Embrace the Bots

Chatbots are rising up everywhere you look, from retail stores to healthcare sites. Thanks to chatbots, I can pay my utility bill, buy a new pair of shoes, or order an Uber in minutes. The good news is that these are the good kind of robots, not the scary Terminator, end-of-the-world robots. They’re rising up to help us! 

So are chatbots a worthy tool for nonprofits to invest in? After all, technology trends come and go and it’s not feasible to try and integrate every single fad into your digital strategy. Trust me though, chatbots are definitely worth the investment. 

Chatbots act as an extension of your own staff, except they’re the part of your staff that’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They never take a coffee break or duck out for lunch. They’re always there, ready to help your site visitors answering any questions they have. Immediacy and access to instant information at any time is something our culture not only expects, but demands. Whether a user is looking to register at 2PM or 2AM, the chatbot is going to be able to help them out. This can significantly help increase your site's registration and donation conversion rates—and gaining more participants and more donors is always a great thing. 

They also free up your staff’s time! We know that nonprofits, especially before a major fundraising event, frequently get the same questions over and over from their supporters—“Can I bring my dog to the walk?” “What time is check-in?”  Think about the amount of time your staff spends responding to every email or answering every phone call. A chatbot can drastically reduce the number of repetitive questions your team has to field, as Wayne Baldaro from NAMI can attest to: "About 30-50% of our participants are new and with over 75,000 annually, that can be a lot of calls for help. The chatbot fills this need for us.  By walking through the process with the participant they can ask a simple question and receive a timely answer." By freeing up all of this staff time, think of what other things your team could accomplish for your organization!  

For the NAMI project, we worked with Wayne and his team to identify the questions that their field staff heard most often—this is an important best practice when building your first bot. Start with the people on your team who talk directly with your supporters. They know their pain points, their frustrations, and that’s exactly what you’re going to try and alleviate in your chatbots.  

It turned out that NAMI received a lot of questions about their registration process, from items like “I forgot my password” to “how do I join a team”. So we built them a chatbot that lives right alongside the registration process for their NAMIWalks. By providing the answers for these questions on the website pages where they’re most relevant (such as registering for a walk), their users don’t have to abandon the registration process to go find their answer, and NAMI doesn’t have to hope they came back later to complete the process. They get their answer, immediately, right on that page, and are able to complete their registration. Wayne commented, "the chatbots improve our customer service, help participants in meaningful ways and reduce the stress they may encounter."

Another tick in the pro column is that users actually want to engage with chatbots. Compared to email open rates which are down in the teens, website chatbots see engagement rates in the 50-60% range. Social bots, such as those on Facebook Messenger, are even higher, with engagement rates of more than 80%. This makes them a fantastic way to get important information in front of your users. Take our chatbot for Extra Life for example.  

Extra Life, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ 24-hour gaming marathon, has a large number of Canadian participants and donors. Extra Life found themselves getting a lot of questions from their Canadian supporters about the currency in which their donations would be processed. To quickly answer these questions, we added a chatbot to the donation page of Extra Life’s site and configured it to only show up for Canadian donors. This way, their Canadian constituents received the important information they needed to feel confident in their donations, and everyone else’s experience was unaffected. 

I know that building a chatbot can seem intimidating for a lot of people. Anytime the phrase “automated intelligence” is thrown around, everything instantly seems more complex and daunting. But they’re really not! You don’t need to be a coder or AI aficionado to become a bot master. You just need to know what questions your supporters are asking and be willing to invest some time. At the end of it all, you get to say that you built a robot that does good - and how many people can claim that?

Want to know more about how chatbots can help your nonprofit? Get in touch. 

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