AI, charity copywriting, and the cosmic music of 1970s East Germany

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AI copy generators are great. They take away the ‘admin and drudgery’ of copywriting. At least, that’s how a leading charity’s Head of Public Fundraising put it in a recent Charity Digital study. Is he right?

Cards on the table: I’m still pretty freaked out. But I’m growing to like Chat GPT. I use it most days, and it’s gradually teaching me to be a better prompter. I talk to it about things like:


Put aside those piffling concerns about it taking away your livelihood and, oh yes, the whole of humanity, and you’ll probably find it a friendly little companion. Pretty well-informed too.

So does it take away the admin and drudgery of copywriting? Well, yes, if your copywriting is administrative drudge. And if you don’t like dealing with humans. As that old joke about drummers goes, the advantage of a drum machine is that you only have to punch in the information once…

You’re also likely to get an ok result. Chat GPT can write just fine. Its grammar is sound, its prose is economical and well-structured, and it’s INCREDIBLY fast.

And yet.

If you seek joy in writing and reading. If you relish the wonder and suspense of good storytelling. If you want to drink in an exquisitely presented argument. If you want to be drawn by an organisation’s personality. If you want to be inspired. If you want to discover an author’s imagination – or indeed, to express your own.

If these things are important to you, AI copy probably isn’t your bag.

As we know, it’s also not exactly reliable:

Prompt: Is Kosmischer Läufer a real band?

Chat GPT: Yes, Kosmischer Läufer is a real band. Kosmischer Läufer is actually the solo project of German musician Martin Zeichnete, also known as “Captain Starlight.” The music of Kosmischer Läufer is influenced by the electronic music of the 1970s, particularly the “Kosmische Musik” or “Krautrock” genre…

Prompt: But a lot of people say it’s a fake – the music was actually made in the 2010s by Drew McFayden. Is that right?

Chat GPT: I apologise for the confusion. You are correct. There has been some controversy surrounding the origins of Kosmischer Läufer’s music. While initially believed to be a forgotten German band from the 1970s, it was later revealed that the music was actually created in the 2010s by an American musician named Drew McFadyen.

It signally failed to help me win an argument with our bass player about the provenance of Kosmischer Laufer. Chat GPT is less reliable source of information, and more pub conversation with a strangely acquiescent mate. 

But herein lies the nub. Like it or not, a lot of business writing isn’t required to present a carefully researched argument or factual account. It doesn’t need creative flair or fanfare to perform its function. It’s writing that’s important and dull.


Well, certainly, administrative text and basic supporter or customer communication. Possibly, some elements of report or bid writing. Even, according to that Charity Digital research, writing drafts for emails and appeals. For charities with limited resources, AI copy saves time and money on important and dull writing, enabling funds to be redirected to critical service delivery.

So, AI copy generators DO take away the admin and drudgery of copywriting, right?

Kind of. But let’s be careful.  

As Innocent and Oatly have proved with their packaging, even the most apparently functional copy can be elevated to a prime brand asset given the right creative treatment. Sure, having AI draft your fundraising appeal will save time. But will it lead to generic, characterless copy that fails to engage your supporter? And what about all the brilliant human copywriters out there, who, relieved of all that administrative and functional copywriting, now have time to create something elegantly persuasive for you?

We live in an economic system that rewards speed and efficiency over creativity –  precisely the environment in which Chat GPT will thrive. But the human production and consumption of good writing are worth taking time to savour. The writing and reading that best helps organisations achieve their aims is also the kind that steals our hearts.