By Kevin Leahy • February 25, 2019

College of Charleston's Chris Tobin: Integrated Advancement, Artificial Intelligence, & Expanding the Reach of Advancement

 College of Charleston Executive Vice President of Institutional Advancement, and Executive Director of the College of Charleston Foundation, Chris Tobin spoke to a packed crowd at the CASE District III Annual Conference, alongside Gravyty Co-founder and CEO, Adam Martel. In his presentation, Chris posed a foundational question to the crowd: "How do we grow Advancement?"

 Chris Tobin and Adam Martel, CASE DIII
The vision Chris outlined for growth in the industry revolves around up-leveling the work of Advancement beyond the transactional functions of fundraising. As he explained, there's a rapidly changing environment right now within philanthropy. Expectations and financial pressures are rightfully increasing across the board. Therefore, Advancement shops are tasked to innovate – seek technology and solutions that help fundraisers do their jobs better and more efficiently. Leaders like Chris are working to ensure that as these pressures build up, Advancement is not seen as an ATM for an organization, but a strategic partner that expands the organization's mission.

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 A New Vision: Integrated Advancement

To ensure that Advancement is seen as a strategic partner, Chris proposed what he calls Integrated Advancement.

Integrated Advancement, as he described, goes back to the roots of philanthropy – allowing relationships to drive fundraising. Other guiding principles include teamwork, aligning philanthropy to organizational goals, and understanding today's donor-investor.

An Integrated Advancement approach begins with Advancement adopting the role of identifying and building relationships that align an organization's strategic goals to its donors' passions. In this way, Advancement professionals work as consultants and facilitators. Rather than relying solely on those who are traditionally tasked with fundraising to own every aspect of stewarding a gift, the Advancement professional also works with – or seeks out – organizations leaders who are the best advocates of the needs of the organization and can show the impact of a gift.

Chris Tobin and Adam Martel CASE DIII (2)

Integrated Advancement & Artificial Intelligence

Chris also explained how artificial intelligence technology makes Integrated Advancement possible. Artificial intelligence has helped College of Charleston increase productivity "the right way, for the right reasons," described Chris.

As we all know, there's an industry-wide shortage of experienced fundraising talent. Yet, at the same time, there's a need for building more deep relationships. How do those opposing trends work themselves out?

Through Gravyty's AI-enabled Fundraising tools, Chris and his team have been able to fundamentally change how frontline fundraisers work. Previously, fundraisers were spending large amounts of time reviewing data and reports. However, AI-enabled tools have helped a staff of 15 frontline fundraisers increase efficiency, penetrate more deeply into pools of highly-rated unassigned prospects, create an easier discovery process to change behavior, and expand a culture of philanthropy to other campus leaders who can help build relationships with donors.

Results of Integrated Advancement & Artificial Intelligence

By the numbers, with Integrated Advancement, artificial intelligence, and Gravyty, College of Charleston’s 15 frontline fundraisers are working like a full-time staff of 39, a 160 percent improvement. Additionally, these fundraisers moved through their existing portfolios in three weeks, and are on pace to contact 5,300 potential donors. This work has also strengthened the relationship between Advancement Services and Fundraisers.

The session was truly inspiring and we're honored that the forward-thinking team at CASE District III saw how technology like artificial intelligence can build a strategic foundation for concepts like Integrated Advancement and expanding the reach of Advancement teams.

For more information on how College of Charleston is expanding its Advancement team with artificial intelligence, see our case study, below.


College Of Charleston_Case Study Front Page