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Australian AI startup Dataro named in the top 10 fundraising tech ideas globally

Tim Paris

Sydney-based AI startup Dataro has been selected as one of the top 10 fundraising innovations for nonprofits in a competitive global open innovation challenge. The win gives a boost to the young company as it eyes international growth in 2021 in the competitive fundraising tech sector.

For the first time in history, a group of 14 international nonprofit organisations including the likes of Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Médecins Sans Frontières and UNICEF, banded together to crowdsource ideas to reimagine the future of charitable fundraising. The group launched Reimagining Fundraising – the first Global Open Innovation Challenge for Fundraising.

Dataro’s AI-driven donor scoring software was evaluated as one of 10 winning solutions from 152 innovative ideas and 87 proven concepts submitted to the competition.

Proven concepts like Dataro were evaluated by leading fundraising experts and the most outstanding ideas were selected for the final pitching event, held online last week.

As one of the winners, Dataro now has the chance to co-develop their cutting-edge solution with the NGOs behind the challenge, building momentum for the company’s international plans. They will also be featured in an Innovation Playbook for nonprofits to be distributed in 2021.

Dataro co-founder and CEO Tim Paris said the startup’s mission was to democratise access to AI-driven predictive modelling for large and small nonprofits who have traditionally been priced out of the technology.

“Charities have been left behind by the recent boom in data science and AI. While most big corporations these days can use data to maximise their efficiency, charities do not have the skills or budgets needed to do the same. Dataro is the fast track for charities to use these innovations. We give charities access to the same technology, but without the price tag.

For the past two years we have been working hard to build our machine learning technology and help charities fundraise more effectively and being named a finalist is a great recognition that our technology is having a real impact.

A simple fact in fundraising is that charities who have better relationships with their donors raise more money. Unfortunately, most charities spend a huge amount of time talking to the wrong people or about the wrong things. Dataro’s AI software solves that.

Our mission is to help all charities raise more money, from the smallest art gallery to the largest multinational charity. We get a real kick knowing our technology is actually resulting in more dollars for heart research, supporting more vulnerable children, and helping protect the environment and rescue more animals.”

In recent years, charities have collected huge amounts of data about an increasing number of donors. Unable to understand and use all this data, however, fundraising campaigns often adopt a scattergun approach, contacting as many donors as possible in the hope of getting a return. For fundraisers, this means they end up running resource-intensive campaigns that deliver a poor return. For donors, far too often they are either spammed or ignored as the organisation is unable to cater to their specific circumstances.

Dataro identified that major improvements in the efficiency of large-scale fundraising operations were possible with machine learning techniques. Their software integrates directly with charity CRMs to provide weekly predictions about donor behaviour.

“Machine learning is the technology that underpins Siri, Face Swap, Driverless cars and thousands of other recent innovations. It’s also astonishingly effective at determining the best donors to include in a fundraising campaign,” said ​Dataro co-founder and CTO Dave Lyndon.

Using this technology, fundraisers can reduce the costs of the campaign — by sending less mail or making fewer calls — and increase their returns by contacting donors who they would otherwise have missed.

Machine learning is a very challenging technology to make use of and has up until now required highly paid ‘data scientists’ to implement. We’re lowering the entry requirements for this technology by turning the entire process into software that is integrated with fundraising systems and is simple to use, even for non-technical fundraisers.”

Dataro has grown quickly in 2020. The company now provides its predictive modelling software to over 25 leading nonprofits across Australia and New Zealand and has started making headway in the United Kingdom. It sees growth in the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA as the next step to help fulfil its mission.

COO Chris Paver said launching a new business overseas during COVID-19 was a challenge.

“Of course it has been impossible for us to get to our new markets in person due to the pandemic, so initiatives like Reimagining Fundraising are a brilliant way for companies like ours to start making connections and sharing our approach with the world,” he said.

The 14 INGOs behind the Reimagining Fundraising competition are, in full: Action Against Hunger, Amnesty International, Care International, Greenpeace, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages, UNHCR the UN Refugee Agency, UNICEF, World Food Programme, World Vision International, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It is also supported by innovation ecosystem management software and services provider HYPE.

Dataro was founded in 2017 by high-school friends, neuroscientist Tim Paris (CEO) and software engineer Dave Lyndon (CTO). The company expanded in 2018 with the addition of another high-school friend, technology lawyer Chris Paver (COO).

Dataro was recently nominated by Greenpeace Australia Pacific for Supplier Team of the Year in the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s 2021 Awards for Excellence in Fundraising and has been selected as a finalist. The winners will be announced in February 2021.

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