Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Beyond Fundraising
As we grow into a more modern and advanced community, it may seem daunting to use technology that others deem as “innovative” and “cutting-edge.” Using artificial intelligence and machine learning goes beyond just fundraising and into your everyday life, too. First, let us dispel the Terminator image that plagues many people’s thoughts when they think of AI.
In this modern world that we live in, you have likely interacted with AI in very useful and pleasant ways. For example, if you asked your Amazon Alexa about the weather, and she gave you a weather report, you used AI and data science. It takes volumes of data points from around the globe for the Natural Language Processing to recognize what you asked for and deliver a concise and cogent weather report.
Another example is if you’re driving somewhere unfamiliar and use Google Maps or Waze. You’ve once again touched AI. AI has permeated our daily lives, and many times, we don’t even realize it, but it does so in ways that add value, not detract. In the same way, AI can have a significant impact on the programmatic efforts of many nonprofits.
Mission-driven AI is intelligence that impacts your organization’s actual mission or program. Your nonprofit can use AI to support your cause by finding more insights to bolster your organization and fight the good fight. An example of this is the “Troll Patrol” project from Amnesty International, in which they used “crowdsourcing, data science and machine learning to measure violence and abuse against women on Twitter.”
Using machine learning, Amnesty International and Element AI measured the scale of online abuse against women in both the U.S. and U.K. by surveying millions of tweets they gathered from 778 journalists and politicians. AI helped find that:
- 7.1% of tweets sent to the women were problematic or abusive, which equates to 1.1 million tweets mentioning 778 women annually.
- Women of color were 34% more likely to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets than white women.
- Black women were 84% more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets.
- Online abuse targets women from across the political spectrum.
You can read more about Amnesty International’s “Troll Patrol” here: bit.ly/3dIFcHs.
Chatbots for AI
Chatbots are the perfect answer to our desire to get information instantly. Nonprofits can use chatbots to respond to frequently asked questions like, “When is your gala?” or “How do I fundraise for your organization?” Here are some more uses:
- Storytelling. If someone comes to your website and wants to understand more about your story, a chatbot can address those inquiries. They can answer using pre-populated responses, so your organization seems responsive, active and engaged, even when you’re busy tying up your year-end giving campaign.
- Donors. Imagine a world where chatbots collect your donations — yes it’s possible! You can program a chatbot to answer questions like, “How can I donate?” by requesting information step by step. For example, the chatbot can ask, “How would you like to donate? Cash? Check? Credit Card?” “Would you like to make this a monthly donation?” and more. This is an effective way to get those small donations in, easy! Chatbots exist everywhere, from Facebook to your website. Finding them is just a Google search away.
- Support. Ever visit your favorite nonprofit’s Facebook page and get a chat pop up that says, “How can I help you today?” That’s AI. Those bots exist to field queries and comments around their organization to help the humans who work for the nonprofit answer technical questions or problems strategically, without having to man the chatbots themselves. HelloVote from Fight for the Future used chatbots to help eligible voters sign up to vote. They’d contact you through your phone number to help walk you through the process of registering to vote.
Ultimately, the core purpose of each nonprofit is its ability to fundraise to support its mission, and AI and ML can be leveraged there as well.
Data Management and Organization
You can use AI to sift through your donor database to find commonalities between your donors, their average donation and how often they donate to target your gift asks or gala invites, so it ends up in the right place at the right time. One of the strengths of AI tools is the ability to effectively leverage tabular data. Combining machine intelligence with your existing data provides insights into the features that make your contacts ideal donors.
Using your nonprofit’s database, you can model data sitting in your database, along with third-party data points, to help you achieve significant lifts in donor acquisition, engagement and retention rates through predictive analytics. This changes the game for nonprofits because you are equipped with technology that actually allows you to visualize your donor database by segmenting it into actionable insights.
As a result, you can go to people in your database who are typically major donors for larger gifts; you can invite people in your database who typically attend galas to attend your gala; and you can send your direct mail campaigns to people who typically respond to direct mail. The ability to precisely target the types of donors you are looking for increases revenue while decreasing the time and underlying costs associated with donor acquisition.
At the end of the day, AI in philanthropy can be viewed as an iceberg. The tip that sticks out of the water is how AI is currently used for fundraising, but beneath the water is a massive opportunity for nonprofits to leverage AI and ML to achieve their mission in a more effective and efficient manner.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the May/June 2020 print issue of NonProfit PRO. You can view the original article here.
Before joining the corporate world, Mike served as an Army officer in the 101st Airborne Division. He received his BS in Systems Engineering from West Point, and MS and MBA degrees from the University of Virginia.