There is a lot of discussion in the not-for-profit community about how to integrate some of the emerging technologies into fundraising. A year ago, Sharpe Group began studying how machine learning could be used to help our clients raise large gifts. Since then, we have utilized AI on a client’s donor database to make their donor communications more efficient and effective—and we have learned a lot, such as:
- In order to fully benefit from AI and machine learning, donor data must be complete.
- AI algorithms must be created by experts—Sharpe utilizes PhD mathematicians to write our formulas.
- AI algorithms can only be effective if the formula is interpreted and then refined by those with experience raising large gifts.
- Your results must be explicated by planned and major giving professionals to ensure the nuances and complexities of current and deferred planned gifts are incorporated in your communications.
Some companies are out there providing AI alongside accounting or donor information software to nonprofit organizations. We have learned access to donor data can be easy but rarely “complete enough” to maximize the power of AI. This is a time the adage of “Garbage In, Garbage Out” applies!
If you are looking for an AI and machine learning provider, does your due diligence on those providers cover the four critical points above? How would you answer these questions?
- Is your donor data adequate?
- What are the credentials of the creators of the algorithm for your organization?
- What is the level of experience of those who are interpreting your AI results?
Our research has shown, even using Sharpe’s Donor Data Enhancement Services, most donor data files have a low percentage of attributes complete enough to produce good results from the AI platform to develop communication tactics and to provide new donor data to utilize the machine learning capabilities from AI.
Further, we discovered that the standard predictive AI algorithm is not sufficient to identify donors who may be prospects to upgrade to legacy membership. At Sharpe, we utilize both types of AI and machine learning capabilities, and we have the experts to refine your data to yield the desired results. If you can’t give a five-star rating to your AI provider, RUN THE OTHER WAY! You will be wasting budget resources and going backward before you can undo the impact of a poor choice for your AI investment.
And, if you are thinking about harnessing the power of AI technology to raise large gifts or may be wondering how your organization compares to other nonprofits in gift planning, I suggest you reach out to one of our consultants. They can compare your data health with other nonprofit organizations and can ascertain whether AI can enhance your program. ■
Sharpe Group CEO