Fundraising in the New era: Is Artificial Intelligence Our Friend?

Fundraising in the New era: Is Artificial Intelligence Our Friend?

Technology, Creativity and Shared Commitment

Organizations, regardless of size, can readily leverage simple artificial intelligence (AI) tools to streamline their operations. For instance, AI-powered chat models, like ChatGPT, assist in generating compelling content. Whether it’s crafting email subject lines, creating presentations, or producing videos, AI enhances efficiency and creativity. Additionally, by integrating AI, organizations can automate administrative tasks, track trends, and gain insights from data. No-code or low code solutions can be used to analyse donor behaviour and inform strategic decisions. Furthermore, AI algorithms enhance social media content across platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or YouTube. From personalized recommendations to targeted ads, AI ensures effective engagement with supporters.

For more sophisticated applications, organizations can delve into complex AI techniques. Predictive modelling, powered by robust data and machine learning algorithms, allows nonprofits to predict donor behaviour, supports prospect research and wealth screening, optimize fundraising efforts and donation fraud detection. Supporter insights, driven by AI analytics, reveal patterns, preferences, and geolocation data. Understanding where clusters of donors reside helps plan targeted campaigns and events.

However, ethical considerations are crucial. While embracing AI, organizations must remain grounded in their purpose, vision, and values. AI should augment human potential without compromising ethical standards and authentic donor interactions.

Balancing Technological Advancements and the Purpose for Fundraising

In the digital age, leveraging online and digital technology for fundraising has become essential. Whether mobilizing volunteer resources, raising funds, or amplifying causes, technology plays a crucial role. However, we must remember that technology is a means to an end, not the end itself.

  1. Purpose First: Fundraising exists to support meaningful causes—whether humanitarian, environmental, or social. The reason behind fundraising should always take precedence over the tools we use. Technology enhances our efforts, but the purpose remains paramount.
  2. Integrated Reach: Digital fundraising platforms allow us to scale up our reach. By engaging supporters, donors, and volunteers online, we amplify our impact. The     digital landscape integrates reach, ensuring that our message resonates with a broader audience.
  3. Action and Conversion: Engaging supporters is just the beginning. We encourage them to lend their voices, sign petitions, and contribute. However, turning engagement into tangible results in the form of signatures or donations is what makes the campaign a success.
  4. Relationship Enhancement: Technology facilitates faster, more efficient fundraising. But it’s crucial to retain the human touch. Building and nurturing relationships with supporters ensures long-term impact. Technology should enhance—not replace—these connections.

Balancing Technology and Ethical Considerations

At the heart of fundraising lies purpose, vision, andvalues.AI augments human potential—it doesn’t replace it Organizations must retain control, ensuring that AI serves their purpose rather than dictating it.

When using AI, transparency is paramount. Donors and supporters deserve to know how technology influences fundraising processes. Be open about AI’s role, its limitations, and the ethical safeguards put in place. Whether it’s optimizing resource allocation or improving service delivery, technology must enhance community outcomes .Regular assessments ensure alignment with the organization’s mission.

Before implementing AI, organizations should reflect on their values. Does the technology align with their ethical compass? Will it uphold donor trust? Balancing innovation with integrity ensures sustainable fundraising practices.

Friend-Raising Embedded in Organisational Culture

Much like any friendship, our relationship with AI and technology depends on what we invest in it. To create a culture where AI thrives while maintaining trust and understanding, consider the following:

  1. Trust as the Foundation: Trust is the bedrock of any successful friendship. Organizations must prioritize transparency, data privacy, and ethical use of technology. When stakeholders trust that AI serves their shared outcomes, it becomes a valuable ally.
  2. Effective Communication and Engagement: Just as friends communicate openly, organizations should foster dialogue about AI. Regular discussions, training, and awareness programs help demystify technology. Engaging stakeholders—board members,  management, program teams, volunteers, supporters and fundraisers—ensures strengthened capabilities
  3. Cultural Shift Across the Organization: Friend-raising isn’t limited  to the fundraising department. It’s an organizational endeavour. The board, management, and staff across the organisation need to embrace a culture that values innovation and adaptability.
  4. Human Potential Amplified by AI: It’s not about replacing people but enhancing their impact. Organizations should view AI as a tool to resource their causes effectively. Whether it’s donor engagement, impact measurement, or resource allocation, AI can amplify results.
  5. Mindset as Building Blocks: A mindset that is open to learning and adapting encourages experimentation and continuous improvement. When trust, communication, and culture align, implementing AI or exploring innovative ways to enhance outcomes becomes viable,

Work done by our consultancy on factors affecting the use of emerging technologies by social impact organisations have highlighted the following stages of competencies:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence:
    • At this stage, individuals are unaware of what they don’t know about AI and its  applications.
    • Fear often accompanies this lack of awareness, leading people to hesitate in exploring AI due to uncertainty.
    • Overcoming unconscious incompetence involves acknowledging gaps and actively seeking  learning opportunity
  2. Conscious Incompetence
    • Here, individuals recognize their lack of competence. They know about AI but  don’t know how to use it effectively.
    • The transition from unconscious to conscious incompetence is relatively quick—often a  matter of days.
    • Learning and training become essential to bridge this gap.
  3. Conscious Competence
    • At this stage, individuals have acquired knowledge and skills related to AI. They understand how to use it.
    • Those who operate in this zone apply AI correctly and efficiently, consciously making informed decisions.
    • Continuous learning and practice maintain conscious competence.
  5. Unconscious Competence
    • This stage occurs when AI becomes second nature. Users operate skilfully without   conscious effort.
    • However, there’s a risk: complacency. Relying solely on AI without critical oversight may lead to errors.
    • Vigilance and periodic checks are crucial to prevent unintended consequences.

Embracing AI requires a journey from the fear of the unknown to conscious competence, all while maintaining vigilance and a commitment to learning. AI is a powerful ally in fundraising and philanthropy, offering efficiency gains, strategic insights, and personalized engagement possible. Integrating AI in the fundraising practices requires a mindful approach—one that combines technological advancements with unwavering commitment to purpose, authenticity, and ethical values.

This blog is based on the online interview with Usha Menon by TV personality Ognen Janeski at the Philanthropy Summit held in Skopje, North Macedonia May 2024. View the interview here

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