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AI – a golden future for fundraising

Guest Blogger | 11 March 2024 | Blogs

An illustration depicting AI - including a brain shape of neural networks on a computer circuit board by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

The buzzword of the past year, AI may seem relatively new but in fact it’s already been around for a long time. It’s there if you use Siri or Alexa, or look at the recommendations served up by everything from Netflix to your Waitrose app. All of these are examples of machine learning algorithms looking for patterns in your past behaviour in order to provide you with something relevant.

The real turning point we’re at now is that charities are finally getting solutions built specifically to help them fundraise more effectively.

With charities facing an unprecedented number of challenges at the moment, many of which look set to continue indefinitely, this is great timing. To survive this ongoing storm, charities need to find smarter, different, fresher ways of working and achieving their goals, and AI-powered tools can help.


An introduction to AI for charity professionals by Ross Angus

Of course there is always an element of risk that comes with investing in something new, but by following a few key steps – from doing your research, to sticking to best fundraising practice, and working with expert partners – it can be managed. And the impact can be exponential.

Many charities are already dipping their toes in the water, using AI to improve their fundraising efficiency and effectiveness. In fact, we’ve seen our customer base increase dramatically over the last year, and are currently working with around 200 charities of all shapes and sizes across the UK and beyond. They’ve got one big thing in common – an understanding that if they’re going to see real growth and development in their fundraising programmes, they need to be able to extract more meaning and value from their donor data.

Solving fundraisers’ big challenges

The most efficient and effective way of doing that is through using AI. For fundraising, it’s an incredibly powerful tool. And that’s exactly what it is – a tool that’s there to help, rather than replace, fundraisers and empower them to do more good. Charities already using it are seeing the benefits of improved efficiencies, ROI and impact.

But how? In fact, AI is helping in a number of ways. Machine learning has been around for a long time, helping to analyse large datasets to find patterns and trends, and predict outcomes, with predictive AI identifying who to contact, when, how, and with what message.

Generative AI and Large Language models (tools like ChatGPT) are being used to create first drafts of content at speed, or improve existing ones – from funding bids to email copy for appeals to specific audiences, saving time and improving results.

AI-powered solutions are also proving invaluable in taking over some of those more laborious (yet vital) tasks, like data crunching and admin processes that can eat up hours of the fundraiser’s time.

How Dataro helps

At Dataro, we’re helping charities through tools like AI Assist: our fundraising content assistant that helps fundraisers create campaign & donor content in just a few clicks, and our propensity modelling tool Dataro Predict, which uses machine learning to analyse historic donor data, and find patterns and trends that can be used to predict how donors are likely to behave in the future.

By harnessing AI’s powers of data analysis and prediction, content generation and process automation, fundraisers can achieve what they’re already achieving but faster and with better results – building stronger supporter relationships, bringing in more income, and freeing up valuable time.

But this is just the start. AI is developing all the time, and in the future, it will help fundraisers even more.

Think back to how AI is already being used by retail and media brands – it’s this tech that Dataro’s tools are helping to bring to the nonprofit world, but the future of fundraising with AI will go far beyond this. The future will see charities’ communications truly targeted to the individual, not just to groups that look the same, thanks to insights gained on their behaviour – moving charities away from larger volume segment-based targeting to talking to supporters as the individuals they are, based on their individual behaviour.

A golden future

What AI tools will ultimately enable in the not-too-distant future is a world where fundraisers are able to build an entire journey around each individual donor, figuring out when the best time is to ask that donor to increase their support by giving again, or giving more, or becoming a monthly donor. That donor will ultimately be on their own unique journey where they’re engaged in a way that is best for them – serving them the right opportunity, with the right content, at the right times, rather than part of a segment of thousands of donors that we assume all feel and behave and want the same things.

Appeals is a great example. Lots of charities reach out to donors in the spring, summer and at Christmas, but with AI-powered tools, the opportunity is there to target people at times more relevant to them and how they choose to support you, helping them to feel like the valued individual they are.

Reducing churn is another way AI can help, through identifying which donors are at risk at any given time. John Roberts, for example, might be flagged as someone whose churn risk has just breached a certain critical threshold, automatically triggering a well-timed communication sharing the impact of their recent giving and thanking them for their support. In tandem with other technologies such as digital print, this kind of individualised communication becomes cost-effective.

And of course, greater automation of processes like these will also take some of the load off the shoulders of fundraisers and data teams – and all whilst improving effectiveness. This is the golden future of fundraising that we’re so excited about.

The time to act is now!

AI really does present an incredible opportunity for fundraisers and charities alike. For the over-stretched, time-poor fundraiser it can support key tasks and improve their working life. For charities, it’s a route to building stronger relationships with supporters that improve donor retention, bringing in more income, and improving processes and impact to make the world a better place.

As it develops and more charities embrace it, AI is also fast becoming the new standard in fundraising. Now then is the time to be working out where it can help your charity and taking those first steps – or next steps – in implementing it!

John Roberts, Head of Sales (UK), Dataro

John Roberts is Head of Sales (UK) at Dataro