By Kevin Leahy • May 6, 2019

Artificial Intelligence: Transforming What’s Possible in Fundraising

When most people think of a gift officer or frontline fundraiser, they probably think of someone who has a lot of emotional intelligence and the type of person who knows exactly how to speak to everyone in a given room. Left out of that image is the countless hours of work it takes to examine relationships and connect pieces of data together to have meaningful conversations. Balancing these two worlds is a difficult challenge, and often the difference that only elite fundraisers possess.

Placing What's Possible in Focus

Because the data resources held by nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions, and healthcare organizations are so rich, this precise intersection is also a great opportunity for fundraiser enablement tools, and AI to expand the working capacity of frontline fundraisers and entire advancement shops.

For example, your alma mater knows everything from your social interests to your food preferences – even your hat size from your graduation cap. Nonprofit organizations and hospitals know about volunteer habits, philanthropic affinities, and more. This is the type of data that most for-profit companies could only dream of having. And, this is the type of training data that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can use to replicate the cognitive functions of fundraisers who previously had to balance a dual-life: one dominated by spreadsheets, the other by donor-facing relationships.

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David Woodruff, Associate Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Resource Development at MIT, and member of the AI in Advancement Advisory Council (AAAC) put this into perspective when he asked the audience at Open Data Science East, “If you were going to ask the person next to you for money, what would you want them to know?” Answers to questions like this are precisely why frontline fundraisers spend so much time analyzing data – to ensure they have the message right before appealing to potential donors.

AI: Expanding Fundraiser Capacity

By asking artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to work around the clock, scouring a fundraiser’s data resources, fundraiser enablement tools are answering these types of questions for frontline fundraisers. As a result, fundraisers are expanding their working capacities to build more relationships with more donors by two-to-three times, because they spend less time analyzing data. What could your fundraisers do if they suddenly had the working capacity to inspire more gifts, at scale?

College of Charleston

Chris Tobin, Executive Director of the College of Charleston (CofC) Foundation, uses Gravyty’s AI fundraiser enablement tools to help CofC reach more rated but unassigned prospects, improve fundraiser efficiency, and accelerate giving. He explains that AI goes hand-in-hand with how his fundraisers work, stating, “Our team isn’t replaced by AI, but rather enhanced by it––making better, sharper, quicker decisions.”

AI: Expanding Workforces

Organizations like CofC are systematically using AI to improve fundraiser efficiency, across the board. As a result, the entire fundraising team is seeing a boost. CofC has a 15-person fundraising staff that’s on pace to do the relationship building work of a staff of 39. That’s a 160 percent workforce expansion, without making an additional hire.

University of Delaware

Similarly, the University of Delaware looked to AI to scale the capacity of its fundraising staff to build more personal relationships with donors, while growing pipeline. In a Gravyty case study, Jim Dicker, Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations at the university confirmed his team of 20 fulltime fundraisers were on pace to develop 8,526 additional relationships with donors over the course of 12 months – representing a 150 percent expansion of the fundraising workforce.

Without question, AI has an important role to play in the world of fundraising. Through increased fundraiser capacity and efficiency, your team is empowered to fundraise smarter and faster, and strive toward new goals and markers of success that were previously thought impossible.

To learn more about how Gravyty’s fundraiser enablement tools can expand your workforce, request a demo.

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