Adding AI? Don’t Let Go of your Prospect Management Team!

  • Published September 28, 2022
  • / By Bree Muehlbauer, CFRE

“Just raise money.” Every fundraiser has heard this from a supervisor at some point in their career, and to some extent, there is wisdom in that. Those who are asked, make gifts. An indiscriminate approach, however, is rarely effective in building meaningful, sustained relationships that lead to transformational contributions. Prospect management is often the difference between a good fundraising program and a great one.

What a good prospect management professional can do

Prospect management professionals play a critical role in advancing fundraising strategy and performance. Strong prospect management teams are adept at gathering and interpreting data to inform philanthropic conversations between gift officers and donors. They support their colleagues in identifying and communicating opportunities, teeing up gift officers for success. Yet as the philanthropic sector is observing decreases in the average American’s giving, it’s vital to explore new solutions to engage, retain, and grow donors.

What AI can do

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have introduced exciting opportunities in fundraising and specifically in prospect management. AI can be more precise with highly accurate wealth screenings based on significant amounts of data not easily analyzed by an individual. Using this data, AI can help segment donors effectively and track donor journeys, updating wealth scores in near real-time as new information becomes available. AI can also analyze thousands of data points to make reliable predictions about future donor behavior, supporting more efficient donor identification, cultivation, and stewardship.

With machine learning, AI can grow in its understanding of donor, and even non-donor behaviors, providing valuable, actionable information that fundraising teams can use to build customized prospect plans and donor acquisition strategies. In turn, advancement leaders can make informed decisions about hiring, staff and organizational goals, and resource deployment.

Why not both?

As an advancement leader, you might see the adoption of AI as a great solution when faced with limited resources. AI can automate the mundane parts of the prospect management team’s job, curating and running queries, conducting and analyzing wealth screenings, scaling personalized communications, and other reporting and administrative tasks. But don’t fire your prospect management team!

Instead, consider how AI can enhance the role prospect management plays on your team. Let AI do what technology is supposed to do and leverage the insight and strategy skills of the prospect management professionals on your team. Challenge your prospect management professionals to identify how to integrate the knowledge generated by AI to help gift officers create comprehensive and effective donor strategies. With their deep understanding of the art of fundraising, prospect management professionals play a cross-functional role to help their frontline colleagues translate the valuable insights generated from the data into action.

Prospect management professionals can also use this data to help their colleagues prioritize prospects within portfolios, improve communication and outreach to donors, and develop donor engagement plans. They can serve as the critical bridge between the art and science of fundraising, helping development teams to be effective and efficient. With AI, prospect management professionals can work as strategists, elevating their roles as liaisons to the frontline fundraising team and integral contributors to the fundraising pipeline.