AI/VR/AR Fundraising Trends Your Nonprofit Should Watch in 2019


If your nonprofit is having a hard time keeping up with all of the fundraising tech trends, you are not alone.

The last couple of years, AI/VR/AR have been the development buzzwords. And for good reason! Technological advancements are rapidly changing fund development as we know it. While there are many trends, here are the top artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) fundraising trends your nonprofit should watch in 2019.


Trend #1: AIReal-time Fundraising Campaigns

AI has changed the landscape of real-time fundraising opportunities such as Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and crowdfunding.

According to the 2018 Giving Report, 74% of donors gave because they were inspired by online content (social media, email, and website). Nonprofits must continue to invest in digital platforms to stay relevant. Part of staying relevant will be implementing more real-time fundraising opportunities such as P2P and crowdfunding.

charity: water is excellent at doing this in a personalized, relevant way. When you go to their website, you (the potential donor) are taken on an emotionally stirring experience – literally called “the journey” – where you can see charity: water’s real-time track record, a 4-part video series to see where your money would go, and Google Maps will even show you which specific well your donation went towards building. Go to their “fundraise” page, and you will be taken on another 4-part journey toward starting your own hyper-personalized campaign with the help of a fundraising assistant.

charity water screenshot

Fundraiser prospecting can be expensive and difficult to scale. Which is why most fundraiser acquisition has now moved toward a 1:1 strategy. Think of charity: water’s well coordinates, for example; the fundraiser’s personalized messaging with a specific outcome makes their outreach to friends and family appear more authentic, likely resulting not only in increased donations but more fundraisers joining the fun.

With the predictive power of AI, fund development teams can target fundraisers for less time and money than ever thought possible. In just 12-months, one nonprofit reported a 150 percent workforce expansion through offering its development staff AI assistants. Another organization leveraging AI has raised more than $650,000 in revenue that it otherwise may not have tapped into.

What Your Nonprofit Can Do Now: Take inventory of your current P2P and crowdfunding plans. Do they include real-time updates? Are they relevant? AI-empowered? Make sure your plans include relevant, personalized “journeys” for your fundraisers to go on. For example, personalized messaging and donation outcomes. Seriously consider taking your plans to the next level with an AI assistant.


Trend #2: VRExperiential Fundraising at Events

One important variety of experiential fundraising is virtual reality (VR). According to Rhodri Davies, head of policy at the Charities Aid Foundation, these realities are used as “empathy machines” to generate donations. VR does this by allowing supporters to “live through an experience” that helps them feel a bond between themselves and the beneficiaries of a charity.

Results from the United Nations show that VR:

  • Increases the likelihood that supporters will stop and engage,
  • Increases the inclination for supporters to donate after the experience,
  • Increases the average donation value,
  • And enables access to better fundraising locations and venues.

One well-known early adaptor of VR was Pencils of Promise (PoP).

In 2015, PoP wanted to increase donations at their annual celebrity-studded gala and used a VR experience to do so. PoP knew that if they could show attendees what it was like to go to school in a developing nation, it could create an unmatched emotional connection that might inspire more donations for their students. So, at their gala, they gave attendees VR headsets that transported them to a school in Ghana.

The results were stunning. The VR experience helped PoP raise an additional $500,000 for a total of $2.4 million that evening in response. Plus, their video was viewed nearly two million times on Facebook.

In the same light, we expect to continue to see more nonprofits creating VR experiences in campaigns, videos, ads, and apps specifically for events to inspire more donations.

What Your Nonprofit Can Do Now: Explore VR opportunities to raise more funds in your pre-existing event plans. Could you incorporate VR into the video you show? Research companies who could help with VR locally and nationally. If you know of other nonprofits who have done this, try to connect with them to learn from their experience.


Trend #3: AR – Awareness Campaigns

Augmented reality (AR) – “the integration of virtual elements into the real world” – is taking nonprofit awareness campaigns to entirely new levels.

For example, in 2016, NHS Blood and Transplant launched an unforgettable AR campaign in London and Birmingham to increase awareness of the importance of blood donations.

NHS used several interactive billboards to display patients in need of a blood transfusion. Then, NHS volunteers offered pedestrians special stickers to place on their arms where the needle would go. When hovered over with an iPhone on their app, a 20-second blood donation simulation was shown. Once the bag filled up, the patient on the billboard became healthier and gave a personal “thank you”.

It was a huge success:

  • 722 donors registered over the first 5 days.
  • 981 additional appointments for new and lapsed donors were booked.
  • 20 pieces of consumer and news media coverage were generated.

photo of selfie arm bandage

What Your Nonprofit Can Do Now: Explore ways your nonprofit can utilize AR for your next awareness campaign. See if you have any connections in your supporter’s networks who might be willing to donate AR services or funds to create an AR experience for your supporters.


Curious to see what else AI can do for you? Check out our White Paper AI 101 for Nonprofits.