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By Adam Martel & Jim Dicker • June 5, 2018

Taking Charge and Embracing Change: How the University of Delaware will Implement Artificial Intelligence to Drive Increased Activity for Frontline Fundraisers

By Jim Dicker, University of Delaware Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations and Adam Martel, Co-founder and CEO of Gravyty Technologies.

A huge thank you to our partners at Washburn & McGoldrick, LLC for introducing the UD and Gravyty teams.

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The University of Delaware (UD) development office has been highly successful lately. In 2017, our team far exceeded its goal for the year by November, and could be coasting given that success. Instead, we decided to use the momentum to get ahead of the curve and move to a new level by using Gravyty’s fundraising software, powered by artificial intelligence.

Although Delaware is a small state, the school is relatively large, with 23,000 students, 18,000 of whom are undergraduates. Because the University is organized around 7 colleges and schools, but does not include professional schools, the Development office has built relationships primarily around these 7 colleges. This has provided the gift officers a unique opportunity.

 

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Anticipating Change

 

The team at UD has been working together for some time and has instituted practices that work well for us. Introducing a new tool is a major change, especially when it uses leading-edge technology, like artificial intelligence. However, it isn’t every day in the fundraising world that development professionals have the opportunity to be highly innovative with new products and technologies, which was one of the appealing aspects of Gravyty. Like most institutions of higher education, the University faces continuing competition for resources and every department has a strong case for why they should be awarded resources over their colleagues. Gravyty will help UDel fundraisers interact with donors in a way that is thoughtful, personal and impactful and, most importantly, at a scale never before possible with traditional technology.

We think that fundraisers will like First Draft because it doesn’t require extra effort, simply making day-to-day tasks easier. Scaling it up is also easy, so that the talents of seasoned fundraisers can be maximized and more of their time can be spent inspiring donors to make gifts.

 

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The Long-term Strategy

A successful fundraising strategy is a “long game.” Gift officers who are starting out in fundraising are encouraged to influence young alumni to get into the habit of making a gift as soon as possible after graduation because studies show that once donors consistently give, they’re more likely to continue. While that’s an accepted rule of thumb in our business, a recent study looked at donors who had gifted $1M and upwards, and found that they did not begin giving until they were about 39 years old. However,  they were engaged through other methods, proving that these small interactions with alumni and donors over the years make a difference. It may be simply something that someone reads in an alumni magazine or email today, that counts down the line.

First Draft is all about personal engagement at scale and helping fundraisers build long-term relationships. That is another reason the UD team is embracing this opportunity and the changes it will bring to relationship building with prospects and donors.

Defining Success

 

We strongly believe that using Gravyty will lead to an increase of revenue, as well as productivity because it will allow everyone to do more with less, a rare achievement in our business. In the beginning, we hope to see progress with other key metrics, such as attendance at events and meetings set with potential donors.

If new prospects aren’t brought into the pipeline and primed to be donors, then the team can easily look ahead and predict that there is an issue to be addressed by the University and Gravyty. Moreover, the team will be looking at donor relations in the coming months and also the quality of the team’s day-to-day activities using the First Draft product.

AI is going to transform how we’re living our lives, so it’s only natural to expect that it will change fundraising as well.  We know that AI is a game changer and the University of Delaware intends to manage that change rather than be overwhelmed by it.