By Jennifer London • June 15, 2021

    Am l AI?

    My friend Newly (not her real name) loves the latest. Fashion, media, tech, if it's new, she's gotta have it. I tend to be more of an old soul. Classic, known, tried and true, that's my style. So how do I find myself as an enthusiastic representative for Gravyty, a company using cutting-edge AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning to promote social good?

    As a longtime organizational development professional rooted in the "moves management" approach, I was impressed by how this technology enhances donor interactions. These are the precious, personal relationships nonprofits nurture with their supporters. Relationships are the essence of the human touch and are the fundraiser's stock-in-trade. AI? Me? Am I AI?

    Am l AI?

    My pal Newly learned about AI early. If you know the deal too, skip ahead. If you are still tuning in to the magic of this technology as it relates to development, read on. What is AI in this case? Why does it have that awful word artificial? What's intelligent about it? What the heck is machine learning and why would gift officers, DODs VPs, CDOs, CEOs, EDs, and anyone responsible for philanthropy need it?  

    Am l AI?

    Gravyty's unique AI platform applies the human thought process to donor data. Think of it as a digital concierge, someone at the front desk of your database who manages housekeeping and sightseeing and knows just when you need an umbrella or a taxi. If your fundraising role is a cruise (if only it were), this is the cruise director who knows the ship and all the local stops sets you up for a successful day of activities. This is the unobtrusive, tireless assistant you always wanted but never knew existed.

    For frontline fundraisers like me, Gravyty automates the repetitive tasks which eat into our day and delay us from taking action because we're sifting through donor records and considering the next moves. Gravyty is not a database, but leverages the record system already in place, whether that's Blackbaud, Salesforce, or what have you. Gravyty puts the best person to reach out to right in front of us, one donor at a time; patiently waits for us to make a move (call, write or pass); matches our pace; and then puts the next best person in front of us with, wait for it, a personalized First Draft of an email or appropriate talking points for a call.

    How intelligent is that? But wait there's more. Gravyty then records our action back to the database, a task that at best takes time and at worst gets pushed off (aka never happens). Oh, and machine learning technology picks up our writing style and adapts accordingly. Oh, and it drafts real-time thank you notes and birthday greetings too.

    The results of adding AI assistive technology to our development operations? More contact with a greater number of prospects and more accurate record-keeping that engenders more frequent and more personalized touches in the virtuous circle of outreach we development folks aim for every day.

    I may not be the world leader in innovative tech, but, here's what I do know: the nonprofit space is all about connecting. Our missions are designed to help individuals and families, to strengthen communities, to protect our planet, to bring us closer to the divine, to feed, to heal, to educate, to protect, to inspire, and to advance great ideas. Donors dream of making the world a better place and enact their dreams with their gifts. Fundraisers exist to facilitate that enactment. Anything that makes those connection points more easily managed, more authentic and more numerous can hardly be considered artificial but rather all too real and of real inherent value.

    AI enhancement of development outreach makes sense to me on a gut level and an intellectual level. I believe every organization needs these tools, just as they need skilled and talented human beings to make use of the tools. Despite my cautious ways, I bought into AI to the point of taking a break from leading development teams in order to help my advancement colleagues across the nonprofit sector to embrace Gravyty as the new normal.

    Am l AI?

    If your organization seeks to strengthen how well and how often you engage your stakeholders, I encourage you to see Gravyty in action. If you find the whole concept off-putting or slightly overwhelming, I get it. You can ignore AI today, but I believe its widespread adoption will happen around you, and eventually, you will reach the tipping point of acceptance. I say this with love because this is how I adopted the smartphone, Netflix, Airbnb, eyelash serum, and Ugg boots. Unlike my gal pal Newly, I didn't rush to embrace these trends. They penetrated my consciousness slowly and grabbed me at the "everyone is already doing this what's up with you" stage. (In the world of new ideas, I'm affectionately known as a laggard.) I predict the use of AI as a best practice and a “development shop must-have” will continue to permeate our field. The decision is whether to jump now or watch your peers from a safe distance and wait for the pain of change to feel less acute. If that sounds snarky, I promise it's not. Overthinking is my middle name. If I can grab onto this, you can too.

    If I can be a resource for you, connect with me I will shower you with validation wherever you are in your understanding. Please know that I still write letters with pen and paper and I shy away from velcro. I get you, my friend, and if you are like Newly, bounding toward what's next and dragging your old-school boss/peers/staff into the now, I get you too.

    It turns out, I am AI. Are you?

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