We recently unveiled our vision for AI, Fundraising, and the Future of EverTrue.
Read on for thoughts from EverTrue CEO and Founder, Brent Grinna.
“As I prepared to send my kids back to school,
I reflected back on a truly fun and rewarding summer. There were some great moments – golfing with my kids, striper fishing, and connecting with inspiring industry leaders in San Antonio.
However, amidst all these joys, I encountered a problem that might be familiar to many of you:
My beloved leather sandals didn’t quite withstand the test of time.
Naturally, I turned to the Amazon app to find a superior replacement. I was prepared to dive into the sea of reviews to find the perfect pair. But to my surprise, Amazon already did that work for me! It not only helped me see the sandals that customers loved the most, but also helped me figure out what they loved based on what was most important to me. Some folks might consider durability to be important. Or value. Or arch support. For me, I was all about comfort, quality, and the ability to get my sandals quickly.
This scenario illustrates how the for-profit world has been seamlessly integrating AI into our daily tools, enhancing our experiences without us even noticing.
So, what about AI and Fundraising?
Today, AI tools such as OpenAI and ChatGPT are transforming the landscape for so many industries – AI is what powered Amazon to sift through tons of data points and match me with my perfect pair of sandals.
As I pointed out in an earlier opinion piece on AI and Advancement, “In terms of substantial data to power AI-generated personalization at scale, higher ed has a massive advantage to capture the mindshare, hearts, and attention of their donors, as compared to the for-profit world.”
Powered by the incredible wealth of data stored in an alumni database, innovations in AI have the power to help fundraisers to nurture the pipeline, keep prospects warm, and remember to keep in touch with the donors they’re stewarding without having to lose focus from the major gift opportunities they’re most urgently focused on in the coming weeks.
The gift officer activity crisis – and how AI can help
Gift officers have long grappled with the daunting task of sifting through disparate data sources, analyzing records, and searching for critical information in order to identify prospects and match them to the right fundraising initiative. This time-consuming process has hindered their ability to focus on what truly matters: building and nurturing relationships.
At EverTrue, we have learned that across the board, only 2% of constituents are under active management at any one time. And a deeper dive into the data showed that in the past year, 70% of assigned prospects received fewer than three interactions. Worse, 8 out of 10 assigned prospects never met with a gift officer over the course of an entire year. (Yes, we counted virtual meetings in that statistic–neither the virtual nor the in-person meetings were getting done.)
The problem isn’t that institutions don’t value their most loyal and high-capacity donors, or that gift officers are too lazy to maintain relationships with them. Gift officers often find themselves bogged down in mundane administrative tasks, taking their focus away from major gift strategy and relationship-building.
The problem is usually that outdated technology is not supporting your ability to keep all of the balls in the air at the same time (read our recent white paper on the threat of gift officer burnout).
What we learned from Donor Experience Programs
Several years ago, EverTrue developed a solution to use a combination of data, software, and services to facilitate pipeline management and relationship nurturing: we called them Donor Experience programs.
These programs have already demonstrated their effectiveness at institutions across the country, including Wyoming, TCU, Oregon State, Nebraska, Santa Clara, Purdue, Buffalo, and UVA.
Cultivating 1,000+ leadership annual giving donors each, and powered by the EverTrue tech suite, Donor Experience Officers produced activity, meetings, and revenue ROI that was through the roof.
Our data from FY22 reveals that prospects who engaged with a Donor Experience Officer (DXO) gave twice as much as in FY21, and those same institutions saw the number of 1:1 relationships with prospects increase by up to 800%. On average, our DX partners saw a 46% increase in revenue from 2021, and our top-five performing institutions raised 83% more year-over-year.
Donor Experience programs are propelling pipeline and cultivating relationships with donors who were previously lying fallow in gift officers’ portfolios – or just simply falling through the cracks. Essentially, we saw Donor Experience programs solving the gift officer activity crisis.
As our Donor Experience programs grew and showed their potential, principal gift officers and VPs would tell us that they wished they had the tools DXOs used at their own disposal, noting how much easier their jobs would be.
And it got us thinking–how might we be able to take some of the important lessons from our DX programs and transform them for not only all gift officers, but all members of a fundraising team?
Our full-pyramid solution: Signal by EverTrue
Through our Donor Experience programs, we saw that organizations can increase engaged prospects by up to 800% by leveraging technology and good data to deliver personalized outreach to thousands of previously unengaged prospects.
And now we’re applying those lessons — velocity and polite persistence — to major gift work, and beyond.
At the heart of this transformative approach is Signal by EverTrue, the very first donor experience platform. Signal helps fundraisers connect with more prospects and achieve better results at every stage of the donor journey, without compromising on the quality of that engagement or its unique fit for each constituent.
Where Donor Experience Programs have traditionally empowered a few mid-level fundraisers at partner institutions, Signal puts the power of this cadence-based approach to prospect engagement into the hands of every frontline fundraiser.
Here's how it works
Data Enrichment: We start with basic donor information and enrich each profile with up-to-date career details, in-depth Facebook engagement data, net worth, and philanthropic interests.
Scoring: Our proprietary scoring tool continually-updates scores for your constituents, allowing you to prioritize your work with an unparalleled degree of precision.
Cadence-Driven Outreach: Built-in cadences support comprehensive donor engagement and targeted strategic interactions, providing gift officers with clear daily to-do lists. Everything is automated but human-driven, so fundraisers can make light work of their outreach while still remaining in the driver’s seat.
Stewardship Touchpoint Plans: These plans ensure donors are well-prepared for their next gift through a combination of meeting requests, travel plans, thank-you notes, stewardship touches, and personalized scripts, all driven by data and developed in partnership with your unique advancement team.
Visual Analytics and Benchmarking: EverTrue’s platform includes visual analytics and benchmarking tools, helping advancement leaders see fundraising activity at a high level while giving gift officers and advancement services teams the information necessary to analyze activity and recommend strategy.
Signal by EverTrue
With the launch of Signal by EverTrue, we are making the challenging task of fundraising easier for every fundraiser. Signal removes guesswork and manual from all ends of the advancement office, allows gift officers and DXOs to build relationships with more prospects, enhances the experience of every assigned donor, and gives the whole team visibility into results.
By leveraging technology to empower personalized outreach at scale, all fundraisers will enhance the donor experience and ensure that no prospect is forgotten. This is the future of fundraising, and it’s more impactful and efficient future for all of us.