Using AI to Transform Your Major Donor Fundraising

My favorite ride at Disney World is the Carousel of Progress. If you’ve ever ridden this ride, which happens to be the #1 most-ridden ride in the world, you have witnessed the story of one family as they travel through the 20th century. It starts with the turn of the century, goes to the 1920s and the 1940s… and then there’s an awkward scene where they try to imagine the future. When Walt Disney first developed the Carousel of Progress for the 1964 World Fair, he did in fact imagine in many ways what the future was going to be. 

If Disney were to re-create the Carousel of Progress today, I can only imagine all the ways that AI (Artificial Intelligence) would be incorporated. Practically speaking, the future is now with AI. (We once considered voice-activated technology like Alexa to be futuristic, too!)

We can work more efficiently in many ways with AI, using very modest changes. Here are a few ways you can use AI (such as ChatGPT) to assist you in your fundraising work: 

Donor Research: AI-driven tools and platforms can significantly expedite and refine the donor research process. These systems can analyze vast datasets to provide insights into a donor’s ability to give. For example, you may have a new donor give to your organization and you learn that they are a long-term senior pilot for Delta. You imagine this person makes lots of money, but you’re not sure how much. I asked ChatGPT this very question, and here’s what I got:

“On average, a senior Captain with 20 years of experience at a major airline like Delta could earn a substantial salary, potentially exceeding $250,000 to $300,000 or more per year, including various bonuses, benefits, and allowances. However, this figure can change over time due to industry fluctuations, collective bargaining agreements, and economic conditions.

Or let’s suppose that you know that a major donor just bought a $5,000,000 house and you wonder how much money you need to make to buy a house that costs that much money. Here’s what ChatGPT returned as a response:

“Assuming a 20% down payment on a $5 million house, your down payment would be $1 million. This means you'd need to finance the remaining $4 million through a mortgage. 

To give you an idea, with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at an 8% interest rate (please note that rates can vary), your approximate monthly mortgage payment, excluding property taxes and insurance, would be around $36,666.

To qualify for this type of mortgage, you'd typically need an annual income of at least 3 to 4 times your annual mortgage payment, which in this case would translate to an annual income of roughly $1.300,000 to $1.8 million or more.”

As you can see, AI can help you discover some key insights as you plan how to engage with a donor based on their giving capacity, income, and assets.

Drafting Donor Communications:AI-powered natural language processing (NLP) tools excel at generating high-quality written content. When it comes to crafting compelling donor communications, AI can assist by generating draft emails, newsletters, or thank-you letters. While AI-generated drafts may require some human refining, they significantly expedite the content creation process, allowing nonprofits to maintain frequent and personalized communication with their supporters.

I asked CHATGPT to write a note to write a note to a major donor to thank them for a recent gift. Here is the draft it created for me: 

Dear [Donor's Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I am writing on behalf of [Nonprofit Organization] to express our deepest gratitude for your generous and significant gift. Your support means more to us than words can convey, and we want you to know just how impactful your contribution is.

Your belief in our mission and your commitment to making a difference in the lives of [describe the beneficiaries or the cause] is truly inspiring. With your generous donation, we can continue our vital work and take significant steps toward achieving our goals.

Your gift will [briefly explain how the donation will be used or its potential impact]. It is through the support of compassionate individuals like you that we are able to create lasting change and improve the lives of those we serve.

Please know that your kindness does not go unnoticed. We are deeply appreciative of your trust and dedication to our cause. We look forward to keeping you updated on our progress and sharing stories of the impact your gift is making.

Once again, thank you for your generosity and your belief in our mission. You are a valued member of our [Nonprofit Organization] family, and we are immensely grateful for your support.

With warm regards,

[Your Name]


[Nonprofit Organization]

Clearly this letter needs to be updated, but it is a great starting place!

Template Development: Developing templates for essential documents like donor communication calendars and volunteer job descriptions is another area where AI can be highly beneficial. AI-driven systems can analyze existing templates, identify best practices, and generate new, improved versions. This not only saves time but also ensures that templates are optimized for effectiveness. For example, I asked ChatGPT to create a donor communication plan and it created the following for me: 

Certainly, here's a simplified 12-month donor communication plan that you can use as a starting point for your nonprofit organization:

