AI in Fundraising

Your Guide to AI & Major Gift Fundraising

February 12, 2024
5 min read
Full name
11 Jan 2022
5 min read

AI is reshaping our world and how we work in countless ways. In so many ways, in fact, that most of us don’t realize when and where AI is used behind the scenes. Have you watched Netflix recently? Netflix uses AI to provide you suggestions of what to watch next. The same goes for Spotify and Amazon to provide you with personalized listening and shopping experiences.

Those examples just skim the surface of where AI is being employed. The social sector and major gift fundraising are no exception.

AI tools are enabling major gift officers to do more with their time. By minimizing administrative tasks, helping with research, and drafting communications, AI allows major gift officers to focus on what matters most—building relationships with donors and helping their organization make a greater impact.

In this guide, we’ll walk through the benefits of AI to major gift officers, show you how AI can be a powerful ally for every stage of the donor funnel, provide examples of how AI tools operate, and cover a few of the concerns that frequently arise with AI.

The Benefits of AI to Major Gift Fundraisers

Nonprofit professionals have so much on their plate—in reality, too much. Between high turnover rates (12%) and staff shortages (26% of nonprofits had vacancy rates of 20-29%), there is too much work to go around. It’s no wonder that 30% of nonprofit workers are burnt out.

As an industry that often faces high-stress and burnout, AI can be an incredible tool to alleviate some of the time-consuming tasks that burden fundraisers. Without the cost of an additional headcount, AI can be the assistant nonprofit professionals so desperately need. Here are a few examples of how AI can save you time while helping build better relationships with donors:

Streamline administrative tasks: When you’re juggling 100+ major donors in your portfolio, your whole day could be spent sorting through donor lists, sending emails, and updating multiple systems. AI tools help minimize those tasks by prioritizing and identifying donors, drafting email communications, and syncing data to your CRM.

Access comprehensive insights: AI models can analyze vast amounts of data far faster than any human could. ****By analyzing donor data, AI models can help you learn more about your donors, prioritize outreach, and identify new major donors.

Strengthen connections with donors: As a major gift officer, your goal is to build long-lasting relationships with donors. AI can help draft personal emails and thank you notes by reviewing your writing style and that of your donors. With pre-written touchpoints, it’s much easier to regularly connect with your donors.

How AI Supports Each Stage of the Donor Funnel

AI can help fundraisers minimize manual, administrative work at each stage of the funnel while using data and research to make data-informed suggestions.

1. Identify: Use Predictive AI Models for Prospect Ranking

Type of AI: Predictive AI: With machine learning, predictive AI uses past history and data to forecast future events.

Where to use it: Modeling prospects and ranking them

The first stage in major gift fundraising is identifying potential donors.

AI shines here with its predictive capabilities. By analyzing datasets and integrating with your database, AI can help fundraisers rank prospects based on their likelihood to donate. This process involves examining past giving patterns, CRM data, engagement with marketing campaigns, and even social media behavior or news articles.

2. Qualify: Gain Donor Insights Through AI-Driven Analytics

Type of AI: Predictive AI: Using machine learning, predictive AI uses past history and data to forecast future events.

Where to Use It: Deepening affinity models beyond just wealth screening

After deciding if a donor can give, it’s time to decide if they will give.

By combining publicly available wealth screening data with the richness of first-party CRM data, advanced analytics can evaluate and qualify donors. This ensures that efforts are concentrated on individuals who not only have the capacity to give, but also the interest to give significantly.

AI can help determine:

  • Who is likely to give at what level?
  • Who will give in the next year?
  • If someone does give, will it be a one-time gift or recurring gift?
  • Who has the potential to become a mid-level donor, a major donor, and a legacy donor?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you nurture and cultivate donors to reach higher giving potentials.

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💡 Predictive AI in Action

Momentum’s AI Donor Engagement platform leverages predictive AI to identify and prioritize who you should contact next.

When a new donor gives to your organization, the donor will be evaluated by a variety of factors including wealth, affinity, and behavior. By analyzing these attributes, Momentum scores and ranks donors, adding new donors to your portfolio if they meet certain criteria.

Momentum creates a Custom Donor Plan for each donor, ensuring that they are regularly being engaged with and automatically updating their plan as outreach occurs.

Gif of donor profile and plan

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3. Cultivate: Develop Personalized Donor Plans with Generative AI

Type of AI: Reinforcement Learning: A machine learning training method that trains AI systems through trial and error.

Where to Use It: Generating and Adapting Donor Engagement Plans

Reinforcement learning is the cutting edge of the cutting edge; it’s one of the most exciting new developments in AI.

It can identify warning signs of decreased interest or disengagement.

For example, AI systems can detect that a donor is losing interest, and intervene to suggest special outreach efforts, such as personalized updates or exclusive invitations to events.

Conversely, if a particular communication style or event invitation is exciting a donor, the AI system learns and replicates this approach in future interactions.

When these signs occur, AI can immediately update a donor’s plan to highlight this information and prioritize when to contact the donor next.

4. Solicit: AI-Enhanced Strategies for Effective Appeals

Type of AI: Generative AI: This type of AI produces new content, such as written text.

Where to Use It: Getting over the hump on the capacity to ask ratio

One of the most common issues in major gift fundraising is simply not asking donors to make as large of a gift as they could.

By leaning on AI to provide an initial suggested solicitation amount, you take the guesswork and the insecurity out of asking for an amount that feels like too much.

Even if you end up adjusting the amount, we can count on our (very human) anchoring bias to help push us to make an ask larger than we initially would have considered. (Anchoring bias is the concept that the first piece of information we are given on a topic is what we’re most likely to hold onto.)

So, if you let AI write the first draft of the donation request, you’re more likely to make a larger ask.

