charity: water is now handling donations via a bot on Facebook Messenger, and claims to be the first nonprofit to do so.
Messenger users can interact with the nonprofit, which opened its UK and European office in June, via Facebook Messenger. The nonprofit’s bot will respond automatically to certain trigger words, such as “donate”, with relevant options. Respond to the “Join us” option, for example, and the bot invites you to register your email address with the charity.
If you ask about making a donation, you are given the choice of:
- Give Monthly
- Give once
Note that regular giving takes the higher priority.
You are then asked how much you wish to give. The payment is then handled by payment provider Stripe.
— Christian Sophus (@ChristianSophus) August 12, 2016
The Facebook Messenger bot was developed for charity: water by messaging specialists Assist.
This makes me happy.
Powering the first charity on @messenger accepting donations.
— Shane Mac (@ShaneMac) August 11, 2016
charity: water CTO Matthew Eckstein told Fast Company that the bot had been designed to feel “as close as possible to that of donating on our own website.” He added:
“As an organisation with a very young and tech-savvy supporter base, it’s important that we continuously adapt to reach them as they adopt new technologies and social platforms.”
Bots aren’t perfect of course. charity: water’s bot for example doesn’t seem to let you change your mind. If you click on the option to ‘join us’ and then change your mind and post a different message or comment, the bot keeps inviting you to add your email address. At one day old though it is not surprising to find some teething issues. Given charity: water’s track record in failing and learning fast, the bot is likely to become more sophisticated.
charity: water will no doubt soon be followed by other charities automating some standard procedures and processes via a bot within Facebook Messenger, and other popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.
The nonprofit is simply focusing its attention on the channel that more and more people are using for their communications, and attempting to increase its efficiency.
A bot is a programme that uses one or more algorithms (or sets of rules) to enable a ‘conversation’, process or transaction to take place, without the need for a human.
They are already in use by many companies. Hyatt Hotels for example use them for customer service, CNN uses them to offer customised news feeds, Disney lets you chat with Muppets character Miss Piggy, and airline KLM handles booking and checking in with a Messenger bot. Yesterday it was announced that President Obama has a bot to help him receive correspondence from citizens via the White House’s Facebook page.
A bot helps streamline, speed up and handle ‘conversations’ at scale, at times of the day or when numbers of contacts mean staff could simply not deal with them.
Does the rise of the bots mean that some fundraisers will be out of a job? In the short term that is unlikely. Indeed, passing short transactional functions or handling standard queries could free up fundraisers to focus on other activities, or pick up on specific queries or conversations that require genuine human contact.
The growth in business bots follows Facebook’s decision in April to offer a developer platform for Messenger, “making it possible for developers to connect with the more than 900 million people around the world who use Messenger every month”.
David Marcus, who has run Facebook’s Messenger division since August 2014, told Wired in November 2015:
“If you can reduce that time [spent interacting with businesses] and increase delight, if we can increase the fidelity of the conversations with the people you care most about, then Messenger will be a very imporatnt part of your life”.
In the same article, Julien Codorniu, Facebook’s director of global platform partnerships, explained what that would look and feel like:
“Once you interact with a business [on Messenger] you open a thread that will stay forever. You never lose context of what you’re talking about. And the business never loses context about who you are and your past purchases. It removes all the friction”.
Indeed, Mark Zuckerberg himself said in November 2014:
“Messaging is one of the few things that people actually do more than social networking”.
- Which other fundraising functions and donor needs could be served appropriately via a bot? Add your thoughts in the comments.
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