Love it or hate it, artificial intelligence (AI) will only continue to expand its reach into our daily lives. Many professionals tout its powerful and unmatched efficiency, and just as many are afraid it’s coming for their jobs. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. 

AI tools like chatbots, grammar checkers, and data analyzers have been around for decades. Yet today, they’re stronger than ever, thanks to predictive analytics and natural language processors (NLPs). AI can write a blog post, transcribe a podcast, and reveal data patterns in seconds.  

Using AI tools like ChatGPT or Google’s Gemini in nearly all aspects of your work can be tempting. But you must be careful — AI isn’t all-knowing, and it only takes one errant email with an outdated reference to undo years of trust. 

Being lazy with AI can hurt your brand and damage your reputation. However, augmenting that AI with a human touch and third-party data can enable you to build deeper connections with your donors. In relational fundraising especially, AI can help you develop more personalized, timely, and relevant outreach. Let’s explore how. 

Personalized Messages 

Nearly everyone has a record of their lives on the internet. So, if you want to use AI to personalize an email to a specific donor, the tool will likely pick up a few details as it scrapes web pages. But suppose it misses a critical piece of information, like an obituary. Would you really want to risk referencing a late spouse in a message to a major donor? 

This is an extreme example, but it’s not unheard of. It’s precisely why you can’t just sit back and expect AI to do your job for you.  

There must be a level of augmented intelligence there, too. That is, start a message with AI. Then, use what you know about a donor to add personal elements to the message. Finalize it with a touch of your human warmth. 

Data is essential for personalization. You hold a wealth of data in your database; use it to support your AI efforts for a stronger overall message. For instance, consider a pet shelter. Don’t use AI to write a blanket email asking for support. Instead, reach out to those who have adopted pets in the past. Segment them by animal, then customize the email accordingly. Images of the puppies in your care will resonate much more deeply with “dog people” than with “cat people.”  

As a fundraiser, your experiences with donors are invaluable. But just as important are your general anecdotes, education, and instincts — these are irreplaceable no matter how advanced AI becomes. At its core, fundraising is built on relationships. Supporting AI with an augmented component can ensure the relationship stays front and center as you acquire, retain, steward, and upgrade donors. 

Timely Outreach 

It’s a cliché, but it’s true: timing is everything. All outreach, from thank you notes to additional appeals, should land in front of your audience at the right time to be most effective. AI tools like predictive modeling and business intelligence can help you achieve this. 

For instance, software like GivingDNA can analyze your data, look for patterns, and uncover donors who are likely to keep giving or even increase their gifts. Similarly, it can also tell you which donors are likely to lapse. Use AI to segment each category so you can communicate with them quickly. 

AI can also help you draft the messages. But again, augmenting that capability with what you know will enable you to craft a more compelling and resonant appeal. The data in your customer relationship management (CRM) software will guide what you say.  

And when it comes to preventing donors from lapsing, the more personal, the better.  

Relevant Communications 

Much of successfully using generative AI tools like ChatGPT depends on your input prompt. Say you run an art museum in Boston and want to attract younger visitors. Asking ChatGPT “how to attract young people to a museum” versus “how to attract young people in Boston to an art museum” will yield very different results. The more details you can offer AI, the more relevant its response will be. 

Like personalization, relevancy is essential. Your message must make sense for your audience down to the individual level.  

For instance, a university could use AI to craft a general fundraising email for its alumni. But consider what you know about these alums: their major, whether they were in a fraternity or sorority, whether they were student-athletes. With this data, you can speak more directly to that person’s interests in an authentic way.  

What if you don’t have this level of detail about your donors? Ask for it! Focus on collecting zero- and first-party data. For instance: 

  • Send out surveys to get to know them better. 
  • Take detailed notes every time you speak with a prospect.  
  • Track user behavior on your website to see what content they click on.   
  • Track how they interact with your organization, such as the events they attend or what they often volunteer for. 

When combined with third-party data from sources like GivingDNA, you can create a more complete picture of who your donors are. Then, augment AI with this picture to craft more relevant and moving communications. 

Quick Tips to Get Started 

Despite how user-friendly modern AI tools are, getting started with one can still be intimidating. Keep these quick tips in mind: 

  • AI’s output is only as good as the prompt you give it. Be specific. 
  • Think about your unique writing style and tone. AI tends to flatten an organization’s distinct voice. Your constituents will be able to recognize machine writing. 
  • Consider the data you track and how it can help augment AI. Give AI as much detail as possible to produce relevant and personal messages.  
  • Start talking with your employees and peers about what AI tools they use. Are there some you need to invest in? 

Finally, don’t rely solely on AI. Look to the data and insights in your CRM to inform your communications.  

How Can AI Help You?

AI is a tool that helps you be more efficient. It will never replace the human connections that make relational fundraising so impactful. 

When augmented by your data, AI enables you to quickly create communication and outreach that delivers the right message to the right donors at the right time. When you remain focused on personalization, timeliness, and relevancy, you’ll build deeper relationships with donors that will inspire lifelong loyalty. 

If you’re curious about AI but unsure where to start, our Allegiance Group + Pursuant team can help. Reach out today to learn how you can use AI in your day-to-day work. 

This blog post is based on The Bold New Frontier of Artificial Intelligence, a Go Beyond Fundraising podcast episode. Listen to the entire conversation now.

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