Back to Portfolio for the Future™

Unpacking ChatGPT: Applications for Social Impact Practitioners

April 12, 2023

By Melanie LeGrande, Co-founder of Iradonna Consulting, and Kari Hayden Pendoley, Founder of Impact Savvy.



Everywhere you turn, there it is.

ChatGPT. If you’re not talking about it, reading about it, or tinkering with it, you’re already behind. But what is it? And more importantly, for those of us in social impact and investing spaces, what does it mean for our work?

The program is not just a modernized internet search function or a smart robot friend. It is a complex tool that anyone with the internet can use every day to debate prep, improve productivity, eliminate tasks, write code, do homework, or break writer’s block. The artificial intelligence is mined from available information gathered prior to November 2021. While it processes and analyzes that data to generate responses within seconds, it does so without permission or credit to its sources. Data output, no matter how human-like and conversational it may be, is only as good as data input. Access and opportunity are what make ChatGPT special, but also potentially dangerous.

Sam Altman, CEO and Co-Founder of OpenAI, the company that developed ChatGPT, agrees. He tweeted on December 10, 2022: 

“ChatGPT is incredibly limited, but good enough at some things to create a misleading impression of greatness. It's a mistake to be relying on it for anything important right now. It’s a preview of progress; we have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness.”

So what does that mean?

If you are leading social impact investing, community engagement, philanthropy, sustainability, diversity equity and inclusion (DE&I), or environmental social and governance (ESG) programs, there are crucial elements to consider. AI and ChatGPT are powerful tools, but they’re rooted in the status quo. Whereas ESG and social impact work connects and breaks down complex issues to build a more just and equitable future. The human element in our work is critical and necessary.


  • ChatGPT will NOT replace how you’ve cultivated a community of grantee partners focused on environmental justice, but it can supply you with facts and figures to supplement your budget request.
  • ChatGPT will NOT spit out real-time investment grade ESG ratings, but it will help you gather the history of a company’s ESG commitments and connect that to their current actions.
  • ChatGPT will NOT show up to your volunteer event to mentor youth in financial literacy, but it may help you draft your invitation to employees to join the effort.
  • ChatGPT will NOT lead the roundtable at your next industry conference, but it can help you prep by generating potential questions from attendees.
  • ChatGPT is NOT going to facilitate your unconscious and implicit bias training, but it may help you check for bias in employee-focused communications or executive blog posts.

ChatGPT is a tool at our disposal, and like all the other tools in our life we should understand its use case and limitations. And there are limitations. Above all, we are responsible for ensuring the “who” and “why” of our work have a voice. We are the power behind creative, original, and dynamic thought. And only we can build authentic interpersonal connections and trust.

How have you navigated AI and ChatGPT? What have you learned? Use the comments section below to share your experiences.

DID YOU KNOW? OpenAI began as a nonprofit lab before becoming a for-profit enterprise. It still boasts a mission “to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity,” with a guiding principle “to avoid enabling uses of AI or AGI that harm humanity or unduly concentrate power.” (

*This title was workshopped in a hilarious set of back-and-forth prompts using ChatGPT.

About the Authors:

Kari Hayden Pendoley is the Founder of Impact Savvy a strategy firm bringing profit and purpose together for its ESG and DEIB clients.  Kari has worked with Fortune 5 companies, Nobel Laureates, Forbes Top 10 Self-Made Women, celebrated social entrepreneurs, and government agencies.  Kari is a National Diversity Council certified practitioner, a Board member, and a thought leader writing for industry blogs and speaking at events.


Melanie LeGrande is a transformative and inclusive leader with 20 years of experience in community engagement and philanthropy, leading strategy and execution in senior-level positions at Major League Baseball, Amazon Web Services, the National Football League's Baltimore Ravens, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation. She is the co-founder and CEO of Iradonna Consulting, a social impact consulting firm dedicated to building capacity for individuals, institutions, and corporations to better serve communities.