Do AI images work in fundraising?

I asked it for “sad kitten.” It gave me “demonic kitten.”

The right photo can really boost the power of a fundraising message. But photos pose some ethical and logistical challenges. AI-generated images seem to be solutions to some of those challenges:

  • AI images protect the privacy of beneficiaries, because they aren’t really people.
  • AI images can be generated when the expense of a human photographer is too high.

(The main downside of AI images is that they often look weird. But we should assume this factor will continue to grow less over time.)

So should you consider AI images in your fundraising? Here’s a fascinating test of their use from The Agitator, at AI Images in Fundraising, Help or Hurt?

Here’s the test:

  • Control: didn’t tell the participant it was an AI image.
  • Test: told it was an AI image with no rationale.
  • Test: told it was an AI image with an ethical rationale (such as to protect anonymity).
  • Test: told it was an AI image with a pragmatic rationale (such as to reduce marketing costs).
  • Test: the above conditions for disaster vs. non-disaster appeal.

Winners of the test:

  • Not using AI.
  • Using and not divulging it.

Of course, using it and not divulging is ethically iffy at best. Whether you are okay with them is your call.

Conclusion: AI images can work, but not when the donor knows it’s AI. The Agitator notes:

AI image use and awareness of it lowers the capacity for empathy. But if you are going to use an AI image and divulge it, the ethical rationale is much better than the pragmatic one.

This may be something that changes over time as the technology improves and people get used to the idea.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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