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    By Drew Fox Jordan • September 22, 2020

    It's Time To Rethink Personalized Outreach At Scale

    In these uncertain times, all nonprofits are being asked to do more with less. Annual giving programs, in particular, have lost key tools due to staffing shortages, the inability to hold phonathons that meet PCI compliance, the lack of in-person events, spending cuts for direct mail programs, and more. 

    Fundraisers will need to get creative to bolster their donor pipeline as some donors have lost the ability to give due to an unstable economy, or the changing profile of what an ideal giving prospect looks like. Many organizations look to annual fund donors with the hopes of finding their next major donors in that pool. But despite having a group of donors already interested in supporting your organization, many annual fund donors never receive a personal touch from a fundraisers like a thank you letter. We all know that people give to people, but what happens when people don't have the capacity to connect with more prospects?

    rethinkoutreachatscale

    Donors will feel compelled to give if it's a one-to-one relationship and someone is reaching out for them asking for their support. But how can a team of five fundraisers focus on retention and grow our participation ratings by having personal relationships with thousands of annual fund donors? You will need to be able to build relationships through personal touchpoints at a large scale.

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    For example, a donor that gave to a specific fund wouldn't receive the same stewardship message as someone who has been giving for five consecutive years. Donors want to know that their gift is making a difference, but with generic thank you messages, the value of their donation isn't being conveyed. Without a personal touchpoint, those donors will never elevate past their current giving level, or worse yet, stop giving. 

    So how do we approach the idea of being able to personally thank every donor that gives, then continue to have a relationship with them in hopes that they may increase their gift or give in different ways like a planned gift? Virginia Tech is using artificial intelligence (AI) to address these gaps for their fundraising teams — keeping donors informed, making gift asks, and preventing donor churn.

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    From an advancement perspective, tens of thousands of these alumni and friends are rated for giving, but unassigned to individual gift officers. Human capacity simply limits the institution's ability to build personal relationships in this way, at scale. Through adequate and deliberate touchpoints with alumni and friends with AI, Virginia Tech is challenging what the advancement industry has thought possible to date to inspire gifts at scale and change what's possible.
     

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