AI will eventually become your best development asset, perhaps even your new director. It will provide more accurate prospect data, reduce missed opportunities and make automated messages feel human.
The future of fundraising is going to see systems that identify and understand in real time when a potential donor is primed to be asked to give. Whether that ask will be delivered online via a bot, or an alert is sent to an organization’s representative to realize the gift in person, we should expect big things from this game changing technology.
So how would it work? Think wealth research platforms like Donor Lead or Wealth Engine on steroids. All of the publicly available information such as charitable gifts, political donations, business interests and real estate absorbed into one platform and then layered with your browsing history to add more context and personalization. We will then see the creation of new donor ‘psychology’ profiles, and once fused with AI, will become a dynamic process where the understanding of that donor’s interests, passions and motivations will become even more refined each time they log-on to the internet.
The catalyst for this future can be drawn back to the recent Congressional repeal of historic FCC installed privacy protections, which gives Internet Service Providers (ISPs) an easier path to collecting and selling you web browsing info and app usage. But it’s not the repeal that will set the wheels in motion for this revolution in donor cultivation, instead it will be the inevitable push back from consumers wanting to take back control of their own data, especially in a world where their digital footprint has real monetary worth yet they are not allowed to share in its inherent value.
A wholly conceivable future is one which will see legislation introduced (or a Supreme Court ruling in favor of an individual or group) that will duly recognize the private ownership of an individual’s digital activities, actions, and communications. Once people are in control of their data then they will then be in a position to sell these unique data sets themselves and this is when things get disproportionately interesting and valuable (heavy on the interest FYI…sorry folks, but you won’t be making millions from your hours browsing Amazon and Etsy).
Personal data marketplaces will soon become commonplace online and will facilitate the selling of data to interested parties which will then feed these platforms of the future. These marketplaces are now popping up online (platforms such as DataCoup and CitizenMe) but are not at a stage of maturation where individuals are partnered with retailers, banks, and your local nonprofit. But imagine a place where your bank accounts, social media and windows/chrome extensions are linked via an API to generate your own unique profile, one where you will eventually learn what your data says about you and the ability to choose what and who you want to sell your information to.
So how is this data going to be turned into a system that generates more effective asks? In the end it boils down to the donors psychology. What truly motivates them to give? When they log on to the net to donate do they go straight to a nonprofit’s page and click through to the supporters tab? Or do they click through to a charity’s website after reading an article about a local pet shelter? Everything leading up to a gift will be an essential part of building a donor’s profile in the future.
AI has the ability to be a 24/7 observer of these key motivators while they occur in real time and will prompt those all important asks when they see common patterns and previous triggers align with past giving history. Systems will then anticipate with a fairly high degree of certainty whether that donor is ready to give or is in a ‘persuadable state’ and then execute in ways that a pre-meditated by the organization’s overarching fundraising strategy.
The probability of a successful ask will also be compounded in the positive when targeting Millennials, who are historically more likely to take action online. In the latest Consumer Email Habits Report commissioned by Campaign Monitor, the study found that “personalized marketing makes an email an even more powerful tool for this demographic, that is quick to make an impulsive donation to a nonprofit – an impossible task to achieve without the data necessary to create relevant campaigns at scale.”
In summary, while the introduction of AI to fundraising will be revolutionary in itself, programs will inevitably become smarter, more predictive and responsive with the constant growth of online giving and all the data that precedes and follows that gift. The possibilities are endless and in the end it might be AI that helps us crack the code for two of the sectors longest running conundrums – increasing charitable giving above 2% of GDP and engaging the next generation of philanthropy.