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The Future of Fundraising: AI and Capital Campaigns

Capital campaigns already have game-changing possibilities for nonprofits. With a successful campaign, your organization can secure the large-scale support it needs to make new investments that will push your mission forward for years to come.

But it’s the digital age—how can you use technology to drive your capital campaign’s results even further? We recommend artificial intelligence.

With solid capital campaign strategies coupled with AI technology, the sky’s the limit. AI can help any nonprofit fundraise and engage donors in smarter, more targeted, and more proactive ways. If you’re already investing time and resources into planning a capital campaign, it’s worthwhile to explore all of your options. Many nonprofits hire consultants or extra development staff during their campaigns, so it may also be the right time to expand your tech stack with AI.

Let’s walk through how AI works and, more importantly, its potential benefits for the different stages of your capital campaign.

How It Works

Artificial intelligence is a relatively new trend in the nonprofit landscape, so there are a lot of misconceptions about it floating around. The key point to remember is that AI technology allows you to use your data to make proactive predictions about future donor behavior. 

AI for nonprofits works by studying your nonprofit’s data on past donor interactions and finding complex patterns and relationships over time. From there, AI software trains predictive algorithmic models that can chart out likely future behaviors. These models generate individualized predictive scores and ranks that tell you how likely each donor will be to take a target action.

In practice, you can use AI to predict any number of specific donor actions. For example, nonprofits use AI tools to predict the likelihood that donors will:

  • Give to a direct mail appeal right now
  • Join a regular giving program if asked
  • Lapse out of a regular giving program
  • Be interested in upgrading their recurring donation amount
  • Give a mid-level gift
  • Give a major gift or leave a gift in their will

Making these kinds of predictions accurately with traditional data analysis and segmentation is practically impossible, not to mention incredibly time-consuming. AI tools give you easy-to-use predictive metrics. Simply sort your donors by their likelihood to take your target action and go from there. 

How to Use AI in a Capital Campaign

AI can be extremely useful in day-to-day fundraising contexts, but it can also give your capital campaign strategies the boosts they need to succeed. More targeted outreach and appeals will increase your team’s effectiveness and your campaign’s all-around ROI.

Here are a few examples of how you can put AI to use during different stages of your campaign:

During the Quiet Phase

AI-driven predictions can change how your organization approaches prospecting before and during a capital campaign’s quiet phase.

The ability to predict which of your existing donors would be likely to give the equivalent of a major or mid-level gift can give your team a significant head start. Easily sorted likelihood scores mean you can build initial prospect lists in just minutes—no need to spend hours combing through your CRM to find prospects ready to make a new or larger gift.

Of course, you’ll still want to conduct more extensive prospect research to guide your conversations and to identify others outside of your existing donor base, but the time saved is a major benefit in and of itself. This lets your development team focus more on building relationships and preparing for asks rather than on studying your data to find their first prospects. 

By cross-referencing the donors identified using AI with your existing prospect list, you can also identify the ‘top’ priorities for outreach, as well as any donors who are already connected with your cause who you should look into further.

During the Public Phase

When you take your campaign public with broader announcements, events, and fundraising appeals, AI can help you raise more, better target your outreach, and save more time for your team. It’s especially helpful in two key ways:

  • Building mailing lists for appeals. Predictive scores can tell you exactly who’d be receptive to a direct mail appeal at any given time. This will help you save time creating segmented mailing lists and money that would’ve otherwise been spent on printing and sending campaign materials. Plus, you can determine who’d be likely to make the largest gifts in response to a direct mail appeal, meaning you can send your more expensive campaign brochures, custom messages, or other “high-value packs” just to them to maximize returns. 
  • Supporting additional public phase goals. If you’ll be building additional goals into your campaign’s public phase (for instance, boosting enrollment in your recurring giving program), AI can help there, too. As you lay out your public phase outreach strategies, AI-generated predictions about who’s likely to churn, join your program, or increase their giving level can directly shape the messages you send. This means you can easily accomplish two goals at once—securing public phase donations while also reducing churn or boosting enrollment in your giving program—without needing to build a complicated new strategy from scratch.

The overarching idea is that broad messages and appeals are tricky (cast too wide a net and you’ll waste time and money; cast too small of one and you’ll miss out on donations). Targeted lists built with AI predictions can bring your public phase a new level of focus and efficiency.

Broader Long-Term Benefits

Once your capital campaign wraps up, AI can generate even more value for your mission. Consider these long-term benefits:

  • Well-timed follow-up communication. With AI showing you exactly who’s ready for an appeal or other message, you can drastically simplify both post-campaign follow-up and ongoing appeals over the long run.
  • Stronger relationships over time. Perfectly-timed appeals and messages can lead to stronger relationships. The right re-engagement messages can help you stay on donors’ minds without bombarding them with blanket appeals.
  • Reduced technical silos and complexities. Silos can seriously slow down your nonprofit’s campaigns. AI eliminates the need for complicated data analysis and segmentation so anyone on your fundraising or development teams can quickly find the right donors they need to contact. 
  • Reliable stewardship streams. As mentioned above, AI can show you the donors who’ll be likely to make major or mid-level donations. With this advance notice, you can proactively engage those individuals to start growing your relationships. 
  • Clearer real-time insights into your performance. A clear idea of how many donors would be receptive to appeals and of your giving program’s churn risks give you deep insights into your performance. This added visibility makes it easier to make the case to your board for new campaigns, marketing strategies, and tech investments.

AI predictions are constantly updated as your organization generates new engagement data, meaning they become increasingly accurate and useful over time. Compounded over several years, this value is immense. 

The bottom line is that AI helps nonprofits be proactive with their fundraising and donor engagement strategies. Without data-driven predictions, you have to rely on vague assumptions to react to opportunities and challenges as they arise. 

In the digital age, there’s no need to stick with what’s kind of worked in the past. New technology can help you raise more support more efficiently.

This is particularly valuable in the context of time- and resource-intensive undertakings like capital campaigns. When the stakes are high and every dollar matters, tools like artificial intelligence can play a major role in ensuring you reach and exceed your goals.