In my last post about nonprofit bots, I discussed the big picture of automation in the nonprofit space and what I learned from the “The Beth Bot” experiment. For this post, I did a landscape scan to identify some of the best examples of nonprofit bots. (These examples use Facebook Messenger, but bots be deployed other platforms or apps.)
What is a Chat Bot? Why Use One?
More and more people are adopting social media messaging, including Facebook Messenger, to contact nonprofits with questions, comments, or requests. While anyone can message your nonprofit’s brand page 24/7, nonprofit staff don’t always work around the clock to respond. (And, if they do, they need to read my book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, to find out why that is not a great idea.)
Facebook Messenger chat bots will let your nonprofit immediately interact with supporters. Bots can answer basic questions like “How can I learn more,” and offer a link to sign up for your nonprofit’s email newsletters or action alerts. More sophisticated bots can help educate and engage your supporters about your nonprofit’s issues, programs or services.
If you are thinking about adding a Facebook Messenger bot to your organization’s digital strategy, spend some time interacting with other nonprofit bots. While the Facebook Messenger platform has taken some small steps to make bots easier to find, they are not always easy to discover. I set up this List to save you some time hunting down nonprofit examples.
The Climate Reality Bot is designed to educate supporters and build the organization’s email list for action alerts. Designed with ChatFuel, it is a simple bot, using close-ended options to funnel supporters to different options on the lower rungs of the ladder of engagement.
The task of capturing email addresses from Facebook is completely automated and available 24/7. This is a simple way to get started using bots strategically and does not take that much upfront design time or customization. You’d simply track your conversion rate to see how effective your bot is at building your email list and based on results, tweak.
Engage and Educate
It is not necessarily a nonprofit, but I think it is one of the best examples of the potential of bots beyond automated email address capture.
As a promotion for its new show, Genius, the National Geographic Channel has created an Albert Einstein bot for Facebook Messenger. You can discuss life, love, and science—although he’s quick to warn that “I become absent-minded during light conversations that do not involve the physical properties of light.”
The bot is more fun and engaging than most—full of animated gifs, puns, and witty comments about relativity and robots, even if they don’t match the question you asked. Obviously, this is a custom programmed Facebook Messenger Bot designed for a conversational experience.
If your organization wants to create something genius like this, it will most likely require time, resources, and outsourced expertise, but it will stand out.
Museum Visitor Experience
Museums have been all over bots on other platforms, see the Momabot on Twitter for example. So, it comes as no surprise that Museums have been early adopters of Facebook Messenger Bots.
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam was one of the first to launch a Facebook Messenger bot. Facebook Fans can ask the bot for information about the museum, such as opening times and where to buy tickets, or about Anne Frank herself and her history.
The Anne Frank House bot is custom programmed for automated self-learning, using artificial intelligence that allows the bot to learn to recognize the context of questions and to generate specific answers based on that.
The Australia Democracy Museum also has a Facebook Messenger Bot, with similar objectives.
The bot is named Missiobot and comes from Missio USA, an organization inside The Pontifical Mission Societies, which is, as the bot states, sort of like the pope’s personal Red Cross.
Shortly after you start a chat with Missiobot, you meet Pope Francis, and it doesn’t take long for a smiley face emoji to be part of your conversation. The bot is more engaging than most you encounter on Facebook Messenger, a testament to good design using decision-trees and multi-media content.
But what makes this bot most engaging is good storytelling shared in a conversational way, matching the pope’s tone of voice and illustrated with photos, video, and audio. The stories are about missionary projects such as helping nuns care for the kids in the slums of Nairobi.
This is storytelling with a purpose, each story ending with the option of taking action, share the story or donate.
A bot like this could be implemented on any of the bot building platforms, but you’d definitely need to have the content assets, stories, and spend a little time designing the decision-tree.
Health Information Support and Counseling
I discovered a couple of health education bots, I’m sure there are more but as I mentioned they are not easy to find. Here are two examples.
Woebot was built from the ground up based on AI software expertise, working with Stanford AI lab. They used design thinking to build a “decision tree,” mimicking clinical decision-making with task-specific sections of natural language processing, using a decision-tree.
This Facebook Messenger demo shows how a pregnant mother in South Africa can register to receive free, informative messaging about maternal health and have her questions are fed directly to the organization’s professionals who can respond to her queries and ensure that a high level of service is available at every clinic in South Africa. The main program is SMS based.
In a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, MIT Research Fellow Michael Schrage proposed a provocative and counter intuitive approach for enhancing innovation and productivity through man-machine collaborations. Don’t just leverage advanced technologies like bots to automate a work task, but also focus on enhancing innovation and productivity by leveraging technology to create higher-performance versions of employees.
Nonprofit adoption of bots is in the early adopter phase although we are well into the next technology disruption: automation. When I asked the Albert Einstein Bot whether the robots would take over the nonprofit world, it answered with “Artificial Intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.” In other words, the human element is always going to be important, but perhaps there are ways that we can use bots to make our nonprofits smarter about achieving impact versus automating a task.