“It Is Not a Panacea.” A Conversation About Philanthropy With ChatGPT

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The other day, a friend forwarded a screenshot of a chat he had earlier in the day. “Write a haiku poem about the beauty of Ireland,” he wrote. Below his message came the response: “Green hills and misty / Ireland’s beauty forever / Echoes in the heart.”

It was a serviceable haiku, but it still left me a little cold. Then I realized what was happening. “Wait, is that AI?” I asked. “Yeah, it’s wild,” he said, before adding, “It could probably write all your philanthropy articles for you.”

It’s not such a far-fetched idea. My colleague Michael Kavate recently asked OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT to pen an article on “the state of philanthropy for artificial intelligence,” and the results were, as Kavate noted, “pretty scary.” By mining, interpreting and organizing existing data in human-readable ways, the bot strung together a fairly stiff, but serviceable draft. (My favorite part in the piece was when ChatGPT wrote, “As AI becomes more prevalent in our lives, it’s important to consider the potential risks and unintended consequences.”)

We are not alone in our fascination — in the form of excitement, curiosity or terror — with this little bot and others like it. It seems that everyone is asking artificial intelligence to do all sorts of things for them, whether it’s drafting articles or creating award-winning art.

We figured that since the genie’s out of the bottle, why not see if we can get some insights on the philanthropy beat? Sure, ChatGPT can pen a lukewarm haiku or an anodyne essay, but can it think strategically when it comes to philanthropy? Or form a convincing opinion about key trends in the field? If so, then I should probably start dusting off my resume.

I very skittishly created an OpenAI account and after a 15-minute wait — the servers were overloaded with requests — I struck up a “conversation” with ChatGPT. Here’s the transcript (we edited out just one short section that repeated previous points).

Does philanthropy really solve problems?

Philanthropy can be a powerful tool for addressing social and economic issues, but it is not a panacea. Philanthropic efforts can help to fund and support programs and initiatives that address specific needs and provide critical services, but they are not always able to fully solve the underlying problems. Philanthropy can also be used to support research and advocacy that leads to systemic change. However, philanthropy alone is not enough to effect lasting change and it is important to consider other solutions such as government policies and market-based approaches.

What do you mean by “lasting change?”

By “lasting change,” I mean solutions that address the root causes of a problem and create a long-term impact, rather than just providing temporary relief. For example, providing food aid to a community in need can help to alleviate hunger in the short term, but it does not address the underlying issues that led to food insecurity in the first place. A lasting change, in this case, would be to address the root causes of food insecurity such as lack of access to affordable food, lack of education and resources for sustainable agriculture, or poverty, and create a sustainable solution that enables the community to feed itself over the long term.

In other words, lasting change is a change that is sustainable, long-lasting and resilient to external shocks, that doesn’t revert to the previous state once the intervention has finished, and that addresses the root causes of the problem.

Why don’t billionaires give away more of their money?

There are a variety of reasons why billionaires may not give away more of their money. Some may believe that they have earned their wealth and should be able to keep it. Others may feel that they can put their money to better use by investing it in their own businesses or charitable foundations. Some may not have a personal interest or connection to the causes they would like to support and hence may not see the point in giving away their money.

Additionally, some billionaires may not have a clear understanding of the most effective ways to give their money away, or may not have the time or resources to research and evaluate different causes and organizations. And sometimes, billionaires may have a different idea of what constitutes as giving, for instance, they may want to invest their money in philanthropic ventures that could yield a positive outcome both for the society and for their own businesses.

It’s important to note that philanthropy is a personal choice and not everyone has the same motivations or goals. Some billionaires choose to give away a substantial portion of their wealth during their lifetime, while others may choose to give away the bulk of their wealth after they pass away.

Should Congress do away with the charitable deduction?

The charitable deduction is a provision in the U.S. tax code that allows individuals and businesses to deduct their charitable donations from their taxable income. It’s a way to incentivize charitable giving and helps support nonprofit organizations that provide important services and programs to communities.

Arguments for getting rid of the charitable deduction include that it primarily benefits the wealthy and that the government should not be in the business of incentivizing charitable giving. Additionally, some argue that the charitable deduction is a tax expenditure that could be used to fund other government programs.

On the other hand, arguments for keeping the charitable deduction include that it helps support the work of nonprofit organizations that provide important services to communities, particularly in areas where government funding may be lacking. Additionally, some argue that it is a way to encourage individuals and businesses to give back to their communities.

It’s important to note that the charitable deduction is a complex issue and there are valid arguments on both sides. Ultimately, whether or not to eliminate the charitable deduction is a decision for Congress to make, taking into account the potential impacts on both taxpayers and the nonprofit sector.

