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Personalizing at Scale: AI for Tailored Donor Communications

Posted Dec 29, 2023 03:00 PM
There’s a lot of buzz about artificial intelligence in the nonprofit space, and for good reason. This technology has diverse on-the-ground use cases that can improve nonprofits’ workflows and reduce menial tasks.

Among these use cases, the personalization of donor outreach stands out for the significant benefits it can bring. These include saved time and improved stewardship results, both of which help fuel smarter, more adaptive fundraising.

AI for nonprofits can help support your efforts to better personalize donor outreach on two sides—the frontend (or donor-facing side) and the backend or logistical side experienced by your team. What does this look like in practice?

Frontend Personalization

You might already be familiar with the ability of email tools (when integrated with your database) to auto-populate certain pieces of information into your email appeals (such as donor names, pronouns, and past donation amounts). This simple process is an excellent first step for personalizing your outreach and signaling to donors that you value their support as individuals.

Predictive AI tools can go further—rather than just pulling bits of data, this technology actively analyzes your donor data to make connections and inferences. This allows AI to make suggestions based on what it predicts are likely outcomes based on identifiable trends. For example:

  • AI can provide individually personalized suggested donation amounts.
  • It can also analyze your segmentation strategy and help you choose different messages or appeals based on where a donor might fall within that strategy.
  • Additionally, it can lay out timing and medium suggestions based on a donor’s known or inferred communication preferences.

Generative AI tools (like ChatGPT) can also quickly draft written appeals, text messages, and social media posts for you to refine and send. However, you should approach this strategy with caution and always take the time to manually screen AI-generated text for correctness and quality. You still have to do the work yourself, with or without AI.

These frontend benefits underscore the importance of collecting the right data. The information that you input into the process is what ultimately determines the usefulness of these tools. Software integrations that ensure the steady collection of email, text message, and social media engagement data (as well as incoming donations and sign-ups from your website) will be essential. They’ll ensure that incoming data points are cleanly attributed to individuals in your database, powering continually improved AI results.

Backend Strategies and Support

How does AI support your backend operations to help you more effectively personalize your outreach to donors?

The most impactful backend use case for AI is its ability to make fundraising predictions, which you can use to improve your segmentation strategies for outreach.

Advanced predictive AI tools like DonorSearch Ai are designed specifically to analyze nonprofit data and identify the individuals in your database who are likely to:

  • Donate within the next year
  • Make their first donation
  • Set up a recurring gift
  • Give a gift over $250
  • Generate the greatest lifetime value

Equipped with these predictions, your fundraising team can then develop highly targeted outreach lists and effectively prioritize its work, making any extra personalization doubly effective. Donors will receive the right outreach at the right time, supported with AI-driven personalized touches that strengthen your relationships with them.

The results? More effective fundraising appeals, stronger donor relationships, and more efficient outreach.

Additionally, AI can help you automate many routine backend tasks, particularly those relating to data analysis. It can help keep your data clean and more useful by flagging discrepancies. Some tools can even help detect fraudulent transactions.

The time saved across the board with AI’s logistical support can then be put toward stewardship and cultivation, necessary but labor-intensive tasks that have outsized impacts on your fundraising. This can be extremely helpful for maintaining the effectiveness of your normal fundraising operations while branching out into new priorities like planned giving or identifying DAF donors.

Important Considerations

Before investing in AI tools for the first time, it’s important to understand the broader context and requirements that surround them.

First, nonprofits should understand their tools’ data requirements and recommendations. Specifically, will it analyze and generate insights about just your in-house database, or will it be more effective when given access to relevant third-party prospecting data? Will this additional data be ethically sourced and maintained over time? Will you (and your vendors) have proper data security protocols in place?

Additionally, AI brings a variety of ethical considerations that you’ll need to keep in mind going forward, including:

  • Vetting all vendors to find reputable partners that take security and data ethics seriously.
  • Understanding how inaccurate data and feedback loops can create unintentional biases and negative outcomes in your AI-generated predictions.
  • Conducting regular audits of your own data to maintain hygiene and accuracy.
  • Providing training for all staff members who will work with the technology and its data.
  • Securing informed consent from donors that data generated by your interactions will be used to train a fundraising AI algorithm.

The added effort that may be required for these steps is ultimately worth it if your organization can integrate AI into its regular workflows.

After all, donor retention is immensely valuable for nonprofits. Tools that help you better understand your donors and communicate with them more effectively and efficiently can be game-changers for your mission.