ChatGPT, Fundraising, and Why AI Is Your Friend

Brian GaworVice President of ResearchFebruary 2, 2023
An AI-generated image with the prompt "fundraiser meeting"​ created by Chad Bonaker using Midjourney.
An AI-generated image using the prompt “fundraiser meeting,”​ created by Chad Bonaker using Midjourney.

This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn.

ChatGPT, the groundbreaking conversation engine from OpenAI, is the hot topic these days. It’s passing law exams, writing essays, and making congressional speeches. I thought it might be time to ask ChatGPT about fundraising, presenting it with a specific question: What is the best way to organize an annual giving fundraising campaign?

ChatGPT gets a lot of fundraising strategy right

Here was the ChatGPT answer to my question:

“There are many ways to organize annual giving fundraising, but one effective strategy is to create a clear and compelling fundraising campaign that focuses on the mission and impact of the organization. This campaign should include a clear call-to-action and a variety of giving levels to appeal to donors of all abilities. Additionally, it’s important to build a strong donor base by regularly communicating with donors and showing them the impact of their gifts, and to use a variety of channels to reach potential donors, such as email, social media, direct mail, and personal solicitations. Finally, it’s important to acknowledge and thank donors for their gifts in a timely and meaningful way.”

There’s some good advice in there. It’s pretty classic fundraising wisdom, in one solid paragraph. And it’s not surprising that it did so well because it had a ton of content to work with. AI-driven conversation engines pull material from across the web and use their artificial intelligence engines to make the most prominent strings of information into a coherent narrative. ChatGPT did a pretty good job with this question.

Remember, fundraisers and fundraising experts drove this advice

I shared ChatGPT’s response with five experienced fundraisers and consultants who have helped hundreds of organizations. The responses ranged from “‘it’s pretty good”‘ to “maybe we’re out of a job,” to “there are few things missing.”

Since all of these people are published content creators, we then said: “Wait, I feel like I hear myself there. I wrote something very similar. Weird.”

This is the crucial thing to recognize about AI-driven content and conversation engines. They are based on listening. To put it simply, what you are seeing here is the combined wisdom, weighted by its popularity, of fundraisers talking on the internet, along with researchers, consultants, and giving geeks like me. It’s pretty cool, it got a lot of things right, and there’s no bad advice in its response.

However, the AI did leave a few things left out, and your fundraising strategy of course needs to be data-driven and rooted in your organization’s values and mission. There’s still plenty of room for the human element—which we can complement with the power of AI.

Listening to your donors and personalizing the experience is the real value of artificial intelligence in fundraising

This listening component is where artificial intelligence can really help us as we actually engage donors. We’ve been using it for years in our AI-driven engagement engine, RNL QuadWrangle. The engine listens to your content and analyzes what donors do over time. Then when you open up things like email newsletters to the engine, it chooses content that donors actually care about. It’s a game changer, and we’ve seen it double clicks and responses. This basic architecture applies to most AI-driven engagement. Here’s an infographic that explains how it works.

How AI Personalization Works in Donor Engagement
This graphic explains how AI-driven personalization can double your donor response (click for larger version).

AI has tremendous value if we use it creatively and critically in donor engagement

I like Chat GPT’s responses about fundraising, and I’m going to keep asking it fundraising questions to see how it responds in the coming weeks. I don’t agree that fundraisers are out of a job, because the human element will continue to be incredibly important. There are things missing that an AI (for now) just won’t be able to get right. And with all AI, there are some real issues with inclusivity that we need to give attention.

But because AI is an incredible way to listen at scale (and maybe the only way), it’s going to be very important for us in the future of donor engagement. Artificial intelligence is already operating on us daily to personalize our experiences on Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon, to name just a few. As we innovate as fundraisers, let’s think both creatively and critically about how AI can amplify our efforts and create a better donor experience.

Yes, the next member of your donor engagement team might be a robot, and this could ultimately be a good thing.

Special thanks to Chad Bonaker, for the awesome fundraising images created with the Midjourney AI art engine.

See how you could engage more donors with the power of AI

Watch this overview of the RNL QuadWrangle AI-powered platform to see how you can engage donors with curated content that’s more relevant, exciting, and accessible. Then ask for a walkthrough to learn more about the:

  • AI insights
  • Dynamic emails
  • Event management
  • Content curation
  • Giving pages

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About the Author

Brian Gawor

Brian Gawor’s focus is research and strategy to help propel both alumni engagement and fundraising results of RNL clients. Brian has 20 years of higher education experience in student affairs, enrollment management, alumni engagement and...

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