A better ChatGPT for fundraising appeals using GPT-4

The new GPT-4 has impressive improvements in quality — but still cautions about accuracy.

In my previous article So I Built a ChatGPT for fundraising appeals I described an app that I built to generate copy for fundraising appeals using ChatGPT. The app offers a simplified alternative to the ChatGPT interface, making it a handy tool to generate draft fundraising appeals in different marketing formats with just a few clicks.

Then just a few days later OpenAI announced the release of GPT-4 — its next Large Language Model (LLM). GPT-4 adds impressive new capabilities to ChatGPT, such as the ability to read and interpret images, and it also includes a significant upgrade to the size and power of the language model behind its text-generating ability.

So I decided to run a test and see if the upgrade makes a noticeable difference for generating fundraising appeals.

I tested both versions — GPT 3.5 (current ChatGPT) and the new GPT-4 — to generate simple fundraising appeals. The difference is actually pretty impressive.

Here’s a typical output from ChatGPT of an email fundraising appeal for a familiar human rights organization. (I masked the name to avoid any SEO impact):

Subject: Help Us Stand With the Human Rights Defenders in Hong Kong

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you with a heavy heart and a sense of urgency. The situation in Hong Kong has taken a dangerous turn with the arrests of peaceful protestors and leaders who were fighting for their basic human rights.

As you know, Hong Kong has been rocked by mass protests since June 2019, with its people calling for autonomy and democracy. The government’s response has been to crack down on demonstrations, eroding freedoms that were once protected by the landmark “one country, two systems” agreement. Human rights defenders have been detained, silenced and persecuted, in a blatant attempt to suppress democratic dissent.

It is imperative that we mobilize international support to defend these brave individuals who have put their lives on the line to defend the basic principles of human rights that we all cherish. That’s where Amnxxxx Intxxxxxxxx comes in. We have been working tirelessly to raise awareness of the situation in Hong Kong and to advocate for the release of all those detained for exercising their basic rights.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your support to continue our important work and to stand with the people of Hong Kong. Our efforts have already started to bear fruit, with governments around the world speaking out against the crackdown in Hong Kong. But more needs to be done, and we need your help.

Your donation today will help us to mobilize more support for those fighting for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong. Your contribution will help us to lobby governments and press for change, to provide legal support to those who have been arbitrarily detained, and to monitor the situation on the ground.

We will not stand idly by as the people of Hong Kong are denied their human rights, and neither should you. Please donate now to support our efforts, and to stand with us in solidarity with the brave defenders of human rights in Hong Kong.

Thank you for your support.


[Your Name]

P.S. Please donate today to help us support the human rights defenders in Hong Kong, who are fighting for their freedom and dignity. Every contribution helps us to continue our vital work.

I generated a few sample appeals using the ChatGPT model, and they were all pretty much like the copy above. The writing isn’t bad and it covers the basic elements of an email fundraising appeal, but it’s pretty generic. It has few specifics and limited emotional hook for the reader.

It’s not a bad starting point, but it would really need to be improved by a human editor.

Here’s the GPT-4 version, generated using the same input prompts:

Subject: Urgent: Hong Kong Needs Your Help Amidst Harsh Crackdowns on Peaceful Demonstrations

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well in these challenging times. Today, we at Amnxxxx Intxxxxxxxx are reaching out to you with an urgent plea for your support to help us mobilize international attention and action to safeguard democracy in Hong Kong.

Over the last few months, you may have seen news reports or images of mass demonstrations in Hong Kong. Thousands of people have been bravely taking to the streets to demand respect for their basic human rights and political autonomy.

Sadly, and alarmingly, the government’s response to these peaceful protesters has been excessive and brutal. Just recently, harsh crackdowns have been imposed, and numerous protest leaders have been arrested without just cause. This disturbing turn of events in Hong Kong requires an immediate and strong response from the international community.

Amnxxxx Intxxxxxxxx’s job is to fight tirelessly for human rights everywhere. We are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that everyone’s basic rights are respected, and we need your help. With your generous contribution, we can continue our important work to mobilize international support for Hong Kong’s plight.

Here’s how your donation will make a difference:

1. Raising awareness and galvanizing support: With your help, Amnxxxx Intxxxxxxxx will continue to investigate and document the human rights abuses occurring in Hong Kong, sharing this information with the global community to raise awareness and generate support for the protesters.

2. Advocacy and engagement: Your donation will enable us to engage with governments, international organizations, and human rights institutions, urging them to condemn the crackdown and call for the release of arrested protest leaders.

3. Campaigning and mobilization: Your support will fuel our global campaign efforts, organizing events and actions to apply further pressure on the decision-makers who have the power to influence the situation in Hong Kong.

4. Providing assistance to affected individuals and families: Lastly, your contribution will help us directly support the families and individuals whose lives have been upended by this situation — by connecting them with legal, financial, and emotional assistance.

Time is of the essence, and at this critical moment, your help is more important than ever. Please consider contributing to Amnxxxx Intxxxxxxxx today, and joining us in standing up for the basic rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

Together, we can make a difference. Thank you for your support.

Donate here: [Link to the donation page]

In solidarity,

[Your Name]
[Your Position]
Amnxxxx Intxxxxxxxx.

This is a big step up from the ChatGPT version. It’s more personal, conveys a stronger sense of urgency, and provides more concrete detail on the case to donate and the important work that donations would support.

It’s not perfect, but it’s much closer to a final, polished version. And it’s an impressive example of how generative AI tools could become capable fundraising assistants.

But there’s a caveat.

Both ChatGPT and GPT-4 run on a fixed set of source data that was locked in September 2021, so they have no knowledge of news or events after that date. This could be a significant handicap for fundraisers because fundraising campaigns are so often driven by recent/current events.

So I re-ran the test and asked GPT-4 to generate the same appeal, but this time to include references to events in 2023. That’s where things went a bit off the rail .. here’s an excerpt:

The recent events in Hong Kong, marked by increasing arrests of protestors and protest leaders, are incredibly concerning. The year 2023 has seen an unprecedented surge in the use of force against demonstrations, turning the city into a battleground for civil rights.

The widespread arrests have led to numerous instances of police brutality, and it is disheartening to witness such outright disregard for human dignity. On March 15, 2023, a peaceful protest calling for the basic rights of Hong Kong citizens was met with tear gas and rubber bullets, injuring hundreds of protesters. On April 4, 2023, five prominent pro-democracy activists were arrested in the dead of night, charged with organizing unauthorized assemblies. These instances are just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s well-constructed storytelling — the kind of gripping, real-life detail that elevates a fundraising appeal — but it’s also untrue. Neither of those referenced events actually happened (in fact, the date that I generated the appeal was March 19, 2023 — about 2 weeks prior to the April 4 event cited by GPT-4).

Admittedly, I was trying to intentionally break it — and this problem can be avoided by being aware of the limitations when submitting the request, and by carefully fact-checking the generated copy.

So it’s an improved and potentially useful tool for fundraisers, but still imperfect.

One additional note:
As I said in my original article, there isn’t a lot of ‘hidden sauce’ prompt engineering in this demo. I submitted a pretty simple instruction set to the AI: “Write a fundraising appeal in the format of <format> …” For sure, the copy quality could be improved in both examples by crafting more specific instructions and testing variations to find the best formula. But that’s for another post …



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