Is your next hire a robot? Fundraising in the intelligence era

January 25, 2017 Charlie Davenport


This Blog originally appeared on Blackbaud Pacific

In case you missed the big news last September, a well-known company announced they would ‘solve’ cancer within a decade.


And the brand making this bold claim?




Yes, the same people that brought us PowerPoint, Xbox and the dreaded Bing, are now stepping into the oncology business.


What is going on in the world?

According to documentary maker and author of The Final Invention, James Barratt, we are now entering the Intelligence Era.  A time when technology rules and Artificial Intelligence will eventually surpass the ability of human beings to do absolutely anything.


This makes unsettling reading (even from a technology writer).


Have we all just been running around like baboons, waiting for a robot to enlighten us? Surely the human race can’t be that disposable.


And is it truly possible for technology to be more intelligent than a person?

That really depends on how you define intelligence.


A brief history of intelligence:

Let’s start by looking at the definition of intelligence, which itself has evolved dramatically over time.  The term originated from the Latin word intelligere, meaning to comprehend or perceive.


150 years ago, intelligence was assessed by a person’s aptitude in classics, arts & literature.  By the 1930’s the IQ test had taken over and shifted focus to our ability to learn and retain information.


This all went well, until scientists discovered that people with average IQ scores were out performing those with the highest.  It seemed that the know-it -alls didn’t, in fact, have-it-all, and that our social skills might actually play a role in our success.


This paved the way for a wave of behavioural psychologists, most famously Daniel Goleman, who popularised the term Emotional Intelligence.  And for a while, the IQ gave way to the EQ,


And here we might have stayed, had ‘Big Data’ not arrived on the scene.  Big Data was a heavy hitter and disrupted our definition of intelligence once again.


Up until then, fundraising technology had been pretty straightforward. A basic process of mechanical actions using simple data: you entered supporter information into your database, pressed a few buttons and exported back into a spreadsheet to manipulate.


But when Big Data arrived, we all got confused.  Suddenly there was so much information and so many possibilities that only the most Poindexter-ish of analysts could make sense of it all.


Technology had actually made fundraising harder.


And that’s a very real danger of science moving so fast – it can end up inhibiting the very people it sets out to help.


We’ve all felt the frustration of staring at 500 empty fields, as we search for the relevant tab, box, or dropdown to enter our information.  How intelligent do you feel then?


And then when you’ve entered your data, what on earth do you do with it all?  Most of the time you just feel guilty that you’re not fully realising the goldmine that you’re allegedly sitting on.


That’s not progress, that’s paralysis.


So Blackbaud decided to shake things up, and embarked on a mission to create technology that cuts through, rather than contributes to the chaos.


Over the last few years, we’ve invested a huge amount into Practical Intelligence; developing solutions that enable rather than replace the intelligence of our customers.


And no matter how sophisticated the science gets, it always comes back to our customer experience.


Every innovation starts by asking the following 4 questions:

  • What can we do to help fundraisers be more efficient?
  • How can we aggregate data to create insight?
  • How can we present information in a way that the ‘next steps’ are obvious?
  • How can we enhance the relationships between our customers and their supporters?


Intelligence in Action.

And the result of this approach? ‘The most beautiful, intuitive tool imaginable’ (the words of an overexcited fundraising during a recent customer success meeting!)


Blackbaud’s new SKY Reporting tool has SO much going on behind the scenes, but all the user sees is a funky dashboard with instant insight into their fundraising activity.  The lifetime value of a donor, largest sum donated and a visual of their relationship history, all displayed in a single, outrageously easy-to-navigate screen.


Not only does SKY Reporting signal the end of manual report running (they are in-built), it also analyses live data and provides suggested actions, based on historical actions and fundraising best practice.


It’s essentially an intelligent to-do list, that links straight back to the CRM.  This is efficiency at its finest and why organisations that migrate to Raiser’s Edge NXT have reported saving over 2,000 hours in their first year.


View of Raiser's Edge NXT work centre


Aside from technological intelligence, Blackbaud also champion the ‘culture of shared intelligence’ that is so unique to the not for profit sector.


Insight of this kind is practical intelligence at its finest and is why Make a Wish were able to revise their fundraising strategy and achieve a 40% increase in gifts.  An example of how, in the fundraising world, intelligence equals opportunity.


So what does the future hold for fundraising technology?  Will we be joining our peers in the quest to cure the incurable? Actually, yes. But we won’t be replacing you with a robot just yet.   Our plan is simply to give you the insight and efficiency to make your own intelligence shine.

The post Is your next hire a robot? Fundraising in the intelligence era appeared first on Blackbaud Europe.


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