January - New Year's Greetings and Impact Report
  • Send a heartfelt New Year's greeting to all donors, expressing gratitude.
  • Provide an annual impact report showcasing the previous year's achievements.
  • Invite donors to an online or in-person appreciation event.
February - Valentine's Day Appeal
  • Send a themed Valentine's Day message expressing love and appreciation.
  • Highlight specific projects or initiatives that need support.
  • Offer a limited-time matching donation opportunity.
March - Spring Campaign Kickoff
  • Launch a spring fundraising campaign.
  • Highlight the season of renewal and growth.
  • Share success stories and testimonials from beneficiaries.
April - Tax Season Acknowledgment
  • Send tax receipts and acknowledgment letters for the previous year's donations.
  • Include a personal thank-you note from your team or a beneficiary.
  • Encourage recurring giving and provide tax-related information.
May - Donor Spotlight and Update
  • Feature a donor spotlight in your newsletter or on social media.
  • Share updates on ongoing projects or new initiatives.
  • Engage donors in a Q&A or virtual tour of your organization.
June - Mid-Year Progress Report
  • Send a mid-year report on how donations have been utilized.
  • Include visuals and stories that demonstrate impact.
  • Express gratitude for continued support.
July - Summer Thank-You Message
  • Send a summer-themed thank-you message.
  • Share pictures or videos of your team or beneficiaries enjoying the season.
  • Remind donors of the importance of their ongoing support.
August - Back-to-School Appeal
  • Launch a back-to-school campaign.
  • Explain how donations can support education-related programs.
  • Consider a "sponsor a student" option for donors.
September - Anniversary Celebration
  • Celebrate your organization's anniversary if applicable.
  • Highlight key milestones and achievements.
  • Encourage donors to share their stories of involvement.
October - Fall Giving Drive
  • Launch a fall fundraising drive.
  • Emphasize the urgency of your mission.
  • Host a virtual event or webinar to engage donors.
November - Thanksgiving Gratitude
  • Send a heartfelt Thanksgiving message.
  • Share stories of gratitude from beneficiaries.
  • Promote year-end giving opportunities.
December - Year-End Giving and Holiday Greetings
  • Launch a year-end giving campaign.
  • Highlight the importance of finishing the year strong.
  • Send warm holiday greetings and best wishes.

While this donor communication plan is not segmented based on donor type and does not honor the general principle I teach of asking once per year, it is a great starting place!

Writing Social Media Posts: Crafting engaging and relevant social media content can be time-consuming, and AI-driven tools can streamline this process. These platforms use natural language generation (NLG) techniques to create compelling and personalized social media posts based on the organization's objectives and target audience. AI can also analyze trends and data to suggest timely and trending topics to include in posts. By leveraging AI, nonprofits can maintain an active and influential social media presence, driving increased awareness, engagement, and support for their cause.

For example, I asked AI to generate ten Twitter (X) posts for The FOCUS Group. Here’s the query I entered into ChatGPT: “Create 10 different Twitter posts for the business: The FOCUS Group, which is a major donor fundraising consulting organization that serves primarily Christian nonprofits in the US and around the world.” 

ChatGPT returned the following: 

Certainly! Here are 10 different Twitter posts for The Focus Group, a major donor fundraising consulting organization that primarily serves Christian nonprofits in the US and worldwide:

  1. "Welcome to The Focus Group! We're your trusted partners in major donor fundraising for Christian nonprofits. Together, we'll make a difference. 🌍 #MajorDonors #Fundraising"
  2. "Our mission is to empower Christian nonprofits with the tools and strategies they need to thrive. Let's work together to make a lasting impact! 🙏 #NonprofitSupport #Impact"
  3. "Happy Monday! Start your week with a dose of inspiration as we share success stories from Christian nonprofits making a difference. 🌟 #MondayMotivation #SuccessStories"
  4. "Did you know? Major donors are the heartbeat of nonprofit sustainability. Let's explore strategies to engage them effectively. 💓 #MajorDonorEngagement #Philanthropy"
  5. "Meet our team of dedicated experts passionate about helping Christian nonprofits succeed in their fundraising endeavors. 👥 #TeamFocusGroup #NonprofitExperts"
  6. "Discover the power of major donor cultivation – turning supporters into champions of your cause. Let's craft a winning strategy! 🌱 #DonorCultivation #ImpactfulGiving"
  7. "Are you a Christian nonprofit looking to elevate your fundraising game? Reach out to us today for a personalized consultation. Together, we can achieve more! 📈 #FundraisingPartners #NonprofitConsultation"
  8. "What's your favorite success story from a Christian nonprofit you support? Share it with us! Let's celebrate their achievements. 🎉 #NonprofitSuccess #InspiringStories"
  9. "Major donors are not just contributors; they are partners in our mission to make the world a better place. Let's honor their commitment. 💪 #MajorDonorPartners #ImpactMakers"
  10. "Happy #TechTuesday! Stay updated on the latest fundraising technologies that can supercharge your nonprofit's efforts. 🚀 #TechForGood #FundraisingTech”

Honestly what ChatGPT created for us to post is pretty good. And, if you combine this by using a scheduling tool for social media posts like Hootsuite, you can very quickly get your social media posts in a much better place. 

Just like the theme song for the Carousel of Progress says, it is a ‘great big, beautiful tomorrow’ – and by using AI, you can do a better job with fundraising and have more time to do the work your non-profit exists to do. 

If you would like to hear more about using AI for your fundraising work—please join me on the upcoming webinar I am leading on how to use AI in your fundraising work, where I will show you how to do what I just explained in this blog. Here is the link to where you can register for the webinar: 

When: Oct 5, 2023 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Using AI to Transform Your Major Donor Fundraising

Register for the Webinar

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