Donors Are People, Not Wallets

“People—not pocketbooks—fund non-profit organizations” is a regular mantra in the DonorSearch office. Once upon a time, the “legacy method” of fundraising by focusing on wealth data was the north star for organizations. But this approach reduces potential donors to their assets and doesn’t bring a non-profit any closer to knowing if the prospect may donate. 

The modern answer? DonorSearch’s innovative technology solution. It harnesses the power of machine learning (AI) to not only determine who can give—but also their critical engagement level with your organization. 

Of course, some people remain wary of technology’s ability to disrupt what has typically been viewed as a numbers game. That’s understandable. Much of the press about Big Tech is negative and with good reason. Social media giants tend to pigeonhole users into different categories to target with advertisements, the source of their vast profits. But AI, coupled with Big Data, possesses great potential to help humanity by creating insights few people have the time or inclination to gather. 

AI coupled with Big Data Example

This phenomenon can be illustrated through an example outside the non-profit world—specifically, how Yelp helps users find a restaurant. In recent years, the crowdsourced review site has become a trusted resource for consumers to locate the best eatery options in their area. But the service doesn’t only take into consideration a person’s location or their search. 

Instead, the company’s advanced algorithms consider what type of restaurant you’ve enjoyed in the past and other factors, like review scores from users with tastes similar to yours. As a thought experiment, let’s consider what might happen if a site like Yelp didn’t take into consideration all these data points, and instead focused on one factor—wealth.

Scenario #1: Total Wealth

In this scenario, our imaginary searcher hopes to enjoy a dinner celebrating a special occasion with his spouse. However, because he is not familiar with the interface, he accidentally searches by “total wealth”, with the system promptly suggesting a trip to Starbucks, the most valuable restaurant company in the world. 

Our searcher isn’t happy. Neither is his wife! (The couple’s poor experience in this scenario resembles the pitfalls of working with irrelevant datasets providing unhelpful insights to an organization’s gift officer.) 

Scenario #2: Expensive Restaurants

Now, back to our story. Correcting their error, what if our husband instead focused on “expensive restaurants” as the primary search factor? He and his wife might end up in a fancy steakhouse with a nice ambience that still isn’t exactly what they wanted. In fact, looking for a restaurant based strictly on price would never bring our searcher closer to the ideal meal. 

Scenario #3: Affinity

Instead, he would be better off starting with a search based on affinity. You see, our searcher and his sweetie had their heart set on observing their special event with French cuisine. They met in France as students. Some of their best memories occurred in Paris, like their date at the Eiffel Tower. 

As you might imagine, our couple is deeply engaged with French food and culture that wealth data could never hope to measure. This affinity, or what the Psychology Dictionary calls the “innate draw toward someone, someplace, or something, frequently due to similar or shared traits,” is key to the couple enjoying a successful celebratory dinner—just as finding a prospect’s affinity for your organization is critical to a long-term relationship of gifting.

Find Your True Best Prospects

Of course, it’s easy to assume everyone in a given community is a strong prospect. In a world with unlimited budgets, unlimited staff, and unlimited time, every single person could be considered your organization’s next donor. 

But in the real world, where budgets, staff, and time are limited, non-profits achieve success when efforts are focused on finding the best prospects. In legacy fundraising efforts, the “best prospects” are defined as those with the most money. However, when DonorSearch partners with groups, the focus shifts to finding the true best prospects—those holding deep affinity for an organization with the capacity to make donations. The crucial step is to identify the factors indicating an individual possesses this emotional connection.

Such indicators may vary widely from organization to organization. Consider a university seeking donations from its alumni. Not all graduates feel the same way about their Alma Mater. Someone who still wears a college sweater and flies the team flag outside their home on game day holds more affinity for the school than the person who received multiple parking tickets on campus and still hasn’t returned for a homecoming event. 

How DonorSearch Can Help

A reliance on wealth data may rank these two prospects as similar when considering them as people rather than wallets tells a different story. DonorSearch helps non-profits determine those key factors impacting affinity. It then measures them with AI—which constantly refines its algorithm to produce ever more accurate results. 

By identifying the most engaged members of your community in this innovative way, you can better locate future donors. Since money follows engagement, you can also be more assured you are connecting with those prospects most likely to offer a financial gift. If you are ready to take your fundraising to a new level—one centered on humans and not wealth, please contact our team of experts to arrange a demo of DonorSearch Aristotle today.

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