What are your predictions for the prospect development industry in the next 15 years?
Information technology has been driving our industry, and software products and companies are now being built and scaled that specifically target the nonprofit sector and fundraising. But we know that Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are fueled by BIG data. A nonprofit doesn’t necessarily need its own big data to benefit from models created, but having your own data is where it begins and is way more powerful.
If, according to Guidestar (2017), 66.3% of nonprofits have annual budgets of less than $1 million, who can afford to implement A.I. over the years it takes for an A.I. program to learn the business? For that matter, what nonprofit budget size is likely to have a large enough constituency for fundraising to benefit from A.I.? Probably one with a lot more than $1 million!
For this reason, I suspect that the relatively tiny number of nonprofits at the top will pull even further ahead through the various uses of A.I. The smaller nonprofits will continue to struggle with basic data integrity and analytics implementation issues. What does this mean for prospect development? Lots of opportunity!
If you work at the big organizations, you can develop specialty skills and receive the accompanying higher compensation, whether that is data science or the analytical prowess to translate information overwhelm into insight and action.
If you work at the majority of smaller organizations, you can remain a generalist with positive impact for much longer, and in a position where data analytics skills, such as regression models in Excel, will continue to have the potential for outsized impact.
As A.I. matures in the fundraising industry and the solutions for the big nonprofits spin into products for smaller nonprofits, prospect development professionals also have the perfect skill set to understand how they work and help organizations make better purchasing and implementation decisions.
The future is a BIG question and A.I. is only one piece, but I don’t want to close without suggesting another possible opportunity for development research professionals: jobs outside of nonprofits. Fundraising consulting firms of all sizes are already hiring for prospect research and analytics. As the for-profit industry around fundraising continues to grow, new positions are likely to become available for the prospect development skillset.