Getting started with AI in Fundraising

With insight from the 2023 Digital Fundraising Summit Executive Panel, newscaster Charity Digital examine how charity fundraisers can take their first steps with Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now starting to be used and have an impact in various aspects of our lives. In some form or another it’s coming into our businesses, our lifestyle, and even in our daily interactions.

Used properly, AI has that ability to analyse data, recognise patterns, and make independent decisions which are redefining the way we live and work.

But the idea of using AI-driven tools in our jobs as charity fundraisers? That sounds like it would be very technical and complicated for most non-profits to put in place, right? However, Charity Digital state that putting it in place can be simple enough, and within reach for even the smallest of organisations.

Using AI to create Monthly Donations
Creating regular month-on-month giving is an important activity but a challenge for many charities, because finding donors - and even keeping them – is never easy and can be a costly effort.

Many charities already have a solid base of supporters who take part in their activities like annual giving, volunteering, or events, so they already have a connection with that charity’s cause.

It is those supporters who could be excellent prospects for conversion to monthly giving. But a charity needs to know where to look.

AI could be used to predict and decide how likely these supporters are to converting to monthly giving. It can also be used to aim a charity’s efforts towards those specific supporters, and so help make more on their monthly giving targets without paying any excess cost.

Using AI to Increase Cash Giving
Appeals are another part of a charity’s fundraising work, but they can sometimes be run in a way which is not making the most of their efforts, or sometimes ask the wrong amount from the wrong type of supporter.

Again, AI could be used to create a better approach to a charity’s appeal, to make sure they get the best amount from the right type of donor, which can include:
  • Helping to find additional donors for each appeal that are more likely to give
  • Using it to improve on ask amounts for a better overall return
  • Identifying donors more likely to give large gifts so you can ‘upgrade’ their ask
  • Predicting the best channel or platform to use to contact a given individual for better response, and
  • It could help identify donors who are more likely to convert into mid-level, major, or long-term giving arrangements
A charity that understands which donor is the most likely to take which action has the potential to better communicate with their supporters, which ultimately would lead to more gifts.

Using AI to Reduce Expenses and Save Time
Mailshots, email campaigns, mailshots, calling supporters, mailshots. Sometimes, the exercise of sending communications to as many people as possible to avoid missing out on potential gifts does pay off.

But the trade-off can be in a large amount of money being wasted on mail, emails and calls to people who have no likelihood of responding. It can also run the risk of alienating supporters by asking for too much too often.

Using AI to create donor scoring - recognising patterns in donor data to make recommendations on who would be most likely to make a gift – can lead to better personalisation and target the right donor at the right time in those intended giving seasons.

Normally, charity fundraisers could spend hours (and in some cases days) trying to figure out which supporters to include in which campaign.

The use of AI can make these tasks become automated and be better targeted, allowing fundraisers to then focus on the more strategic and creative tasks of their job.

The Safety Issue
The possibilities and prospects for AI will continue to grow, but to reduce the risks that come with this new tech, it’s important to set some ground rules before a charity starts trialing any available tools.

A charity should have some clear guidelines for what their people can use and how, with NO personal data to be used, and there should always be oversight and cross-checking activities for anything AI is used to create.

As an example, the use of AI could be a great starting point to get that first written draft to help with a fundraising effort, or to help a charity finetune or improve on a work process or activity.

But ultimately - everything AI creates still needs that opportunity for human input and MUST be reviewed.

Covering the aspects shown above and more, plus with incite from the Executive Panel of the 2023 Digital Fundraising Summit, newscaster Charity Digital explore how charity fundraisers can take their first steps with Artificial Intelligence.

From talking to others about how they are using it, to understanding the AI tools they intend to use, they explore the steps charity fundraisers should take to respond to the arrival of AI.

To read the guidance, visit the Charity Digital website.