AI and Machine Learning – we hear a lot about them, but what do they mean for fundraising? This tech disruptor can help us find out.
No doubt you’ve heard the terms Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) floating about in recent years. Perhaps you even work for a nonprofit that’s doing pioneering work in this space. But for many of us, these initiatives represent a brave new world of digital advancement that may seem bewildering as we grabble to simply keep up with technological changes that have been fast-forwarded by COVID-19.
But there’s good news – for Aussie start-up, Dataro, this is their comfort zone and they have just received transformative seed funding that will help them impart their wisdom with nonprofits – wisdom that will help many charities raise money for their cause.
But before we jump into the Dataro story, let’s start with some AI and ML basics.
What is AI and ML?
First off, they’re not the same, although they’re often referred to interchangeably.
According to Bernard Marr & Co, AI is the umbrella concept, and ML is a subset. AI describes the concept of ‘intelligent’ machines able to complete “smart” tasks that historically required human intelligence. ML is a form of AI where machines are given data and use it to learn and improve without human intervention.
We won’t go into too much detail and there is a plethora of information out there to help you understand these concepts (see links at the bottom of this article) but needless to say, there are numerous ways AI and ML can assist us in our everyday lives and helping fundraisers raise money is just one of them.
Who are Dataro and what do they do?
The fundraising disrupter was founded by friends Tim Paris (CEO), David Lyndon (CTO), and Chris Paver (COO) and the business already works with more than 50 charities in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
Work to date includes helping Prostate Cancer UK test how AI predictive modelling performed against traditional list selection methods in an Autumn appeal (resulting in 440 extra gifts and £11,000 additional income), supporting RFDS Victoria to increase net revenue in their 2020 Tax appeal by $35,000 using propensity scores, and using donor scoring to help Greenpeace send less mail and raise more money in their 2019 Spring appeal.
So, what exactly is Dataro’s product and how does it help achieve these results? In a nutshell, it’s a donor scoring solution that uses AI to help raise more money from fundraising campaigns.
There will always be components of fundraising campaigns that need a heavy human touch – such as direct mail, telemarketing and email communications. But current processes used to generate the data that feeds this activity, such as queries in Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) or Excel, are open to limitations and errors, resulting in missed donations.
Where Dataro comes in is by integrating its ML technology into CRMs to provide predictive donor scores for all a NFP’s supporters. This means the NFP can select the people most likely to be responsive to their ask.
Dataro’s technology can, for example, identify a donor who has a 12.5% chance of giving to a direct mail appeal and an 84% chance of churning (leaving) from a regular giving program. The result? This supporter is included in a regular giving retention campaign.
Building a campaign with Dataro is a simple process – a fundraising team simply selects the type of campaign they want, exemplified in the image below.
One example is building a list for a direct mail appeal. A fundraiser selects ‘DM Appeal’ and inputs an average cost of, say, $1.25 per piece. Next, they apply exclusions (such as people with a Do Not Mail preference or without an address). The platform then combines this information with ML predictions to provide a recommendation for the optimum campaign size. And bingo – now the fundraiser can download a list of all the relevant donors and run the campaign.
The tool can also help post-campaign, saving precious hours previously spent running analysis and writing reports. The Results Analyser shows overall results, number of gifts, response rate and how Dataro’s predictions performed.
That’s a snapshot of how Dataro works. Now let’s look at where the start-up is headed.
A sizeable seed
In January, Dataro announced its $2.5 million seed funding round led by Basis Set Ventures, Black Sheep Capital, and Save The Children. The funds will allow Dataro to focus on their 2022 expansion into the UK and globally, bolstering charity innovation amidst growing fundraising challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Paul Ronalds, CEO of Save the Children Australia said, “As an impact investor, Save the Children Australia is focused on driving solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems. Not-for-profits are at the forefront of this innovation but are often hindered by their access to funding. We’re proud to be investing in Dataro which we believe can help more charities utilise AI learning to achieve the impact they seek.”
Dataro CEO Dr Tim Paris said, “The effects of COVID mean many charities are struggling to raise the same funds [as before] and their causes are suffering. Our AI fundraising tools make fundraising more efficient.
“While most big corporations these days use data to maximise their efficiency, charities have not had the budgets needed to do the same. Dataro is the fast track for charities to use these innovations. Our mission is to help charities raise more money, from the smallest art gallery to the largest multinational charity.”
Alongside Save the Children, Dataro counts organisations such as UNICEF, Victor Chang, Greenpeace and many other large and small charities amongst its users. The software start-up was also recently selected as one of the top 10 fundraising innovations globally in the Reimagining Fundraising competition, which identifies game-changing fundraising solutions.
With an impressive array of solid case studies under their belt, and funding that will propel them forward, Dataro are going full steam ahead – will you jump on board?
Click here to try out a Dataro demo.
There is a wide range of information available online that will help you learn more about AI and ML. Here is a small selection to get you started: