What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? What is Machine Learning (ML)? How do they relate to fundraising?

ML is a sub-field of AI that is uniquely suited to answering fundraising questions.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a field of computer science that focuses on making computer systems that can act intelligently like humans or animals. People have been working on AI since the 1940s when digital computers were first created. Many different ways have been tried to achieve AI since then.

One way to achieve AI is through Machine Learning (ML), which has become widely used in recent years. ML is an AI technique that uses algorithms to learn from historical data instead of having people manually write complex computer programs.

ML is good for problems where the answer can be described as a number, a yes or no, or one of a limited set of options. It also needs a lot of data to learn from.

Recently, ML has made a lot of progress and is now used for many things, like filtering spam, finding fraud, helping with searches, translating languages, answering questions, recognizing images, helping robots move, predicting the weather, giving recommendations, and more.

While fundraisers have used RFM (Recency, Frequency and Monetary) for decades to identify donors to reach out to, ML can provide more accurate answers by using all the data points that sit in your CRM. 

Fundraisers often have questions like "Will this donor give money in the next appeal?" or "Will this donor cancel their recurring gift in the next six months?" ML can help answer these questions by looking at lots of data, taking into account many different factors, and testing millions of possible rules to find the best answer.

ML can also be used for more complex or rare problems where other methods like RFM or segmentation don't work well, such as converting donors to give a recurring gift or managing stewardship programs.