The Future of Fundraising: Imagining Your Utopia

This is the second post in our series about the future of fundraising and how technology like artificial intelligence for fundraising fits into that future. Fundraising AI can be a powerful tool, but what does the ideal state of fundraising look like and how does AI fit?

Last week we talked about using process mapping to gain an understanding of your current fundraising program and its processes. Process mapping helps future proof your fundraising to prepare for new technologies like AI. 

Now that you understand where your fundraising is today, you can start thinking about what your ideal fundraising process can look like. But do you know where you want to be? To do this, you need to understand your future goals in order to achieve them. 

This post will cover how to imagine your ideal future fundraising state, using the information you know about where you are now to inform where you want to go. 

How to Imagine Your Ideal Fundraising State

If you could have whatever you wanted in your ideal state of fundraising, what would you have? Set aside budget and time constraints, just for now, and picture an ideal fundraising state – although it should be realistic, budget and other constraints will come into play eventually. This activity is best done with your fundraising team to get everyone’s insights and ideas. 

Remember the process maps we talked about last week? This is where these process maps are put to good use. Looking at your process maps shows you the opportunities and gaps in your current fundraising processes. You want to close those gaps and leverage those opportunities. You need the process maps in order to identify these parts of your ideal fundraising state. 

You need to ask yourself and your fundraising team these questions about your ideal state of fundraising:

  • What’s our strategy?
  • Is there a specific focus area?
  • Is there a new fundraising strategy we want to start?

Maybe you want to prioritize building a strong mid-level program and using that as a pipeline for major gifts and planned giving prospects. In this case, your ideal state is one where you have an efficient process in place for

  • Flagging when mid-level gifts come in. 
  • Adding these donors to your mid-level program and a fundraiser’s portfolio. 
  • Sending out timely stewardship.
  • Analyzing the donor’s giving behaviour over time to find major gift prospects.

Or maybe you already have a successful mid-level program, but when you look at your process map, it’s clear that you have a gap: there isn’t a process in place to cultivate these donors and flag major gift prospects. Your ideal state of fundraising is one where you can efficiently upgrade mid-level donors to major gift prospects, using data analysis to find the best prospects. 

Knowing what you want to do and the tools you’ll need to do it makes it  a lot easier to envision your ideal state of fundraising coming to life. Then you can start to figure out how much it will cost and build your plan to implement your ideal fundraising state and the new tools you need to make it a reality. 

Why You Need Fundraising AI in Your Ideal Fundraising State

Artificial intelligence can make your fundraising better. It can help you reach your ideal future fundraising state. AI is one of the tools you can include in your fundraising toolkit. But for you to get the most out of AI, you need to understand how it can help you achieve your fundraising goals.

AI is becoming very prevalent in the for-profit sector, not just for big-name companies like Google or Amazon. A 2021 PWC survey found that 86% of businesses across nine sectors were getting ready to make AI a mainstream technology. The nonprofit sector tends to be a few steps behind for-profit businesses in trends and technology adoption, so it’s only a matter of time until AI is widely adopted among nonprofits. 

When your competitors are harnessing the power of AI for fundraising, you don’t want to be left behind! The sooner you consider where you can implement AI for fundraising, the better positioned you’ll be to hit the ground running or be ahead of the game, when the nonprofit sector begins to embrace AI more.

Where AI Fits in Your Ideal Fundraising State

You probably have a pretty long list of strategies and processes that you want in your ideal state of fundraising, and many of these wishlist items probably involve a lot of donor data. This is where AI for fundraising will be key to achieving your ideal future state of fundraising. 

AI is great at analyzing large sets of data, finding patterns, and making predictions, so it will fit into your fundraising strategies wherever there is data involved. Fundraising AI can help create your ideal fundraising state by helping you kickstart new strategies and improve current fundraising practices by introducing efficiency and greater accuracy to your data flows.

For example, AI can see patterns in giving behaviour that leads someone to make a large gift. Like an annual-level donor who suddenly gives a larger than usual size gift, you may overlook this donor and keep soliciting them at a lower level. But based on giving patterns from previous donors, the AI would know that this donor could make a double or triple gift, in the near future. AI would tell you to add this donor to your mid-level program, even if their current giving doesn’t meet the threshold. 

It would take a team of fundraisers hundreds of hours of data analysis to make this kind of prediction. Fundraisers with competing priorities just don’t have the time for this kind of data analysis. But AI can do it in seconds. 

You can see how fundraising AI can level up your fundraising and help get your nonprofit to its ideal fundraising state. And this is just one example of how AI can improve your fundraising practices. There are many other opportunities to leverage AI predictions:

  • Identifying at-risk donors before they lapse.
  • Finding the best prospects from within your database. 
  • Predictions for future giving, like when and how much a donor’s next gift will be, to help fundraisers prioritize donor outreach. 

AI can deliver better data insights while fundraisers focus on what they do best – developing fundraising strategies and donor outreach! 

Now that you have an idea of your ideal state of fundraising and understand that AI for fundraising is critical to this future, it’s time to tackle the question of “how do we get there?” Stay tuned because we’re covering how to get to your ideal state of fundraising using artificial intelligence next week.

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