Four ways digital assistants are revolutionising the work of charities

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Thanks to significant investment from the private sector, digital assistants – also known as chatbots – have become much more advanced and cost-effective in recent years. As such, their use is continuing to grow. It’s estimated that the number of digital assistants being used in devices around the world will reach 8.4 billion by 2024, rising from 4.2 billion in 2020.

The charity sector is one of many that is increasingly experimenting with the use of digital assistants. Catalysed by the pandemic, conversational AI is now playing a key role in enabling charities to reach users in a more scalable, speedy and efficient way. Here’s how. 

1. Supporting donation lead generation

While certain charities, like those related specifically to COVID-19, saw a surge in donations in 2020, many other charitable organisations saw their income decline. This is hardly surprising, given that pre-pandemic, fundraising was typically carried out face-to-face on busy highstreets, at events and through home visits.

Of course, over the past year, government lockdowns and social distancing regulations have made it impossible to continue using these same fundraising methods. As a result, many charities that were once reliant on cash donations are now turning to digital assistants to close their funding gap. These are usually deployed on a charity’s website, on Facebook Messenger, or via another online channel that attracts a high number of users. Since the dialogue around donation interactions is very consistent, these digital assistants typically have low implementation costs. They often represent a quick win for charities, and are a great starting point for those beginning their digital assistant journey. 

2. Supplementing stretched resources

Over half (56%) of UK charities say they’re seeing a rise in people accessing their services. In particular, demand for life-saving support related to domestic violence, mental health, childrens’ services and more is on the up. As a result, charities are finding that their resources are becoming increasingly stretched. 

Digital assistants can absorb some of this workload by answering simple enquiries and providing access to relevant educational content, freeing up time for volunteers and employees to focus on the most complex and sensitive cases. Crucially, they can also help charities triage cases when demand for services exceeds supply, enabling those who are experiencing a crisis to get the assistance they need more quickly. 

3. Dispensing valuable information   

Often, a crucial part of a charity’s work is dispensing accurate, timely information that points people towards resources or empowers them to tackle the challenges they’re facing. Digital assistants offer an engaging, easy-to-use channel through which to do this. There’s never a wait to speak to an adviser and they’re available 24/7, so users can access information at their time of need. Plus, through conversational analysis and resolution and retraining tools, digital assistants learn from each interaction, ensuring that it is more productive than the last. 

It’s also worth noting that each interaction with a digital assistant generates data related to user numbers, demographics, top queries, information gaps and more. This can be turned into valuable audience insights, and used by charities to inform their future decision-making.

4. Reaching young people  

Over 60% of Generation Z describe themselves as “hating” phone calls. It’s no surprise then, that many members of Gen-Z and younger millennials prefer to use chatbots over other forms of communication in commercial settings – online banking, retail etc. From Starbucks to Sephora, many leading brands are using digital assistants to revamp how they engage with young people. Charities should take a leaf out of this playbook if they want to continue ensuring the accessibility of their services.

Often, asking for help can be a difficult step for a young person. By deploying digital assistants, charities can reach those who may be too shy or unwilling to pick up the phone or send an email. Once a child or young person has taken that crucial first step by engaging with a digital assistant, they can then be transferred to the appropriate channel – whether it’s local services, online resources, or 1-2-1 support from a trained counsellor.

Ultimately, demand for the services of many charities is likely to continue growing for the foreseeable future. Digital assistants offer a fast, scalable and effective way to respond to this and meet the needs of the people they support. From boosting donations, to freeing up workloads and disseminating information in more engaging ways, digital assistants have quickly become tools that charities can’t afford to live without. 

Want to see these use cases in action? Check out our case study section to learn more about how EBM is supporting charities in developing and deploying AI-powered digital assistants.

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