IS ChatGPT a Fundraising Expert?
Updated: Mar 30
8 fundraising best practices according to AI – and our response
What is ChatGPT?
In case you’ve been living under a rock, which is understandable in today’s world, ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot and search engine tool with an incredible ability to produce answers to questions and requests quickly and in complex detail. This powerful and slightly scary tool can write complete essays, produce code, and even engage in philosophical questions. Step aside Ms. Google, ChatGPT is here to pave the way forward for how we search and engage with the worldwide web. We’re eager to see how AI impacts the fundraising and digital marketing industries. Stay tuned for our official thoughts and findings.
Can ChatGPT help in fundraising?
The sky's the limit for what ChatGPT can research and accomplish as long as the user asks the right questions. As experts in our field, we’re always looking for the newest tech and tools to bring to our clients. Naturally, we were curious–what exactly does ChatGPT know about fundraising? We took ChatGPT to task and asked:
“What are the best practices for nonprofits?”
There are many best practices that nonprofits can follow to maximize their impact and success. Here are 8 key practices:
1. Establish clear goals and objectives: Nonprofits should have a clear understanding of their mission and goals, and they should establish specific, measurable objectives to achieve them.
Wingo: Agreed! So far so good, ChatGPT.
Establishing a clear mission with supporting objectives truly is step number one for any nonprofit. An organization's mission is its north star, the guiding principle that informs every element of the work, attracts support from the masses and pushes the organization forward. Measurable objectives should be set at every level, the macro and the micro–everything from overall organizational impact to the reach and results of a single fundraising or awareness campaign. The recipe for successful objectives is SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.
2. Develop a strategic plan: A strategic plan outlines the steps that an organization will take to achieve its goals. Nonprofits should develop a comprehensive strategic plan that includes short-term and long-term objectives.
Wingo: Another truth!
A comprehensive strategic plan is like a recipe for a delicious cake–developed, tested, and modified as needed to perfect the concrete steps that will lead to success and growth. It’s worth repeating that strategic plans, like a good cake recipe, are not static, they should evolve along with the organization. It’s important for nonprofits to revisit and adapt their strategic plans as the organization grows, new staff and stakeholders are welcomed, and new industry practices are adopted by the ever-evolving world of philanthropy.
3. Build a strong board of directors: The board of directors is responsible for providing guidance and oversight to the nonprofit. Nonprofits should recruit board members who have diverse skills and experiences and are committed to the organization's mission.
Wingo: We couldn’t agree more. More than guidance and oversight, board members are our key fundraisers!
Some of our most important work with clients revolves around board development and engagement. It is critical for nonprofits to build a diverse board of directors, with individuals from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. The ideal board of directors is composed of highly engaged individuals who are financially and emotionally committed to the success of the organization, are willing and able to make connections to prospective funders and partners and participate as much as they are able in events and campaigns. While building the “dream board” is no easy endeavor, often taking years of time and effort, it’s time well spent–an engaged board nearly guarantees stability and strength for the short and long term. It is the responsibility of the nonprofit to empower its board members with the tools, knowledge, and support they need to serve as effective fundraisers and ambassadors. As the saying goes: happy board, happy life, or something like that. PRO TIP: develop a list of concrete board engagement opportunities. Outside of giving or getting donations, what else can they offer? Check out this example of a Board Engagement Form we developed for a client
4. Cultivate strong relationships with donors: Nonprofits rely on donations to fund their work. Organizations should develop strong relationships with donors, including individual donors, foundations, and corporations, and communicate regularly with them about the impact of their donations.
Wingo: While easier said than done, yes ChatGPT, that is also correct.
Not unlike dating, building a healthy, lasting donor-nonprofit relationship can be difficult, but when done correctly, the results are a beautiful and mutually beneficial partnership. Successful nonprofits strategically, continually, and meaningfully identify, research, cultivate, solicit and steward individual and institutional donors. In all relationships, balance is key. Commonly, nonprofits rely too heavily on one or two types of funders– putting all their eggs in the government and/or institutional funder basket and neglecting to invest time and effort into cultivating individual donors. For others, the opposite is true. Once a relationship with a prospective donor is established, meaningful engagement and recognition are paramount. If you don’t know your donors, Houston, we have a problem. It is essential to get to know them–how (and how often) they like to be communicated with, what inspires their support, and how they like to be acknowledged or recognized (if at all). When working with clients, we ensure they have the tools and strategies to provide current and prospective donors ample opportunities to connect in person and digitally.
5. Invest in staff and volunteers: Nonprofits should invest in their staff and volunteers by providing training, professional development, and support. This will help ensure that the organization has a strong team in place to achieve its objectives.
Wingo: Not should, must!
Individuals working or volunteering with a nonprofit are there because they care. These individuals are working to solve a problem, build a movement, spread awareness, promote justice, etc., and while meaningful, this work can often be emotionally taxing. It’s important and necessary to ensure staff and volunteers feel the same love and care they put into their work is being given to them for their change-making efforts. This is a friendly reminder to thank your staff and volunteers today! Recognition can come in many forms from fun events, trainings, workshops, and outings to a simple thank you gesture, email, or social post.
6. Use data to measure and evaluate impact: Nonprofits should use data to measure their impact and evaluate their programs. This will help organizations to identify areas where they can improve and demonstrate their effectiveness to donors and other stakeholders.
Wingo: It’s true, and not always easy.
Developing a system for measuring and evaluating impact is another essential. Many institutional funders require data-heavy impact reports or applications before they will even consider a grant or a renewal to an organization. While for some, this can be a straightforward process, impact reporting often presents a major time and resource-consuming challenge for nonprofits, especially those working outside of the direct-service space. In recent years, the topic of data reporting and its taxing impact on time and capacity has become an increasingly prevalent topic in the philanthropy sector. During the height of COVID, the issue came to the forefront. Many major institutional funders, including the Ford Foundation, responded by loosening or eliminating reporting requirements. We’re glad to see this and similar practices have remained in place for many grantmakers. Now, if only they would give away more of their nut.
7. Maintain financial transparency: Nonprofits should maintain financial transparency by keeping accurate records, producing regular financial reports, and making these reports available to stakeholders.
Wingo: We see you, right through you, ChatGPT!
Financial transparency doesn’t sound very sexy, but it is indeed sexy. There’s nothing like visiting a nonprofit’s website and seeing those lovely digital badges from the major charity ratings sites indicating high-level ratings for transparency and impact. In fact, our beloved long-time client HealthRight was recently awarded top ratings for trust, quality, and impact from all three major charity rating sites – Charity Watch, GuideStar, and Charity Navigator. These ratings serve as a stamp of approval and instill trust in individuals and donors alike. We also like to find the annual report on a client’s website.
8. Stay current with legal and regulatory requirements: Nonprofits should stay up-to-date with legal and regulatory requirements, including tax laws, reporting requirements, and compliance with charitable solicitation laws.
Wingo: Absolutely, positively, always and forever.
As if! This is an absolute and obvious necessity. Rules and requirements do have a tendency to change more often than one might assume, so all nonprofits must remain focused on being and staying in compliance, as the vast majority are. That said, we’re not sure if this one should really be considered a best practice, it’s more like… a law.
Our Final Thoughts / TL;DR
Successful nonprofits possess a clear vision and effective strategy, develop objectives and measure impact, establish meaningful lasting relationships, and attract a support team who are committed to the mission and feel genuinely valued.
As fundraising experts, creative designers, and producers of meaningful events and digital engagements, we’ve got to hand it to ChatGPT, we’re impressed!. Any nonprofit (or human) following these practices will surely be placed on the path to success.