How AI and human fundraisers can work together successfully (collaboration, not competition)

AI robots aren’t going to replace fundraisers. Instead, they’ll become our co-workers.

25 years ago, when the super-computer Deep Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov, the race between computers vs. humans seemed to be finished. But it wasn’t really over.

As AI chess-playing computers continued to develop and human chess players started using them for training, an even stronger chess-playing ‘champion’ emerged — hybrid pairs of human & AI chess players working together to confidently beat AI-only systems.

Is this the future work model for human/AI integration in fundraising?

Boston Consulting Group in “Make the Most of Your Relationship with AI” describes 4 co-worker ‘roles’ — and corresponding levels of ‘human-in-the-loop’ interaction — that companies are using to successfully integrate human and AI operations.

  1. Automater
    The Automater level of AI integration sees fully automated control performed by AI without any human interaction needed. This is the type of AI role played in transaction-processing systems, such as credit card fraud detection. An AI Automater role in fundraising can be seen in the auto-optimized online donation forms from Fundraise Up, which are adapted on-the-fly for each individual web visitor based on data modeling from their large transaction database.
  2. Decider
    In the Decider role, the AI system takes on the work of complex data analysis and decision-making, but implementation is handed over to human operators. For example, AI-powered sales forecasting provides predictions of expected sales, but it doesn’t perform the actual purchasing and distribution of product inventory. An AI Decider role in fundraising would be, for example, an AI-powered segmentation process where target groups of supporters are identified and exported using predictive algorithms, but the actual planning and delivery of fundraising campaigns to those smart segments is run elsewhere.
  3. Recommender
    A more collaborative role for AI is as a recommender. It’s a familiar role from the likes of Amazon and Netflix where AI is used to generate a set of recommendations but the choice is left in the human viewer’s hands. An AI Recommender role in fundraising could be seen in AI-augmented supporter profiles that can provide individual scorings on propensity-to-give, best-next-appeal recommendations, and suggested-ask gift ranges for human fundraisers to take into consideration when deciding strategy.
  4. Illuminator/Evaluator
    AI can also be incorporated in the role of more traditional data analytics tools — as behind-the-scenes processes that generate reports and dashboards used entirely by human fundraisers to make decisions and design campaigns. Data products like income forecasts, marketing mix scenarios, and donor clustering can be valuable inputs generated by AI for use in fundraising strategy.

Boston Consulting also observes that companies making the greatest effort to integrate AI into all, or most, of these diverse roles across their operations have realized the greatest ROI benefit from AI.

In this view, AI isn’t a ‘killer app’ that upends established practices, but instead an adaptive co-worker that can play a variety of important supportive roles across your organization.

It’s a hopeful vision for AI-powered fundraising where humans and AI work together as colleagues and collaborators.



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