These Simple Words Can Change How You Approach Fundraising

“Let me tell you a story.”

Sharing data with your supporters is a great way to communicate the nuts and bolts of donor impact. But never underestimate the power of a story in connecting a donor emotionally to your cause.

Giving is driven by both emotion and logic, observes Capacity Partners Consultant Nancy Leopold. “Stories bring nonprofits’ impact to life. They hit people emotionally and intellectually. They make it real.”

Leopold saw first-hand the impact stories can have when she served as a founder and long-time leader of CollegeTracks, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower first-generation-to-college students and students from low-income and immigrant households in Montgomery County.

At “friend-raising” events, people were invited to hear directly from CollegeTracks students, which Leopold terms “the highlight of the evening” for attendees. One particular student was a natural in terms of charisma and storytelling acumen. He also had a great story to tell, having stumbled into the CollegeTracks office at a Montgomery County high school mostly because of the free candy available.

He told listeners that he and his single mother had no expectations that college would be an option. He since has graduated from Goucher College and is enrolled in a Master’s program. “The way he told his own story was so compelling,” she recalls. “By the end of the evening, people wanted to volunteer and give.” She adds, “A good story creates instant community.”

There are some caveats that apply to the first-person, in-person approach. “Authenticity is critical. That means the closer you can get to the voice of the speaker, the better off you are,” says Leopold, while noting this is not always possible.

For direct social service organizations particularly, asking a client to relate their story in person (or even via a video) has the potential to feel coercive and raises ethical questions. Depending on their circumstances, it also could invade their privacy or even jeopardize their safety.

It is essential to have a standard procedure for seeking the subject’s informed permission, including a full explanation of all of the ways the story may be shared (website, social media, etc.). A signed document can work well. It can and probably should include details such as whether a subject wants their real name used. Also consider establishing a policy for reviewing and archiving old content.

Other Options

Of course there are many ways to share powerful stories that protect and respect the needs of the subject. These include using the written word in settings like a campaign letter or as a website testimonial. You also can incorporate an audio recording of someone telling their story as part of a video that provides images showing a nonprofit’s work but never sharing an image of the client who is speaking.

No matter what the platform or format, every communication that includes a story must offer an opportunity for a supporter to take that next step. A story serves as an emotional touchstone, but it also is a means to an end, Leopold notes. “You must present the opportunity to be closer to the nonprofit” through financial support or volunteering, Leopold notes. “A story can open that door.”


Will the Real AI Please Stand Up?

With the unveiling of Apple’s new “Apple Intelligence” system along with the explosive interest in artificial intelligence among all industry sectors, I thought our nonprofit clients and friends would benefit from an informal assessment of AI’s impact on the nonprofit sector. I interviewed an AI industry expert to put into lay terms the main issues of interest.

What is the potential for artificial intelligence for donor management?

AI has significant potential for donor management by optimizing donor identification, automating communication, predicting donation patterns, and personalizing engagement strategies. This leads to increased efficiency, improved donor retention, and higher donation rates, ultimately enhancing fundraising efforts and ensuring sustainable support for organizations.

What is the difference between generative AI and predictive AI?

Generative AI creates new content or data, such as text, images, or music, based on learned patterns. Predictive AI, on the other hand, forecasts future outcomes by analyzing historical data and identifying trends. While generative AI focuses on creation, predictive AI focuses on anticipation and forecasting.

Would predictive AI be useful in analyzing and forecasting charitable donation trends?

Yes, predictive AI is highly useful for analyzing and forecasting charitable donation trends. It can identify patterns in donor behavior, anticipate future donations, optimize fundraising strategies, and improve donor retention, thereby enhancing overall fundraising effectiveness and ensuring more reliable financial planning for charitable organizations.

What are the pros and cons of using artificial intelligence in nonprofit operations?

Pros:

  1. Efficiency: Automates administrative tasks, freeing up staff for mission-critical activities.
  2. Personalization: Tailors communication and engagement strategies to individual donors.
  3. Data Analysis: Enhances decision-making through robust data insights and trend predictions.
  4. Fundraising: Optimizes donor management, leading to increased donations and retention.
  5. Resource Allocation: Improves resource distribution by identifying the most impactful initiatives.
  6. Extend Limited Staff Capabilities: Can help develop content for grant applications and other writing needs, particularly in the communications realm.

Cons:

  1. Cost: High initial investment in AI technology and training.
  2. Data Privacy: Risks related to handling sensitive donor information.
  3. Complexity: Requires expertise to implement and manage AI systems effectively.
  4. Bias: Potential for inherent biases in AI algorithms to affect decisions.
  5. Dependence: Over-reliance on AI might reduce human judgment and empathy in operations.

Is there current data to prove the efficiencies of AI?

Yes, current data indicate AI enhances efficiencies in various sectors, including nonprofits. Studies show AI-driven automation reduces administrative costs by up to 30%, and personalized donor engagement can increase donations by 20-30%, demonstrating significant operational and fundraising improvements. (See more here.)

Would you recommend an investment in AI for a medium-sized nonprofit?

Yes, investing in AI can be beneficial for a medium-sized nonprofit. It enhances efficiency, optimizes donor engagement, and improves fundraising strategies. However, consider costs, data privacy, and the need for expertise. Properly implemented, AI can significantly boost operational effectiveness and mission impact.

Our thanks to the interviewee of this article, ChatGPT. All content by ChatGPT.

Time in research and content: 10 minutes

Time if I did my own research and writing: Ask ChatGPT.