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By Drew Fox Jordan • January 9, 2020

Top 5 Ways AI and Machine Learning Are Changing How Nonprofits Fundraise

**This article was originally posted by our friends at Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider.**

Nonprofit fundraising is a fundamentally human enterprise. Nothing will ever replace the face-to-face coffee shop meetings, dinners with potential major gift donors, or flying out of town to deepen a relationship with a donor. But, when fundraisers and entire development departments are being asked to do more and more to fund their organizations’ change-the-world missions, how do you keep this personal, high-touch environment alive and continue to meet goals?

Is personalized relationship-building and outreach still achievable? Many organizations are finding the answer to be a resounding “yes” with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

Here are the top 5 ways AI and Machine Learning are already changing how nonprofits fundraise:

1) AI for action, not analysis

Analysis paralysis is very real in fundraising. Often, development officers sift through a paralyzing pile of reports, spreadsheets, and data that can stall donor and prospect outreach. Rather than creating problems for us, software should be eliminating hesitation for fundraisers so they can spend more time doing what they love: building relationships and securing meetings with donors.

AI software is already working on these problem areas in the nonprofit sector. For example, organizations like VIA Public Media use AI-powered fundraiser enablement to proactively suggest daily activities for gift officers that increase meetings, strengthen relationships, and inspire more gifts by understanding the organization’s data from potential donors. Because AI can scan a donor database in a way that mimics the cognitive functions of a seasoned gift officer, this also means that officers using AI are seeing amazing efficiencies that empower them to do the monumental, such as completing qualification work on 500+ prospects, while still maintaining a large primary portfolio.

2) AI-written emails

Traditionally, personalizing outreach required additional time and effort for fundraisers. That meant that it could come in conflict with the time it takes to achieve other fundraising goals. Beyond knowing who to reach out to and when, fundraisers also need to know why they should conduct outreach and what message they should convey to that specific potential donor. AI-written outreach empowers fundraisers to center their day on donor-facing activities. Rather than crafting a touchpoint from scratch, they simply have to edit touchpoints, written by AI, directly in their email inboxes. This AI-enabled process means that fundraisers are able to conduct personalized outreach quickly and efficiently. And, because Machine Learning is in play, the self-writing AI can learn from a fundraiser’s specific edits to mimic their writing style and tone in future suggested messages.

3) AI for Stewardship

Every nonprofit organization strives to thank donors for their gifts regardless of size or giving history. But when sheer volume is a variable, the process it takes to thank every donor can quickly fall apart.

How can you be sure that nobody else in the organization is sending a stewardship message to your donor? What if the gift wasn’t a major gift?

Not only can AI detect when a gift comes in and prompt a thank you note, it can also self-write that thank you for the fundraiser with personalized language.

4) AI for Travel

Many fundraisers get on the road (or on a plane) to inspire donors who aren’t close by. Researching where each donor lives, their business addresses, your organization’s last contact with the donor, and more is an extremely tedious task. AI can alert fundraisers to anchor and filler meetings that they should consider booking based on geography, which maximizes the efficiency of trips.

5) Expanding a Culture of Philanthropy

Many non-development staff people, senior leaders, subject matter experts, and administrators are eager to engage in fundraising activities that grow the resources and profile of their institution. However, managing a portfolio of donors and acting as a frontline fundraiser in that way is quite difficult to balance with the other demands of the job. AI allows non-traditional fundraisers to participate in fundraising efforts by recognizing when gifts are received, who they impact the most, and prompt timely and personalized stewardship messages.

AI and Machine Learning are already changing what’s possible in fundraising today. In fact, because AI technologies are having such a large impact across all sectors, it’s not a matter of if your organization will become AI-enabled, it’s only a matter of when.

When that decision is made, it’s important that your organization find fundraiser enablement tools, powered by AI that transform efficiency and productivity in ways that make fundraisers’ lives better, by helping them build more great relationships that lead to giving.

If you’re interested to learn more about opportunities for AI, have a look at the 2019 State of Artificial Intelligence in Advancement report, the first benchmark of this transformative technology in the social good sector.

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