These days, people often ask us about artificial intelligence, the future of digital fundraising, and how to get ahead of the curve. So we’re going to share our answer with you…. Right now. (Because we know you are busy)
The secret formula to getting ahead of the curve with Digital Fundraising is:
Human Psychology x The Context of Digital Tech = Desired Human Behavior
Basically, the way humans think hasn’t really changed much in a while…. In a long while. New studies are teaching us more about how the brain works. The more you learn about this, the better you will be at digital fundraising because you will understand how donors think and feel.
Pro tip: People think about themselves… a lot.
The Context of Digital Tech:
Here’s what you need to know about digital, and, by digital, I mean web-based technology. Our story begins with the development of the printing press.
The printing press was an incredible advancement in human communication. It drastically increased our one-to-many communication. One person could write a book and it could now be printed thousands of times over. Skip forward a few years to the internet of the 1990s and early 2000s, we’ll call this Internet V1. Internet V1 took the printing press and expanded its impact. Now anyone could publish a book or article online and “publish” it or send it out in an email blast to thousands of people in just minutes!
Now, here’s where you need to pay attention, around 2006, the Internet went through some big changes. We’ll call this Internet V2, and it was more about two-way communication, and using data captured on the internet to customize new output.
Here’s what this means for websites: take Amazon, for example, it shows each user a different home page, based on their existing content, but dynamically customized just for them based on what Amazon knows about their shopping habits. Amazon is delivering a unique one-one experience. Amazon started doing this early, but now this type of personalization can be implemented on most websites and it’s a great way to give donors a better experience.
Another area that this scaled one-one V2 Internet is being used is in Email. Gone are the days where we should expect the tactic of sending out mass e-blasts (one-many) to be effective. With V2 Internet we should be making customized email responses to donors we want to engage. Here’s a simple breakdown to help you imagine this:
You meet a potential donor at a party and get their name and email address, let’s call him Bob. Then you add Bob to your list of potential donors in your amazing emailing or contact tool and indicate that you met them in person. Your amazing tool starts sending Bob an email sequence that you wrote before you ever met Bob. It goes like this:
Hey Bob, it was nice meeting you. I thought you might enjoy this article about [insert topic that’s related to the issues your nonprofit solves]. Let’s keep in touch! Sincerely, [you]
If Bob opened the link to the article:
Hi Bob, what did you think of that article I sent you? We’ve been doing a lot thinking around that issue at XYZ Nonprofit, and I’d like to know your thoughts. Sincerely, [You]
If Bob didn’t click the link:
Hey Bob, I just wanted to reach out because we are raising money to do ABC thing and it would mean a lot to me if you would help support this effort. Sincerely, [You]
You’re probably starting to get the picture, but if not, take a look at the picture below to help. The basic principle here is called “conditional logic”. In this example, you made a bunch of email content, and you send them if certain conditions are met. Those conditions are typically based on information you know about Bob based on how he interacted with you and your content before. Chat-bots are exactly the same thing, just delivered via a Chat tool instead of an email tool.
And finally…… we get to Artificial Intelligence (AI). If the printing press and Internet V1 are about scaling one-many communication, and V2 Internet is about scaling one-one communication, I like to think of AI as scaling the other side of the equation, that is, none-many and none-one. With one-many and one-one, there is still a person behind the content that is being produced at some point, but with AI, the computer is making the decision.
So how do we leverage AI now? One of the more subtle forms of AI that you can take advantage of right now is what I call AI augmented communication. You can see this in tools like Gmail suggesting responses that you can add to an email in one click or donor database software that recommends what your next ask should be. This is AI that serves up the content, but it still gets run through a human agent. The great thing here is you can get a lot more done in less time.
As for full-on AI, it’s coming and we are all waiting to see exactly which way it will go, but now that you know the context of AI, you’ll have a lens to understand it through.
As we all wait to see what happens with AI, I’ll leave you with two parting thoughts:
- No matter what, don’t forget the human psychology part of the equation!
- If you haven’t started to scale your one-one relationships, forget about AI for the moment and get started with that. Successful fundraising is all about building relationships, so this is a sure winner for you and your organization.