USM Foundation

Fundraising Talks – February 2023

on February 2, 2023 by Micaela Cameron
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News and updates from the USM Office of Advancement Research

Letter from the Director

Welcome to the February issue of Fundraising Talks. Last month’s newsletter shared higher education trends reported by Educause, which included topics pertaining to staffing, technology, creating equitable environments, and normalization of hybrid and remote work arrangements. We’re finding that these trends continue to emerge as relevant issues in other recent surveys and reports as well. Let’s take a look at what’s happening in the technological world and check out some findings from a survey on advancement professionals.

Revolutionary technology shapes and impacts philanthropy and fundraising in many ways. “Generative AI” is a fundraising buzzword found in a December 2022 article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Generative AI refers to artificial intelligence (AI) that can create new content such as text, images, and videos. Use of artificial intelligence is not new to fundraising. There has been a lot of talk lately about ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformed), which is a type of generative AI that became popular over the past couple of months. ChatGPT is an AI chatbot that interacts with users in a conversational way and provides responses to complex questions. Nonprofits can benefit from the use of applications like ChatGPT to create efficiencies and simplify business processes, however, we must consider any potential pitfalls and AI should always be overseen by humans. A recent article from Forbes explores the ways that university fundraisers can benefit from the use of ChatGPT such as using it to ask for inspiration with potential donor conversations, craft donor thank you messages, discover alumni engagement ideas, create effective fundraising appeals, and repurpose existing content. I think models like ChatGPT can be a great tool to produce content that can be used in fundraising, however, such technology must be used with vigilance and reviewed by humans. These tools can be beneficial for new development professionals who are looking for ways to get started with engaging donors for fundraising.

Washburn & McGoldrick’s December 2022 Advancement Moving Forward survey investigates timely and significant issues pertaining to fundraisers in US higher education. This is part of a series of surveys they have conducted since 2020. This latest report covers topics such as staff confidence in achieving fundraising goals, hybrid work environment, productivity of staff, alumni engagement and use of technology to engage donors. Some of the survey findings are as follows:

  • There is a decrease in the confidence levels of fundraisers in achieving FY 23 advancement goals. This is largely driven by shortage in staff, burnout, and morale.
  • Staff shortages and resignations are seen as a major challenge going forward.
  • Hybrid and remote work environments continue to be preferred by advancement staff.
  • There is an increase in face-to-face meetings with donors for qualification and solicitation purposes.

Results from the Washburn & McGoldrick survey highlight areas that the higher education industry can improve and it also indicates that it is slowly moving on from some of the practices conducted during the pandemic. Steps can be taken to mitigate risks with staffing shortages and assist professionals to feel confident by boosting their morale. Furthermore, institutions should not be hesitant to update and/or adopt new technology that creates efficiencies in work environments. As always, please feel free to reach out to us with questions, comments or any assistance with fundraising research!

Best Regards,
Sapna and USM Advancement Research Team
Read more in this issue of Fundraising Talks>>

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