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UK Fundraising bot shares content via Facebook Messenger

Howard Lake | 19 July 2018 | News

Fundraisers can now stay up to date with the latest content from UK Fundraising, via a Facebook Messenger bot.
The tool offers a simple conversation that lets fundraisers select the type of fundraising content they wish to receive from the site, and when they wish to receive it.
New content from UK Fundraising is sent once a day, Monday to Friday, in the morning or in the afternoon.
Readers are guided through a choice of content, to ensure that they receive just the content they want.
UK Fundraising’s Howard Lake explained: “Initially they can choose news updates, blog posts, job alerts and events, or a combination of those. And what time of day to receive it. There is also the option to receive promotions from selected third party companies and agencies.
“We shall be adding more content options in due course, so that fundraisers can sign up for specific content relevant to them, such as major gifts, law/policy, and leadership, or indeed content specific to a geographic region.”

Email and Messenger?

The bot mirrors the daily email updates that UK Fundraising has published since 2000. In fact, it goes further in that it lets fundraisers filter the type of content they receive, unlike the news updates which feature all the latest news and blog posts on the site.
The bot isn’t intended to replace the email newsletter. It is simply another option for the growing numbers of people who prefer to use Messenger for updates from news sources, retailers, utilities and of course friends and family.

Built by Open

The bot was designed and built by Open, a full-service creative response agency, who helps some of the UK’s biggest charities “persuade people to do the right thing, right now”. 
Specifically, it was developed by Alfie Waldron, one of Open’s writers, as a side project. (Alfie was the 2016 winner of IWITOT for championing and talking with The Bee Lady). Open had been investigating the potential of chatbots for some of their clients, including a global chatbot for Unicef to launch their World Children’s Day celebration.
Waldron said: “The potential uses for chatbots are endless. They’re a way to engage supporters, surprise and delight your audience, deliver great content and even process transactions. And when it comes to delivering personalised news, events and blog updates, they’re the perfect fit. This was a really exciting project to be a part of. 
With support from Paul de Gregorio, Open’s Director of Digital Engagement, the basic bot’s structure and functions were designed in a Friday afternoon session at Open and then built over a weekend last November. As such, it was probably the first bot to be used by a UK charity sector publication.
De Gregorio said: “Howard knew that Open was exploring the potential of chatbots for our clients and came in for a chat about how UK Fundraising could integrate one into it’s offering. Before we knew it, we’d sketched out the design and functionality. Then it was just a case of building, testing and refining before the launch. We love how it’s turned out.” 
In the beginning, there were some efforts by UK Fundraising to introduce natural language processing functions to make it more interactive. These were scaled back due to complexity. But it remains an option to expand considerably what the bot (or another bot) can do with the extensive 23+ years of content on UK Fundraising. And indeed with partner content from other sources.


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How to access the bot

The bot is available via UK Fundraising’s Facebook page or directly.