How Fundraising Intelligence is Elevating Prospecting Research

Over the past years, as businesses have found ways to gather unmanageable piles of data about their customers and markets, they’ve struggled with interpreting the information in usable ways. Today, non-profits are facing the same dilemma. And like businesses, they’re turning to artificial intelligence (AI), or in the non-profit world, fundraising intelligence. Fundraising intelligence turns the morass of donor data into insights that help charities more efficiently find and nurture prospects.


Identify Likely Donors

With sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM), non-profits can track email responses, online donations, event attendance and much more about anyone who’s ever interacted with the organization. All that information should make it easier to find the best prospects.

In reality, all those data points mean fundraisers have to manually review the CRM entries, pore over details and make a gut-level decision about which people will most likely give. There’s no surefire way of picking out the most promising prospects, and it’s easy for gift officers to spend their limited time with people who don’t end up donating.

As a result, many non-profits are discontinuing tedious donor research in favor of fundraising intelligence. Gift officers no longer have to squint through CRM screens to find future major donors. The fundraising intelligence application can review a non-profit’s data, take into account all the details about every patron and learn patterns that major and mid-level donors tend to adhere to. Then by finding similar patterns in other contributor profiles, the system can predict who will give, when they’re likely to give and how much.

Machines that learn can find patterns more complex and subtle than humans can, and they evaluate reams of data in a shorter time. They go beyond a donor’s financial capacity to find combinations of characteristics that mark out the likelihood of giving, not just the ability to give. They provide consistent and reliable results that gift officers can act on quickly.


Reach the Right People for Each Organization

Every non-profit is different. The people who will make major gifts to one group would not do the same for another, even in the same sector. Some people gravitate to smaller concerns where they can make a bigger impact. Some groups, like corporations, want the social credit of donating to a nationwide organization.

Because an AI system learns from each charity’s unique data set, it develops patterns customized to each group and identifies prospects most suited to that non-profit. Gift officers don’t run the risk of trying to connect with someone who would never be a major contributor even if they have the capacity.


Cultivate Prospects More Effectively

The 2018 Quarterly Fundraising Report found that while donations increased over 2017, the number of donors dropped, meaning there are fewer donors giving larger amounts. Non-profits have to get smarter about finding these folks and nurturing their interest.

Find and connect with likely donors earlier.

Fundraising intelligence can identify likely major donors earlier than humans would. For example, if someone who fits the pattern of a large contributor has just made a small gift, the system can alert fundraisers to follow up with a personal thank-you note or a phone call. Without intelligent systems, gift officers may not have realized that this small gift was the probable first step to a major one.


Segment donor outreach.

With insight into donors’ likely behavior, non-profits can fine tune their outreach. For example, if fundraisers want to use an educational event to attract prospects, they can base the guest list on people who are both interested in the event’s topic and inclined to give generously.


Refocus portfolios daily.

In the past, if non-profits analyzed their data or commissioned reports on donor giving capacity, the results took days to weeks to arrive. By the time fundraisers had some insight about the information, it was already stale.

Intelligent systems, however, can review the portfolio every day if needed. Each day the database is updated, a fundraising intelligence application reassesses each prospect and rebalances a gift officer’s portfolio.

Importantly, if a prospect has not shown progress after some time, the AI will recognize their disinterest and remove that person from the portfolio. In the past, fundraisers may have continued to nurture these prospects, but with machine intelligence, they can see the likelihood of a donation has dropped, and they can move on.


Focus More Time on Relationships

Without AI support, donor research or prospect development work takes fundraisers several hours each week to accomplish. But these folks didn’t come to non-profits because they love data. They came to make a difference and help others do the same. They’re relationship people.

group of people

By taking prospect research out of fundraisers’ schedules and handing them actionable information about promising donors, fundraising intelligence frees them to spend more time nurturing each prospect. Further, they can use their time more efficiently, bringing in more donations for the same effort.

For example, armed with AI predictions about donation size, gift officers can steer their prospects toward initiatives aligned to the donor’s likely contribution. They spend less time feeling out each patron’s appetite and interests and move more readily to a contribution.


Improve Results Over Time

When gift officers, front-line fundraisers and volunteers interact with potential donors, they record the results of each contact in the database. The CRM is also regularly collecting information on new people who’ve accepted an invitation, made a small donation or expressed interest in the organization.

Fundraising intelligence applications incorporate this incoming data into its analysis, re-working the predictive patterns and improving its accuracy. Over time, the AI gets better and better at finding excellent prospects, and gift officers get better and better returns on their efforts.


Find Out What the Future Holds

By 2021, 75% of enterprise applications are expected to incorporate AI. The technology has provided significant advantage to businesses and will continue to improve. There’s no reason for non-profits to miss out. Now’s the time to investigate the possibility of adding machine learning to your software suite and transforming prospecting from instinct to intelligence.

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