Today, Allison Fine and I are pleased to announce the release our paper, Unlocking Generosity with Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Giving. This paper is the culmination of nearly two years of research including literature and landscape reviews and dozens of interviews with experts around the world. We are grateful for the generosity and foresight of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in supporting this work.
The field of AI4Giving is just beginning to take shape with promising new technology platforms helping nonprofits scale and improve their fundraising practices. It is timely given the impact of COVID-19 crisis on nonprofits, fundraising, and the social sector at large.
Artificial intelligence (AI) offers multiple benefits for nonprofit fundraising. These include:
- Identify and facilitate connections between everyday givers (those giving less than $500 a year) and causes;
- Help donors identify causes that match their interests;
- Help nonprofits better steward donors and make sure they are engaged and renew their gifts more frequently;
- Scale personalized communications for all donors;
- Help researchers better understand donors interests, giving patterns and motivations;
- Automate internal reporting and other administrative tasks.
Nonprofits using AI to support their fundraising efforts will be able to identify new donors much more efficiently, tailor their communications and outreach efforts to the donors interests, and ensure no one falls through the cracks for renewals. Philanthropists will be able to find causes that match their passions and interests much more easily, receive communications specific to their particular interests and have a more personalized engagement with the cause.
There are, of course, real challenges and risks of using AI for fundraising. Unlike social media, we can’t “see” AI at work, it happens in the background, which makes it more dangerous to end users who don’t necessarily know, for instance, that they are talking to a robot and not a person. It requires massive amounts of data to power AI, and this means collecting, storing, analyzing, sharing data at a pace and volume we have never experienced before. The amount of data (and expertise needed to analyze it) means we are going to need commercial platforms in the mix, which also means we risk repeating the same mistakes we just made with social media by giving commercial companies too much power to use our data without ethical frameworks or constraints. And, of course, AI can’t fix bad fundraising practices that prioritize transactions over relationships.
We look forward to upcoming events that dive further into our report’s findings and exploring ways that nonprofits can benefit from AI to increase and deepen support for their efforts. Allison and I will be presenting findings from the report at the Causevox Digital Fundraising Summit on August 25th.