December 5, 2023

An AI generated image with a challenge "benefit meeting"created by Chad Bonaker using Midjourney.
AI generated image using the “fundraiser meeting” challenge,​ created by Chad Bonaker using Midjourney.

This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn.

ChatGPT, a pioneering conversational tool from OpenAI, is a hot topic these days. It’s taking law exams, writing essays, and giving congressional speeches. I thought it might be time to ask ChatGPT about fundraising and pose a specific question: What is the best way to organize an annual fundraising campaign?

ChatGPT has got a lot of fundraising strategy right

Here was ChatGPT’s response to my question:

“There are many ways to organize an annual fundraiser, but one effective strategy is to create a clear and compelling fundraising campaign that focuses on the organization’s mission and impact. This campaign should include a clear call to action and different levels of giving to appeal to donors of all abilities. In addition, it is important to build a strong donor base by regularly communicating with donors and showing the impact of their donations and by using various channels to reach potential donors such as email, social media, direct mail and personal solicitations. Finally, it is important to recognize and thank donors for their donations in a timely and meaningful way.”

There is some good advice there. It’s pretty classic fundraising wisdom in one solid paragraph. And it’s no wonder it did so well because he had plenty of content to work with. AI-driven conversation engines take material from around the web and use their AI engines to create a coherent story from the most meaningful strings of information. ChatGPT has done a pretty good job with this question.

Remember, this advice has been driven by fundraisers and fundraising experts

I shared ChatGPT’s answer with five experienced fundraisers and consultants who have helped hundreds of organizations. The answers ranged from “it’s pretty good” to “we might be out of a job” to “a few things are missing.”

Because all these people are creators of published content, we were like, “Wait, I feel like I can hear myself there. I wrote something very similar. Strange.”

This is a crucial thing to realize with AI-driven content and conversation engines. They are based on listening. Simply put, what you see here is the combined wisdom, weighted by its popularity, of fundraisers talking on the Internet along with researchers, consultants, and donors like me. It’s pretty cool, he got a lot of things right and there’s no bad advice in the answer.

But AI has left out a few things, and of course your fundraising strategy needs to be data-driven and rooted in your organization’s values ​​and mission. There is still plenty of room for the human element – ​​which we can complement with the power of AI.

Listening to your donors and personalizing the experience is the real value of artificial intelligence in fundraising

This listening component is where AI can really help us as we really engage donors. We’ve been using it for years in our AI-driven engagement, RNL QuadWrangle. The engine listens to your content and analyzes what donors are doing over time. Then when you open things like email newsletters to the engine, it picks content that donors really care about. It’s a game changer and we’ve seen double clicks and reactions. This basic architecture applies to most AI-driven engagements. Here’s an infographic that explains how it works.

How AI personalization works in donor engagement
This graphic explains how AI-driven personalization can double your donor response (click for larger version).

Artificial intelligence has enormous value if we use it creatively and critically in donor engagement

I like Chat GPT’s fundraising answers and will be asking him fundraising questions to see how he responds in the coming weeks. I don’t agree that fundraisers are out of work because the human element will continue to be incredibly important. There are things missing that artificial intelligence (for now) just can’t handle. And with all AI, there are some real inclusivity issues that we need to pay attention to.

But because AI is an incredible way to listen at scale (and perhaps the only way), donor engagement will be very important to us in the future. Artificial intelligence already works on us daily to customize our experiences on Netflix, Spotify and Amazon, to name a few. As we innovate as fundraisers, let’s think creatively and critically about how AI can enhance our efforts and create a better donor experience.

Yes, the next member of your donor engagement team can be a bot, and that could ultimately be a good thing.

Special thanks to Chad Bonaker for the awesome fundraising images created using the Midjourney AI art engine.

See how you can use AI to engage more donors

Check out this overview of RNL QuadWrangle’s AI platform to learn how you can engage donors with curated content that’s more relevant, exciting and accessible. Then ask for a tutorial to learn more about:

  • AI overviews
  • Dynamic emails
  • Event management
  • Content curation
  • Site provision

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