5. Steward: AI-Crafted Personal Touchpoints

Type of AI: Generative AI: This type of AI produces new content, such as written text.

Where to Use It: Generating and drafting touchpoints

The final stage of the major gift fundraising cycle, stewardship, is about maintaining and nurturing relationships with donors post-contribution.

AI can be instrumental in drafting personalized communications at scale, such as thank-you notes, updates on how donations are being used, and invitations to special events.

For example, if you have an upcoming event and want to invite all of the donors in your portfolio, instead of individually writing each email, you can provide the AI tool with a template. The tool then takes the template and personalizes each email to each donor. You can review each email before it’s sent to make any adjustments or tweaks.

By keeping these touchpoints front of mind and crafting personal communications at scale, AI helps fundraisers maintain strong bonds with their donors, laying the foundation for future giving.

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💡 Generative AI in Action

Momentum’s AI Fundraising Assistant drafts communications for you using your writing style and your donors’ communication preferences.

Send one-off emails, create templates, and send bulk emails personalized to each donor all with the help of AI.

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“Momentum brings a powerful new toolkit to hardworking major gift officers, one they’ve been needing for ages. If your nonprofit wants to maintain a healthy and deeply engaged major donor program, Momentum is a necessity, not a luxury.”

ELLEN BRISTOL

President, Bristol Strategy Group

Major Gift Fundraising and AI Examples

Now that you know how AI supports each stage of the donor funnel, it’s helpful to see a few examples. We’ll use the capabilities of Momentum’s AI Donor Engagement Platform to demonstrate these scenarios.

Example 1: Sam gives to your organization for the first time

Sam donates to your organization and enters the annual fund. Momentum’s AI evaluates Sam via wealth screening, giving history, and affinity for the cause. The AI determines that Sam has the potential to become a major donor.

The next morning, you receive an email in your inbox from Momentum. You’ll find Sam’s donor profile and donor plan as well as a pre-drafted email to Sam thanking him personally for his donation and asking whether he’d like to learn more about the organization.

You review the email, make a couple of edits, and send it, kicking off the start of a lifelong relationship between Sam and your organization.

Example 2: Your organization has an upcoming gala

You want to invite about half of your portfolio to the gala, so you create a template in Momentum with the basic details of the event. You then have your AI Fundraising Assistant draft emails individualized to each person on the recipient list.

After giving the emails a quick review, the event invites are ready to be sent.

Example 3: Momentum notifies you that it’s time for outreach

Each morning, you receive an email with your high-priority outreach tasks for the day. You log into your Momentum Inbox and review your tasks as well as the pre-drafted communications created by your AI Fundraising Assistant.

After sending the emails, Momentum automatically updates each donor’s plan, your CRM, and your donor contact report, saving you time to work on other, more strategic projects.

AI Fundraising Considerations

If you’re feeling worried about integrating AI tools into your current workflow, you’re not alone. A recent study by Pew Research Center found that 52% of Americans are more concerned than excited about AI’s presence in day-to-day life.

We get it. While we’re on team excitement, we recognize that there are some bad actors out there as well as tools that aren’t as reputable or secure as they should be. Here are a few tips to help you identify reputable AI tools and use AI to the best of its ability:

Prioritize security & privacy: Look for tools that have robust cybersecurity measures and secure file handling. Companies with these protocols in place are prioritizing the safety of your data.

Talk about transparency: You have the right to know exactly how your data will be used. Look for companies that are upfront and transparent about data usage, where, when, and how it’s being employed.

Train employees on AI usage: While AI can help us out in many ways, it’s important to double check its work. Train employees on AI best practices, such as reviewing written communications that AI writes before sending them.

Clean up your CRM and system data: AI solutions use your CRM and other tools to help you prioritize donors, send communications, etc. However, if the data isn’t clean to begin with, your AI tool will have a much harder time accurately providing you with valuable information. Before you integrate an AI solution with your other tools, give the data a once-over.

Integrate with existing tools: Ensure that the AI solution you use easily integrates with your current tools and automatically updates information to your CRM. You don’t want to be copying and pasting information from another tool to your CRM. The purpose of AI is to help you streamline your work, not add to it.

AI & Major Gift Fundraising Key Takeaways

As we embrace AI alongside major gift fundraising, the potential for growth in philanthropy is boundless, opening new doors for greater impact in the world. From helping fundraisers identify potential donors to regularly engaging and stewarding the donors, AI can help fundraisers focus their time and energy on high-priority initiatives.

As you explore ways to drive impact for your organization, consider AI as a solution to save you time, enhance donor relationships, and prevent burnout. Here are a few key takeaways to keep in mind:

Reduce administrative tasks: Your AI Fundraising assistant may not be able to get you coffee, but it can help prioritize outreach, draft communications, and automatically update your CRM, contact reports, and donor plans. Ultimately, it saves you time, opening up your day for more strategic projects and initiatives.

Prevent burnout: AI tools can help ease a fundraiser’s day-to-day tasks, ensuring that no tasks slip through the cracks. With staff shortages and turnover, AI tools can help keep outreach organized and moving so that no one feels overwhelmed.

Connect with every donor: Create individualized communications at scale with the help of AI. Receive reminders of when to follow up with each donor and pre-crafted communications. This allows you to focus more on in-person relationship building.

Offer data-backed decision making: Instead of sorting through data sets, using wealth screening tools, and reviewing your CRM data, let AI help you sort through the data to provide suggestions.

If you’re interested in learning how AI solutions can help streamline your workflow and better engage your donors, check out Momentum’s AI Donor Engagement Platform. From AI-generated donor plans to your personal AI Fundraising Assistant, Momentum can help you get time back in your day so you can focus on driving organizational impact.

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