Approaching AI with cautious optimism — and a human touch

As we continue to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of technology, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a recent AI Summit we had with ST leadership and share some insights on the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our work for our clients.

AI, at its core, is software that mimics human activity. It turns vast amounts of data into useful information, enabling us to make informed decisions. From digital personal assistants to predictive analytics, AI is already transforming various sectors. Fundraising is no exception.

At ST, we’re approaching AI with cautious optimism. We see its potential, but we also understand the need for ethical guardrails. That’s why we’re committed to embracing AI’s possibilities while ensuring we adhere to our values and the expectations of our clients.

The way I see it, AI has the potential to help us raise more money than ever before and to be better fundraisers. This begins with AI’s powerful ability for personalization —a key aspect of effective fundraising. By analyzing donor data, we believe AI can help us tailor our clients’ campaigns to specific audiences, enhancing engagement and, ultimately, donations. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI has the capacity to streamline processes and provide valuable insights into donor behaviour. That’s where the optimism comes in.

With any technology, however, there are considerations to bear in mind — and it’s why we are still cautious about where AI can take us. We’ve already seen, for instance, that AI can sometimes generate content that may not align with our messaging standards or may even create false and biased references So, in the months and years ahead, it will be crucial to use AI with care, as a tool to enhance our work, not as a replacement for creativity and strategy or the human touch that is the bedrock of our field.

How can AI help our non-profit clients?

AI offers a variety of exciting areas of exploration and potential testing opportunities that could prove extremely profitable for ST clients:

  1. Versioning and Localization: AI could help tailor content to local tastes and cultures, including references to local landmarks or events. This could be done in both copy and imagery, creating a more personalized and relevant donor experience.
  2. Hyper-Personalization: AI could be used to create highly personalized content for each recipient, going beyond just including their name in a direct mail letter or email. This level of personalization has the potential to significantly enhance donor engagement.
  3. Social Media Ad Testing: AI could help generate multiple versions of ad copy for social media campaigns, allowing for testing of different messaging approaches.
  4. Competitor Analysis: It could be used to analyze competitors’ marketing and identify successful copy and design trends.
  5. Trend Forecasting: It could also help us analyze social media and other sources to identify emerging trends that could be incorporated into messaging.
  6. Personalized Gift Arrays or Wealth Overlays: AI could help us build more accurate gift arrays based on individual donor behaviour and wealth indicators.
  7. Social Audit: We could use AI to conduct an audit of a donor’s social media behaviour to better understand their interests and potential giving capacity.
  8. Seamless Donor Experience: AI could be used to create a seamless experience for the donor, with personalized follow-up based on their specific interests and previous donations.
  9. Retention Strategies: We could leverage AI for donor retention strategies, providing personalized content and updates based on specific interests and donation history.

Remember, these are potential opportunities and avenues to explore and each would need to be tested and evaluated for effectiveness and profitability. It also goes without saying that using AI in these strategies needs to be done ethically and in compliance with privacy laws and regulations. We like to think of our role in the deployment of AI as “adult supervision”. Your brand is what connects donors emotionally to your cause. AI isn’t there yet, so we’re well-equipped to help our clients ensure that their brand remains front and centre and differentiated in the donor’s mind.

Intelligence that helps ST work better, too

As we look internally, there are a number of opportunities for ST to use AI to help us work more productively and creatively:

  • Account Teams: We could use AI to summarize content for client presentations, develop graphs and tables, obtain meeting notes, and test for proofreading and translation.
  • Creative: Our creative teams could use AI to focus even more on strategy by aiding in execution — versioning copy, assisting in photo-retouching, creating image options, and reducing turn-around times.
  • Digital: AI could help our digital experts experiment and pioneer new trends, become more competitive in email creative and deployment, and use AI as a starting point for coding.
  • Data: We’ll investigate and test AI for data audit commentary and data analysis.
  • Marketing: We’ll explore how to use AI for website content development, social media post development, video development, and initial development of case studies.

We’re excited about the potential of AI and its ability to enhance our work in fundraising. And ST is actively exploring how to integrate it into our day-to-day operations. I’m personally keen to explore potential testing opportunities with clients, exploring how AI can help our teams provide even more value.

It’s worth repeating, however, that we remain mindful of the ethical challenges AI poses to organizations and our sector. We are committed to using AI responsibly, ethically and transparently, ensuring we respect our clients’ guidelines and maintain the trust of the donors with whom we engage.

If you’d like to chat more on this topic, or share examples of how you’re already using AI, I would love to hear from you. Let’s continue the conversation and explore together how we can leverage AI to make an even greater impact while helping charities raise more money for their amazing causes.




Paula Attfield, CEO of ST

Paula Attfield, CEO of ST

Paula has been a fundraiser for over 27 years. With Paula, it’s all about results — helping ST’s clients raise more money to fulfill their missions. For more on our success stories give Paula a call at 416-690-8801 x235