BridgeTECH Preview: Machine Learning for Nonprofit Marketers
Emily Courville, is the senior director of information solutions and analytics at The Humane Society of the United States, is living her mission.
“Being with the HSUS in the virtual office environment means my cat is always a meeting attendee — invited or not,” she said.
On the tech side of the nonprofit sector, her experience goes back 21 years to the early days of CRMs. After getting laid off from her theater job, Courville made a transition to the nonprofit technology field thanks to a friend's suggestion. She started off working for Target Analysis Group in various roles that involved individual reports, cooperative databases, acquisition list production, predictive modeling and trend analysis. Since then she’s jumped between agency roles and The Humane Society of the United States.
“I was working on reporting for Target Analysis Group and their PB clients while learning to use SQL on Oracle databases — those tools are not exclusively for nonprofit,” she said. “The data, however, came from nonprofit-specific systems, like RE and TA and a few others that no longer exist, and I quickly had to pick up the lingo as so many were migrating systems.”
Courville will be presenting at this year’s inaugural BridgeTECH, a tech-focused event for nonprofit executives, fundraisers and marketers on Aug. 2 at the 18th annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference. In the session, “Machine Learning for Nonprofit Marketers: Find the Right Constituents and Fuel Your Fundraising,” Courville; John McCarthy, vice president of technical and data services at ROI Solutions; and Steve Kehrli, senior vice president of development at PETA Foundation, will present real-world examples of how nonprofits have adopted machine learning models to optimize areas, such as audience selection for lapsed recapture efforts, sustainer conversion and retention, targeted ask amounts and more.
NonProfit PRO caught up with Courville to learn more about her work in nonprofit technology and why she’s so passionate about machine learning and data.
What impact has technology had on your nonprofit?
We would never have grown to the size and breadth we are today without our current CRM and trusted payment processors. Being able to automate most of our sustainer processing has made it possible to enhance and improve other parts of the operations side.
What is the biggest struggle nonprofits have with technology and how has your nonprofit overcome that struggle?
Time — giving existing staff the time and space to learn something new, or being able to afford new staff whose role is using something new that the rest of us then have to learn.
Why is it so important for nonprofits to embrace technology regardless of staff size, revenue, overhead misconceptions, etc.?
If you get stuck doing everything by hand in spreadsheets, [or] querying and importing data for every report refresh — you’ll never have the time, space or freedom to ever think beyond just maintaining what you already have. Automation is key to freeing up physical and mental capacity to think beyond today’s needs to tomorrow’s wants. And nowadays, we have the technology to automate, even using spreadsheets and basic software, freeing up staff time to pursue more critical tech and data infrastructure needs.
What will you be presenting at BridgeTECH and why are you passionate about the subject?
I am on two panels for BridgeTECH — one about how [business intelligence] tools have helped essential fundraising questions and one about AI, specifically machine learning and predictive modeling.
Both hit my sweet spot — data-driven decision-making.
Join Us at BridgeTECH
Listen to Courville, McCarthy and Kehrli share how to find the right constituents to maximize your campaigns and your fundraising impact at BridgeTECH on Aug. 2 at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Sign up for BridgeTECH and the Bridge Conference by selecting the "BridgeTECH + Bridge" option.