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Cecelia Poplin By Cecelia Poplin • December 3, 2018

The Promise of Data Falls Flat Without Action

In the past 20 years, the fundraising industry has been transformed by technology. That is to say, the tools in use go far beyond Rolodexes and call logs, and our desks are increasingly mobile. But I’d venture to say that the industry hasn’t advanced very far because of technology, and it certainly has not become as efficient as we’d hoped. It’s not for a lack of trying, it’s for a lack of understanding on how to use data.

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Wealth screenings, on-demand prospect research tools, modeling & analytics, CRMs – the list goes on. This collective toolset, designed to collect and analyze data, is what most fundraisers have come to rely on. But these tools only get fundraisers so far. What’s missing is the explicit instruction on how to act on the outputs of tools.

All the data in the world is worthless if we aren’t looking at it, if it isn’t in a format we can use to inform our decisions, and, most importantly, if we don’t act on it!

How long does it take frontline fundraisers to act on the entirety of their portfolios? Are they engaging with 45, 60, 70 percent of the donors and prospects in the portfolio? What about the other 30-55 percent that’s not engaged? What about those “secondary portfolios” of potential donors that are never engaged?

Could those donors enable your organization to feed another 1,000 people, provide fresh drinking water to a third world village, deliver disaster relief supplies to a community destroyed by a tsunami, or give an underprivileged person a chance?

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In the nonprofit community, we have compiled a massive amount of great data and stored it in a number of CRMs, but they’re not growing at the same rate of the spend. The industry has created a wonderful system of record. So if data is the future, what is the disconnect? A System of Action.

The next technology that nonprofits are embracing is AI – Artificial Intelligence. Why? Because AI is considering all of the data at a frontline fundraiser’s disposal and prescribing action. With AI, rather than being consumed by data, frontline fundraisers are enabled to build more relationships with supporters.

What can AI do for fundraising? AI makes use of the data nonprofits have bought and paid for and answers the questions locked away in that data. It allows frontline fundraisers to engage with more donors and prospects, communicate in a meaningful and purposeful way, with the goal of meeting and exceeding the nonprofit’s annual contributions goal.

Take FINCA International, for example. FINCA is a global organization that’s helped 2.1 million clients establish a livelihood to support their families, created 1.3 million jobs in poor communities through small business growth, and has empowered 4.4 million women through access to credit since 1985. As FINCA explained in a Gravyty webinar, AI has doubled the efficiency of its fundraising team, effectively extending the workforce to ensure these amazing initiatives continue to get the support they need.

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To learn more about the organizations and leaders who are already taking action with AI, check out the AI in Advancement Advisory Council (AAAC).