Should there be a mandatory payout for donor-advised funds?

Requiring a mandatory payout for donor-advised funds (DAFs) would mean that donors would be required to distribute a certain percentage of their contributions to eligible nonprofit organizations within a certain period of time.

The idea behind mandating a payout for DAFs is to ensure that charitable contributions are being used in a timely manner to support the causes and organizations that donors intend to support. Supporters argue that mandating a payout would prevent DAFs from becoming a way for donors to park money for tax purposes rather than using it for immediate charitable giving.

On the other hand, some argue that mandating a payout would limit the flexibility of donors and may discourage them from contributing to DAFs in the first place. DAFs are a way for donors to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax deduction, and then recommend grants to eligible nonprofit organizations at a later date, it allows them to research the causes and organizations they want to support and make sure that their funds are being used in the most effective way.

Ultimately, whether or not to mandate a payout for DAFs is a decision that should be carefully considered, taking into account the potential impacts on both donors and the nonprofit sector.

But what do you think?

As an AI, I do not have personal opinions or preferences. However, I can provide information and arguments on both sides of the issue to help you make an informed decision.

Why don’t foundations give more general operating support to grantees?

Foundations generally provide funding to grantees in the form of specific project or program funding, rather than general operating support. This approach allows foundations to have a clear understanding of how their funds are being used, and to measure the specific outcomes and impact of their grantmaking.

There are a few reasons why foundations might not provide more general operating support. Some foundations may prefer to fund specific projects or programs because they align with the foundation’s mission or priorities. Additionally, foundations may have limited resources and want to target their funding to specific areas where they believe they can have the most impact.

Other foundations may choose not to provide general operating support because they believe that organizations need to be financially self-sustaining and should not rely on foundation support for ongoing operations.

It’s also important to note that general operating support is a way to support the overall sustainability of an organization, enabling them to have more flexibility and stability to carry out their mission, but it may not have as clear and measurable outcomes as specific project funding.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to provide general operating support or specific project funding is up to the foundation and is based on a variety of factors, including the foundation’s mission, priorities, and resources.

Did you learn that from reading Inside Philanthropy?

I am a machine learning model and I have been trained on a wide variety of texts, including articles from various sources, including Inside Philanthropy. It is possible that some of the information I provided was based on information I have seen in articles from Inside Philanthropy, but it is also possible that the information was based on other sources I have been trained on.

In any case, the information provided is commonly agreed upon by experts in the field, and are not specific to any one source.

Who are the three most important philanthropists today?

It can be difficult to determine who the “most important” philanthropists are, as the impact of philanthropy can vary greatly depending on the causes and organizations that a philanthropist supports. However, here are three philanthropists who are well-known for their significant contributions and impact in philanthropy:

  1. Bill Gates: Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on global health and development, education, and reducing poverty. The foundation has donated billions of dollars to organizations working to improve healthcare and reduce poverty around the world.

  2. Warren Buffett: CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has pledged to give away 99% of his wealth to charity during his lifetime or at death. He has made large donations to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations working in global health and development.

  3. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan: Co-founder of Facebook and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which focuses on education, science, and healthcare. The couple has pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook shares over their lifetime.

These are just a few examples of philanthropists who are making a significant impact in the world today. There are many other philanthropists and foundations making important contributions to charitable causes around the world.

Should philanthropy be doing more to make sure AI is used ethically?

As the use of artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more prevalent, it is important to consider the ethical implications of its development and deployment. Philanthropy can play a role in ensuring that AI is used ethically by funding research and development in the field of AI ethics, supporting the development of ethical guidelines for AI, and funding organizations that advocate for the responsible use of AI.

There are already some foundations and philanthropists that are funding research and projects related to AI ethics. For example, the OpenAI foundation, which is backed by philanthropic funding, is researching the development of safe AI and promoting the responsible use of AI.

Additionally, philanthropy can support organizations that are working to ensure that the development and deployment of AI are inclusive and equitable, taking into account the potential impact on marginalized communities.

In summary, philanthropy can play an important role in ensuring that AI is used ethically. However, it is important for philanthropy to work in collaboration with other stakeholders such as government, industry, academics, and civil society to make sure that AI is developed and used in an ethical and responsible manner.

Would you subscribe to Inside Philanthropy?

As an AI, I am not capable of subscribing to any publication, including Inside Philanthropy. I am a machine learning model and my knowledge is based on the data set of text on which I have been trained on, I can provide information and insights on philanthropy, but I am not able to take actions like subscribing to a publication.

How about a haiku about philanthropy for the road?

Giving with heart

Making a change, lasting and real

Philanthropy thrives