In the world of grant writing, where precision, persuasion, and attention to detail are critical, using innovative technologies effectively can help streamline your writing process. And we all want things to be streamlined and easier, don’t we?
An advanced language model that offers assistance in crafting grant responses. I say it ‘offers assistance’ because ChatGPT (at least, the version available right now) is a useful tool. It’s not, however, the answer to all our prayers. Read on as we explore the benefits of using ChatGPT for grant writing and its current limitations.
Firstly, for those who haven’t quite caught up – what is ChatGPT?
Well, I asked the chatbot to explain itself and how it works (in 75 words or less) and here’s what it told me…
“ChatGPT is an advanced language model developed by OpenAI. It has been trained on a large amount of information and internet data, which allows it to generate human-like text responses based on given prompts. However, it does not have direct access to the entire internet or real-time information. Its responses are based on patterns and information it learned during training, up until its knowledge cut-off date.”
Now, as in life, the answers you get depend heavily on the questions you ask. The key takeaways from the chatbot’s response to my question are these:
– it generates ‘human-like’ responses based on given prompts and patterns and information it’s been trained on
– it doesn’t currently have real-time access to the internet or information beyond its knowledge cut-off date.
This poses several important considerations for volunteers and grant writers using AI to help craft application responses.
1. How do you frame questions or give good instructions to get useful responses?
2. Is the information being generated useful and up-to-date?
3. How to know if the information generated is entirely accurate and creditable?
If you’re writing smaller, straightforward applications that require minimal research and justification, ChatGPT can be a highly useful tool with many time-saving benefits. However, when tackling larger and more complex grants that demand strategic positioning and contemporary evidence to support your case, the utility of ChatGPT becomes more limited.
Based on my testing, here are the 5 key benefits of using Chat GPT to help craft grant responses:
1. Improved efficiency: ChatGPT can automate time-consuming tasks such as proofreading, summarising, formatting and (some) research. It may provide valuable insights from successful grant proposal examples or help you quickly understand best practices or trends in certain industries. Time saved on writing and research can allow you to focus more on critical consultation, strategy, and positioning.
2. Getting you started: Writer’s block? Don’t know where to begin or what points to make? With good direction, ChatGPT can give you some useful ideas for content or quickly draft responses to simple questions. It offers general information and leaves room for you to personalise the response with specific details, making it more accurate for your organization or project. You can add the human touch and personalised context.
3. Improved writing structure: ChatGPT can improve language structure and help organise information effectively, particularly for longer responses and attachments. It can help you prepare well-structured paragraphs, capability statements, or reports by assisting with content, information flow, clarity, and coherence.
4. Language customisation: With clear instructions, ChatGPT can adapt the language and tone of its writing; re-write your own text; or match the writing styles needed for formal government grants or more casual community-based programs. It may also help align responses with the specific requirements and priorities of funders; or add that bit of extra polish if you ask it to.
5. Grammar, editing, word count: ChatGPT provides valuable proofreading and editing support, identifying grammar errors and offering suggestions to improve sentence structure and readability. It can help individuals who struggle to express their ideas clearly; chunk-down information into bullet points; or quickly summarise or reduce word count when you’re over the limit.
But what do you need to watch out for?
At the moment, these are the most apparent limitations:
1. It has limited access to real-time information: ChatGPT’s knowledge bank currently cuts off at September 2021. It can’t retrieve the latest information from online sources, your website, or social media. This affects its research capabilities and the relevance of the information it provides.
2. It has limited contextual understanding: ChatGPT produces ‘human-like’ responses, but lacks human thought processes. It can’t fully grasp subtleties such as context or intent. Human expertise is crucial to interpreting and ensuring nuance, accuracy, and relevance in the generated responses.
3. It lacks domain-specific knowledge: ChatGPT is trained in a wide range of text styles including response writing, but it has no knowledge of your organisation, current grant programs, or recent funding trends. It doesn’t understand you, so it generalises content and can sound bland and non-specific. It’s unlikely to be familiar with the latest guidelines, regulations or specific requirements of grant programs across sectors.
4. It sometimes makes things up: Yes, you read that correctly… ChatGPT may occasionally produce responses that sound plausible but aren’t factually accurate. It doesn’t intentionally make things up, but it has no ability to understand the information it’s been trained on, so it can’t independently verify facts. It may also get things wrong based on limitations in its training data or data biases. Incorrect information can be harmful to your credibility when seeking funding.
5. Time saved can be time lost: Because of the limitations already discussed, it’s important to tailor all information to your organisation’s context; independently fact-check and verify information obtained from ChatGPT using reliable and authoritative sources; and employ critical thinking and cross-referencing to ensure information accuracy and validity.
Considering these limitations, it’s important to consider AI programs like ChatGPT as writing tools rather than replacements for skilled grant writers, whether volunteer or professional.
Grant assessors are already noticing a difference between AI-generated responses and well-thought-out human responses. While the future remains uncertain, human expertise, judgment, and the ability to think strategically are still crucial when writing strong and compelling grant applications. In the competitive race for funding, where standing out is imperative, the value of human reasoning, nuance and strategic thought simply can’t be overlooked.
By the way, I asked ChatGPT to help me write this – then I re-wrote it. 😉