The Children’s Society is trialling a new chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to engage with Facebook users interested in its fundraising events.
It worked with digital agency Puzzle to develop the bot and has begun a four-month trial to find out if supporters find it helpful.
Chatbots are programmes which are able to conduct conversations. In 2016 Facebook opened up its platform to enable developers to place chatbots on its system.
The bot, developed by Puzzle and the Children’s Society, incorporates artificial intelligence technology, meaning it responds to questions, as opposed to users having to pick from a range of options.
Supporters who have signed up to an event, or are considering doing so, can ask use Facebook to ask bot questions like ‘tell me where to set up a fundraising page?’ or ‘have you received money that I sent?’
It has been programmed to answer around 50 questions to assist event fundraisers and if it is successful the Children’s Society plans to roll it out to other areas such as volunteering or legacy giving.
Henry Rowling, director of supporter experience at the Children’s Society, said: “When I heard about the bot that Puzzle were developing I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to trial a new way of engaging with our loyal and committed supporters.
“We know our supporters spend an increasing amount of time online and are comfortable using messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.”
The charity has not set any fixed targets. Rowling said this is because it is “emerging technology and we don’t know” how people will react.
If the charity sees an increase in engagement he expects to roll the technology out more widely but it depends on whether “the market is ready for it”.
Lauren White, director of not-for-profit at Puzzle, said: “Tech doesn’t have to be gimmicky – it can serve a real business purpose and deliver tangible results. The bot facilitates contact deflection from other channels, freeing team members up from admin work so they can focus on core tasks and enables supporters to have questions answered at a time that suits them.”