In the movie The Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow laments he was deprived of the mental capacity that he later learned he always possessed. Declaring his despondency to Dorothy, he bemoans, “If I only had a brain!” Even now, as we correctly assumed, he had a keen intellect and common sense. Yet, isn’t it true that we seldom realize our savvy brain power until we get older and wiser? It didn’t take a wizard to enlighten us.
In today’s world, technological advances, particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI), allow us to augment our intellectual capacity. Every day we learn about new-fangled technologies that improve the human condition, inventions that were unimaginable just a few short years ago. It is no different in fundraising, where exciting enhancements have helped raise more funds for the causes we care about.
AI – what exactly is it? A simple dictionary definition is “the ability of a computer or a robot controlled by a computer to do tasks that are usually done by humans because they require human intelligence and discernment.” Truth be told, we often see computers and robots exceed human judgment by solving problems faster, being more intuitive, and coming up with better solutions. Beware Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Innovative software firms often claim that AI is at the core of their fundraising platforms. However, one platform I recently encountered uses AI to enhance the ability of fundraisers in a truly innovative manner. The company aimed the program at fundraising professionals who need that extra push to follow up with donors. This company is named Gravyty, and its platform is called Raise.
Gravyty immediately caught my attention because it reminded me of two relevant words: “gravitas” and “gravity. In the same way that gravitas means treating a subject with dignity or seriousness, Raise (from Gravyty) emphasizes the fundraiser’s responsibility to follow through with his or her donors’ list in a thoughtful manner.
The company name also reminds me of Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity, which he formulated in 1665 after observing an apple fall straight down rather than sideways or upwards. Through Gravyty’s program’s common-sense approach, like a compass in a forest, it guides fundraisers in the direction they need to go. This will enable them to keep their attention on the donors for whom they are responsible.
I might have dubbed this platform the “If I Only Had a Brain” program had it existed when I worked full-time for nonprofits. A story in Forbes magazine’s November 17, 2020 issue drives home this software’s significance. The article describes how one Arkansas State fundraiser grew his portfolio by 540% in less than a year by using Raise. I found the story to be compelling.
As part of his/her normal work, a fundraising officer should maintain a donor portfolio of 150-300 donors. The fundraiser’s job is to keep ongoing contact with this group for at least two reasons: (1) to motivate each supporter and keep them updated on the nonprofit’s progress, including newly launched programs or even setbacks, and (2) to solicit them at the appropriate time. In theory, the staff person should be able to schedule all of this and juggle donor touchpoints on his/her own. But it’s not so simple.
Let’s see how Raise from Gravyty works.
Fundraisers can use the fundraising platform to identify when and whom they should contact in their portfolio. With its AI component, it adapts to the writing style of the fundraiser and drafts personalized messages for contributors. It also describes the top prospects and outlines the week’s priorities, who needs stewardship and the right time to meet with donors one-on-one. As an added benefit, it also assists with the drafting of customized thank you letters and even connects non-traditional fundraisers within its ecosystem.
As evidenced by the case featured in Forbes, the results have been spectacular. Using Raise at New York University brought in $840,000 in one year from donors who otherwise wouldn’t have been engaged. The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund inspired 69 new gifts through Raise, totaling $1.2 million. In addition, the program led to improved management of the CAF’s 20,000 donors.
Challengers to AI worry that machines and robots will replace workers. Quite the contrary, exclaim advocates. Humans will do their jobs better with it. As far as Raise is concerned, this seems to be the case. In the immortal words of the Scarecrow,
“I could while away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers,
Consulting with the rain;
And my head I’d be a scratchin’
While my thoughts are busy hatchin’
I’d unravel ev’ry riddle…
If I only had a brain.”
By working at 150% or more capacity, Raise from Gravyty gives fundraisers the purpose-driven technology to accomplish tasks that otherwise might not get done in a timely fashion if at all.
It’s time to follow the yellow brick road.
Note: This is not a paid endorsement of the product. Results may also vary depending on individual circumstances, such as minimal to maximum use of Raise from Gravyty, skill levels of the users, and accuracy of the donor data. More information can be gathered at https://gravyty.com/raise/.
Norman B. Gildin is the author of the popular book on nonprofit fundraising, “Learn From My Experiences.” He is the President of Strategic Fundraising Group whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits to raise critical funds for their organization. His website is www.normangildin.com.