By Kevin Leahy • June 12, 2020

    Recession Proof Fundraising with Artificial Intelligence

    The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the global stock market into turmoil. The Federal Reserve cut interest rates down to near zero in response to the economic impact of the disease, with no indication of when they will be raised again. Record unemployment numbers have slowed consumer spending. The United States economy is officially in a recession.

    Stock Market Frustration

    Think back to The Great Recession of 2008/2009. It was devastating for many organizations and individuals. Millions lost jobs and nonprofits struggled to survive as donors reduced giving. While some foundations and high net worth individuals stepped up giving because they saw a need, overall giving declined significantly. A 2012 Stanford University report found that giving during The Great Recession fell by $41.7 billion.


    Is your nonprofit organization prepared to continue fundraising in a down economy?

    Nonprofit organizations have one advantage that wasn’t available to them in 2008. In 2020, organizations have artificial intelligence (AI), which offers a recession-proof model for fundraising that not only weathers but also thrives in difficult economic times. 

    Here are three ways AI can empower your organization with sustainable and recession-proof fundraising:

    1. AI expands the workforce without increasing headcount.
    Talent is a large problem in a recession. Where this hits advancement the most is that entire fundraising teams could be asked to “do more” with the same or less headcount than they currently have. Fundraiser enablement tools, powered by AI, have proven that they can expand the fundraising workforce by more than 3x, without making additional hires.


    With one major gift fundraiser empowered by AI, VIA made personal appeals to 675 donors and prospects, expanding its workforce by a factor of 3.39x, without making an additional hire, all in less than 12 weeks. Revenue goals for gifts from existing donors, as well as new donors, were exceeded in less than one fiscal year.

    2. AI unlocks the potential to reach more donors and prospects with personalized touch points to grow pipeline.
    When the economy is humming along, AI has proven to be of significant value in identifying and creating areas of opportunity within a prospect/donor base. The value of these outcomes is amplified in a recession when gifts are even harder to come by.


    To whom should you direct your major gift cultivation energies to today and tomorrow? What about over the long term? AI fundraiser enablement tools can help leadership execute on their strategy by helping major gift officers make these decisions quickly and accurately. This efficient AI-enabled method runs in stark contrast to the hours that many frontline fundraisers spend making sense of CRM data and spreadsheets and increases the time they spend on building donor-facing relationships. In fact, this method also helps to discover previously ignored prospects that can prove to be major gift donors.

    3. AI-enabled stewardship ensures all donors are personally recognized for their impact and unveils hidden opportunities.
    Stewardship is an extremely important part of the gift-giving process that even the most advanced organizations have trouble with. How do you ensure that the donor behind each gift, regardless of size, is personally thanked and shown their impact to your organization? And, in a slower economy, how do you prioritize this gratitude when the majority of activity revolves around cultivating current major donors?


    Through AI, personalized stewardship at scale can be realized. And, there have been many documented cases where a stewardship prompt from AI for a small gift has led to a six-figure major gift. For example, Jodi Zerbe, Director of Annual Giving at Northern Kentucky University, used Gravyty Stewardship, an AI-enabled tool, to thank a donor who made a $100 phonathon gift. To her surprise, that $100 gift quickly turned into a $100,000 planned gift and a $50,000 major gift. This connection may have been missed if it was not for fundraiser enablement tools, powered by AI. These are precisely the connections that organizations cannot afford to miss during a recession.

    The timing of a looming recession is always a matter of debate. However, when the next one hits, won’t you be glad that your nonprofit organization has a recession-proof technology in artificial intelligence?

    AI can help your organization get out in front before indicators turn to 20/20 hindsight and drive you to execute on strategy amidst a recession. 

    Schedule a demo today.

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