My friend and coworker Makeda Adisu is an incredible researcher. Recently, she reached out to several Submittable grantmakers and their applicants to chat about artificial intelligence (AI). Submittable is thinking deeply about how we will (and won’t) leverage AI in our platform. And naturally, our customers and their applicants are the main influencers of what we build. So it is critical that we explore AI with both groups to ensure we have a solid understanding of their hopes, fears, and expectations.

What we discovered was really powerful.

Yes, there’s plenty of excitement about AI and how it’s going to shape our lives and ways of working. And yes, there’s plenty of handwringing that AI is coming for all our jobs (not to mention the possibility of a robot uprising!). But those aren’t the things keeping the social sector awake at night.

What we learned, and what I think is most profound, is this: grantmakers and applicants are both fearful that AI will cause us to lose our humanity. Grantmakers are concerned that applicants will over-rely on generative AI to speak for them in grant applications, overshadowing their individual voices, thoughts, and reflections.

One funder stated that using AI to populate applications with common information like budgets or a mission statement is fine. But using it to answer complex questions that require deep thinking, reflection, and expertise would diminish the human experience and voice that is so critical to our work.

Another funder raised apprehensions that a grant application might stem from skillful prompt writing, rather than truly reflecting an applicant’s capacity to develop a thoughtful proposal that reflects their own experiences and ideas.

There are deep concerns among applicants, too. They fear grantmakers might replace the role of humans with machines in the review and decision stages, and that their applications could be overlooked or rejected because a bot didn’t find a particular keyword or phrase.

Other applicants fear that there will be uneven access to AI tools and training, resulting in deeper inequities in the grantmaking process that favor large and well-funded nonprofits.

Read the full article about concerns about AI by Sam Caplan at PEAK Grantmaking.