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The essential guide to chatbots for nonprofits and charities

03.02.20 Written by Futr

Chatbots for nonprofits and charities free up time for staff to focus on core service delivery and fundraising activities that need the human touch. But what exactly do AI chatbots have to offer?

This post was updated in October 2021

Chatbots are quickly gaining ground in sectors such as retail, HR, and marketing and sales. But they’re also proving to be a boon for nonprofit organisations and charities.

Bots and virtual assistants powered by conversational AI provide a fast and efficient way to engage customers with instant responses to their frequently asked questions. And whilst it’s true that nonprofits and charities don’t have customers per se, the nonprofit world serves stakeholders with similar engagement needs.

We are, of course, talking about donors and volunteers.

Rally people to your cause with chatbots

In a perfect world, nonprofits simply need to launch a fundraising campaign to gather donations and get volunteers to join them. But things are rarely that simple.

The average potential donor has many objections, whilst volunteers need constant engagement. If you want to rally people to your cause, your fundraising activities need to leverage customer relationship management (CRM) tools such as website/messenger chatbots and live chat.

Related reading: CALM — Leading the movement against suicide with digital mental health services

Key benefits of chatbots for nonprofits and charities

Automatic and instant responses to common questions

Today’s consumers expect brands to be there for them at all times. The faster organisations can answer their questions, the better.

HubSpot reports that being put on hold and slow response times are among the top causes of frustration with customer service.

Chatbot graph
Image source: HubSpot

Chatbots offer nonprofits and charities a “quick win” by enabling instant answers to common customer queries. Research shows that 40% of users simply want answers to their questions, regardless if it comes from an AI chatbot or human agent.

Chatbots help you create an omnichannel presence

The surge in chatbot popularity is largely thanks to a recent trend: the explosion of messaging apps.

eMarketer predicts that the number of monthly messaging app users worldwide will increase by 6.1% or 3.09 billion users by the end of 2021.

Messaging apps graph
Image source: eMarketer

This has led to businesses realising the potential of messaging apps as a major new channel for sales, customer service and marketing. With these apps attracting more users, nonprofits should also engage their target audience in these channels. 

Fortunately, Facebook has opened the floodgates for brands to build chatbots on Facebook Messenger to field customer support requests, direct users to eCommerce portals and provide a more engaging customer experience. By April 2017, more than 100 thousand chatbots had been deployed on Facebook Messenger. 

Other communication apps and digital platforms have also opened up their APIs for integrations with chatbot builders like Futr. These include Twitter, WhatsApp, Slack, Shopify, WooCommerce and many more.

Chatbot platforms allow you to expand your digital reach and engage customers on all your digital channels, whether it’s your Facebook page and other social media channels, your organisation’s official app or your website.

Scale responses to queries in and out of hours

Many nonprofits and charities struggle with having too many customer service queries and not enough people on staff to answer them. This is especially true with most charities with smaller operations, which simply can’t afford to employ large customer service teams to answer every enquiry.

Chatbots provide a way to scale your ability to respond to your potential donors and volunteers’ most common questions at a much lower cost than increasing your live agent count. And since chatbots can automate answers around the clock, you can be there for your stakeholders 24/7 and free up time for your support staff to focus on tasks and conversations that require a human touch.

The cost of routine administrative tasks like answering phone calls and responding to repetitive emails can add up in the long run.

Chatbots are such a massive game-changer that Juniper Research expects the technology to help save companies $8 billion per year in customer service costs.

How can nonprofits and charities use chatbots effectively?

Automate responses to FAQs

Chatbots for nonprofits and charities can be programmed to respond to your donors’ most commonly asked questions, such as:

  • How do I donate to your cause?
  • What payment methods do you accept?
  • Where are your offices?
  • When is your next fundraising event?

A chatbot can answer questions instantly using pre-configured messages. Furthermore, you can integrate a host of features into your bots to improve their functionality. At Futr, for example, our chatbots aren’t just glorified FAQ bots. They also enable your nonprofit to:

  • Understand the context and intent of conversations.
  • Learn from user slang, typos and intent.
  • Auto-translate messages into 120+ languages.
  • Provide a seamless path to escalation to your live agents (useful for urgent queries and conversations that need a human touch).
  • Provide multimedia resources such as Google Maps and YouTube videos within the chat.

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Maximise your digital channels’ potential for raising donations

The majority of people in the UK want to donate to charity. Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) reports that 65% of the country’s population gave money to charities via donations or sponsorships in 2018.

But what’s most interesting is that the same report shows fewer people said they were approached to donate money than in previous years. This may be a sign of the changing nature of fundraising.

Chatbots offer a quick and “painless” way to bring your fundraising activities online and engage potential donors with as little friction as possible.

When it comes to donations, most people want to learn the following:

  • How to donate
  • How much to donate
  • Where the donations will go
  • How to share a link to raise more donations through friends and family.

Giving users the ability to ask these simple enquiries rather than scroll through walls of text will give your nonprofit an edge in this world of short attention spans. 

Furthermore, a chatbot can integrate with digital payment software such as PayPal, Stripe or Apple Pay, allowing new donors to make payments without abandoning the conversation.

This creates a frictionless experience that’s a win-win for both your organisation and your donors.

Signpost to educational resources

Whilst chatbots are often designed to automate answers to FAQs, they can also be used to educate your audience by signposting to resources and enabling the discovery of digital knowledge within the conversation.

For example, Mencap built a chatbot for its “Here I Am Campaign” that’s designed to educate users about learning disabilities. By signposting to the appropriate information and resources, the AI chatbot helps Mencap provide a digital solution for breaking down stereotypes and misinformed assumptions about learning disabilities.

Mencap screenshot
Image source: Mencap

Mencap’s example shows how using chatbots effectively can enable the nonprofit sector to try new ways of storytelling whilst rallying people to your cause. 

Leverage chat analytics and sentiment analysis

Many chatbot platforms also come with built-in data analytics, giving charities and nonprofits the tools to discover real-time insights from chat data. By analysing your audience analytics data,  you can:

  • Learn more about your audience (demographics, location, language).
  • Learn what they want (e.g., most commonly asked questions).
  • Make data-driven decisions to engage your audience more effectively.

Chatbots can also provide much-needed assistance to volunteers in their work with beneficiaries. For example, the World Food Program uses chatbots in its missions in Nigeria to ask local communities about food prices, weather and food security through SMS. 

Although the chatbots are far from perfect (some communities prefer face-to-face interactions), they show the practical applications of automation in a humanitarian aid organisation.

Digital transformation is coming for nonprofits and charities

As ominous as that sounds, digital transformation is actually a good thing for the nonprofit sector, which has typically been a laggard in embracing new technology. By rolling out chatbots and live chat, nonprofits can respond to more queries, signpost users to their knowledge base and free up time for volunteers to work on core service delivery. 

Follow the Futr blog for more insights on how our AI-powered platform is helping nonprofits and charities in the UK engage their stakeholders at scale. Get in touch with the Futr team to discuss innovative solutions to engage your customers and empower your live agents. 

  • Published 03.02.20
  • By Futr
  • In Features
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