By Laura S. Quinn – a consultant with more than 25 years working with nonprofits and curator of the Nonprofit Website Insider.

Everyone is talking about the ways that artificial intelligence (AI) can streamline the process of creating articles, stories, or posts.  It sometimes sounds as though tools like ChatGPT or Gemini could entirely replace humans in writing website content. And it could… if nonprofits didn’t need to write anything good. To create meaningful material that will move audiences to action, though, a human touch and a sound communication strategy is still essential. 

The ease of generating content these days is both a danger and an opportunity for nonprofits. There’s a real danger that messages from organizations without a strategic approach to communications will be drowned out in a sea of generic AI-generated content. 

However, there’s a great opportunity to stand out simply by having a distinctive human voice. When more and more content is bad, good content deepens connections with audiences, ranks high in search engines, and amplifies impact. And AI can offer valuable time savings to allow more focus on the strategic side.

So, how should an organization navigate this? How can nonprofits deliver genuinely valuable, well-crafted content that features a human voice, while taking advantage of the efficiencies offered by AI? This article walks through seven tips. 

1) Focus on what audiences are really interested in

Understanding the audience is the cornerstone of creating compelling content, whether it’s articles, blog posts, social or anything else. It’s about going beyond superficial engagement metrics to truly grasp what an audience cares about, what questions they want answers to, and what inspires them to take action. High-quality content is always grounded in a solid communication strategy, which in turn is rooted in a deep understanding of audiences’ interests—a task beyond AI’s capabilities.

Define top audiences, and think through their preferences. What topics genuinely interest them? What information will align with their desires and curiosities rather than simply what your organization wishes to communicate?

To understand audiences better, consider exploring other websites or platforms they visit. Ideally, put some time aside to interview some real people. Four or more interviews with members of an audience can be amazingly helpful in understanding what will resonate.

2) Highlight the organization’s unique knowledge

Every nonprofit has unique knowledge and insight— about a field, a suggested solution, or stories of their successes. Some have subject matter experts that can offer insight that very few other people can. 

Lean into this expertise. AI tools lack the ability to produce new insights or perspectives, so content rooted in the unique knowledge of an organization stands out.

Creating insightful content does require time and effort— but it can be a very useful part of an overall engagement strategy. This content acts as a magnet, attracting individuals to the organization and its mission. This is a critical first step in building a relationship with an audience, effectively serving as the foundation of an engagement pyramid or ladder for a nonprofit website.

Promo graphic for the newsletter - The Nonprofit Website Insider

3) Use AI to enhance (not replace) creativity

Tools like ChatGPT and Gemini can be excellent brainstorming partners. They’re not great at generating truly insightful ideas, as per the above, but they’re good at fleshing out an existing concept or framework.

For instance, for this article, I used ChatGPT to brainstorm the sections to apply to the theme of this article. When I initially asked ChatGPT to generate topics that applied to the title, it gave me a big list of the ways that AI can help create content more efficiently. But, as you can tell, that’s not the overall theme of this article. When I gave it a couple of sentences about the premise of the article instead, it generated a more useful list that I was able to compare to my own initial list and sparked a few ideas for additional sections.

4) Cultivate a human, distinctive, voice

One of the biggest challenges of using AI at the moment is avoiding the artificial tone that often characterizes its output. Nonprofits who have used it will likely recognize the struggle: by default, these tools often spit out language that’s stilted and full of grandiose words. Try to get it to be more informal, and suddenly it’s greeting readers as if they’re long-lost friends, with exclamations all over the place.

Organizations can stand out from the increasingly large crowd of AI-generated language by simply sounding like an actual human. This means, at a minimum, editing to reword awkward phrasing or word choice and ensure consistency in language.

Even better, develop a bit of a distinctive voice. Think through the desired relationship with the audience—perhaps the voice should be of a trusted expert, a knowledgeable and funny friend, or a supportive counselor?

5) Use AI to polish or simplify

There’s a place where AI really does shine: straightforward tasks that can be time-consuming and annoying to staff. For example, AI excels in areas such as:

  • Doing a final copy edit by identifying grammatical errors.
  • Reducing the word count of a post to meet specific length requirements.
  • Dividing a single article into multiple pieces. 
  • Integrating a specific list of specific phrases  into an article’s content for SEO purposes.
  • Generating a draft description for an article. 
  • Creating ideas for LinkedIn posts derived from an article’s content.

6) Consider featuring the author

Organizations that have a person doing all the work to define original insights, review voice, and review anything AI generated for accuracy should consider crediting the author. This makes it clear there’s a real person who’s willing to be held accountable for the information, which is unfortunately a little too rare these days. Google has also announced changes, as of the end of 2023, that imply that it will rank articles with authors or written in the first person (or both) more highly. 

This could simply mean including a byline for the author, with a link to their bio on a staff page, or showing a brief bio on the article. Or the whole article could be a perspective piece, written with the opinions of the author. See more about why nonprofits might want to credit authors.

7) Include personal experience

Fundamentally, real stories, experiences, and human emotions can’t be easily replicated by AI. They are also a key to genuine storytelling. Every organization has a gold mine of stories — what is the founding story? Proudest moments from the staff? Stories of impact and change? Lean into this type of content, which distinguishes the content not only from AI-generated content but that by other organizations as well.

Engage openly with your community about ongoing discussions and challenges being addressed. Perhaps content can even directly feature the personal voices of constituents.

In summary: Be authentically, genuinely useful

As more and more companies spit out more and more spammy content, it will be harder to stand out with just any content. But in a sea of generic stuff that doesn’t meet anyone’s actual needs, nonprofits have an opportunity to distinguish themselves just by having a good content strategy and solid communication basics. Understanding the audience, providing useful information in areas of unique expertise, a consistent voice, and storytelling are more important than ever. 

By strategically using AI to handle the mundane, nonprofits can devote more energy to what matters – crafting content that resonates deeply and inspires action, marked by the undeniable authenticity of humans.

About the Author

Laura S. Quinn has helped nonprofits with websites both within and alongside organizations for over 25 years. She’s been an Executive Director, a board member, on staff at website development firms, and a one-woman marketing and fundraising show. These days, she’s a Nonprofit Website Coach and Guide who supports nonprofit staff with weekly or bi-weekly calls as they work on website projects, and a Website Strategist. She also publishes the Nonprofit Website Insider, a (free!) twice-monthly newsletter with curated articles for website staff.