How AI is transforming fundraising

In Digital, Featured by Dave Raley

On April 18 at the Christian Leadership Alliance Outcomes Conference, Dave Raley will be giving a talk titled Using AI to transform fundraising. He will be discussing trends in Artificial Intelligence (AI), how Masterworks is using AI in fundraising today and the future applications of the technology for marketing and fundraising.

Today’s post is a preview of one of those trends. Enjoy, and please consider joining us at the Outcomes Conference in Dallas, April 16-18, 2019.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a popular trend, but did you know that when it comes to fundraising, it’s not just a buzzword?

Artificial intelligence isn’t just for evil, sentient machines like Hal 9000. It can and is used for good!

When many think of AI, they often think of dystopian fiction — worlds where machines become sentient and overthrow their human counterparts. But what we’re talking about here is not Hal 9000, Data, the Terminator or the Matrix.

What we’re talking about is more commonly known as Weak AI. Defined simply:

Weak Artificial Intelligence, also known as narrow AI, is artificial intelligence that is focused on one narrow task. “Weak AI” Wikipedia

Right message, right format, right time, right person

Let’s examine an often-repeated adage in marketing, and I’ll share how AI is enabling nonprofits to make it a reality:

The most successful marketing pushes the right message, in the right format, at the right time, to the right person.

Would you believe me if I said we have an AI that helps us accomplish each one of these elements in ways that no human could replicate?

MRI 3.0 — Artificial intelligence for nonprofit fundraising

If you’ve been around, you may have heard of the Masterworks Response Index (MRI) — a proprietary modeling technique that we developed years ago. MRI took the traditional RFM segmentation methodology so effective in fundraising for the past few decades, added new data, and turned it into an algorithm that made more refined and accurate decisions about each donor’s likelihood to respond to a specific communication. Well that was MRI 1.0.

Today, MRI 3.0 is a cloud-based, artificial intelligence engine that we use to power audience selection and segmentation. More specifically, we are using a form of AI known as supervised machine learning which uses historic data to find strong signals that lead to successful campaigns in an automated fashion. But, I digress.

Using MRI, we regularly see increases in net income of 15% or more over other methods of selecting individuals.

In essence, AI has taken us well beyond what even the most expert fundraiser could do. Supervised machine learning takes the historic behavioral patterns of a set of individuals and allows us to use that information to pursue specialized marketing efforts, well out-performing other human-driven methods of selecting potential audiences for campaigns. 

Artificial intelligence — technology is more than a power tool

I’ve heard it described this way. If the industrial revolution was all about technology as a power tool, then the digital revolution and artificial intelligence is about technology as a coworker.

The industrial revolution in the 20th century was all about technology as a power tool — essentially, augmenting human capability by giving them machines to do more, faster and better. Think of a farmer being able to plow 10-100 times as many fields moving from a horse-drawn plow to a combine.

If the 20th century was about technology as a power tool — think of the 21st century and artificial intelligence as the time when technology becomes a coworker. Simply put, there are human intelligence tasks that technology can do not just faster or stronger than humans, but better.

I, for one, welcome our new AI coworkers. 🙂

More on how AI is transforming marketing and fundraising

Stay tuned to this blog for other ways we are seeing AI transform fundraising today, and how we expect it will continue to change things going forward.

If you are going to be at the Outcomes Conference in Dallas this April, I would encourage you to come to the workshop and say hello!

Outcomes Conference Workshop:
Using AI to Transform Fundraising

Thursday, April 18: 10:30-12:00, Dallas, TX
Resource Development Track Four

Dave Raley