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Borrowing from Commercial: Leverage Chatbots for Donor Care

Here at CDR Fundraising Group, we’re always keeping an eye on the commercial space to see what emerging technologies can be leveraged for our nonprofit clients. In the past two years, commercial companies have been adopting chatbots as a part of their customer service strategy, with a focus on automating conversations that would otherwise need to be handled by their staff. CDR has recently started working with clients to test the use of chatbots for donor care.

First, what is a chatbot? 
A chatbot is a program built to automatically reply when a message is received. These can be used across social platforms or as a module on a website. A chatbot can be programmed to respond with the same message regardless of the inquiry it receives (such as “Thanks for reaching out. A donor care specialist will be in touch.”) or it can give varying responses based on certain keywords (such as “Thanks for your question. We’re sorry you are having trouble submitting a donation. Please call our donor care line at xxx-xxx-xxxx.”).

Why chatbots? 
Everyone is striving to do more with less, and true automation has arrived. Amazon even recently opened a supermarket with no checkout operators. Chatbots can provide an opportunity to reduce the burden on your donor care staff. Additionally, Facebook reported that 56% of people would rather submit a question electronically than speak to someone on the phone. Two billion Facebook messages are sent between people and businesses each month. It is time for nonprofits to get in the game. 

How can you leverage chatbots for donor care?
The sky’s the limit when it comes to opportunities with chatbots. They can be straightforward items, like fielding frequently asked questions that would otherwise go to your donor care inbox or phone line, to more sophisticated engagement techniques focused on stewarding your constituency. The point is, quick answers lead to happy and informed donors who have a heightened sense of connection to your cause. As mentioned, it doesn’t all have to be about donor care. Consider leveraging chatbots to deliver engaging content that will keep your donors informed about your mission and how they can help. This technology could be a great testing ground to see what content resonates best with your audience. 

How do I get started?
Intimidated by the idea of setting this technology up? Not to worry, social platforms have made launching a chatbot easier than ever. We would suggest starting with Facebook since their messenger platform has the highest saturation of your target donor audience compared to other platforms, like Twitter. The ability to send a messenger greeting is already built directly into the Facebook platform, and it provides easy instructions on how to set this up. Chatbots can also be integrated into your website. Here is an example from Wounded Warrior Project’s site. 


This integration can be great for not only ensuring supporters can get guidance on ways to make a gift, but, more importantly, that people seeking help from the organization can get the information they need. While you could hire a chatbot programmer to completely customize your experience, you could also leverage a free or low-cost chatbot tool, such as Octane AI, chatfuel, or ManyChat. First things first, though: Plan out your messaging strategy. Having an informed and well-thought-out communications matrix will ease the adoption of your chatbot. And don’t be afraid to give your chatbot a little personality! The more personalized the experience, the better your interactions will be, resulting in happy supporters. 

Tori Richards

Director, Business Development