers by combing through massive amounts of data that OpenAI has gathered from across the internet and other sources that date from 2021 and earlier. How it knows what and how to answer is based on how it was trained (with knowledge based on information from 2021 and earlier only) and how we structure our prompts and questions.
- Everyone’s talking about ChatGPT—nonprofits included.

In other words, the internet is full of a lot of information and even more opinions. For now, ChatGPT’s outputs reflect the bias of the data it was trained on. So, because the internet is a massive place where some voices are more represented than others, people and communities that have been arguably marginalized throughout the course of human history will be underrepresented in ChatGPT's outputs.2

This reality is obviously a big flaw that is especially problematic for nonprofit’s that want to use ChatGPT to help them write their grant applications. Why? Well, what sets one grant application apart from another? The level of emotion, empathy and real-world examples that ChatGPT just doesn’t have.

OpenAI is training ChatGPT to be a bit more knowledgeable and sensitive when it comes to certain topics, but, for now, all of that is done on a case-by-case basis. So be wary and check ChatGPT’s work before submitting it.

Use proper grammar and sentence structure.
ChatGPT is not self-aware. It takes our prompts, finds what it thinks is relevant information in it’s vast amount of training data and converts it into paragraphs of text. Which, don’t get us wrong, is very cool and helpful. It can and does learn from the questions and information we give it (which is good and bad—what if we tell it a lie?) but isn’t 100% self-sufficient just yet.
- Everyone’s talking about ChatGPT—nonprofits included.

Again, ChatGPT is based on an advance predictive text generator. So, it might imitate your writing style if you don’t prompt it do to otherwise.

ChatGPT is a powerful tool for grant-writers—not a grant-writer.

All-in-all, ChatGPT can help grant-writers with their nonprofit grant applications but, it can’t replace a grant-writer just yet. ChatGPT can help nonprofits brainstorm, sort through ideas, and output a solid first draft.4 After that, it’s up to the grant-writer to edit, refine, and make sure the grant application meets the standards of the organization they’re writing for.

Now that we know ChatGPT can help nonprofits write grant applications. Should it?

This is a much larger question that deserves it’s own article. So, we wrote one: Using ChatGPT to read and write nonprofit grant applications. Can we? Should we? (COMING SOON)

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