Artificial Intelligence or AI for short in becoming ubiquitous throughout our lives. Indeed, you must be aware of the hype surrounding AI and Machine Learning over the last couple of years.
AI is all around us, it drives the feeds we see on social media. It determines which emails get flagged as spam in your inbox. It determines whether you get accepted for a loan. It’s even used to present ads to influence you to support a People’s Vote on Brexit or support a hard Brexit.
I recently gave a presentation on Artificial Intelligence at the Insight in Fundraising SIG, part of the Institute of Fundraising. During the presentation we did a quick straw-poll. It turns out most organisations of thinking about AI within Fundraising. But very few (if any) appear to be using it yet.
This got me thinking, where might we see AI being applied within Fundraising in the next year?
Donations via Voice Assistants – (Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri).
Advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) has seen the effectiveness and the popularity of voice assistants taking off. Especially as they are now becoming integrated with IoT devices (Internet of Things). The technology now exists to ask Alexa to start your coffee brewing when you wake up, open your curtains and play the latest Arctic Monkeys album on your Sonos. It can even allow you to fend off burglars Home Alone style, see:
So how might charities use this technology for fundraising? Well the NSPCC have become the first charity to take donations using Alexa. This has come about since the launch of a template donation skill on the platform.
Whether we see this area taking off in the future or falling by the wayside is still to be seen. In my opinion the technology still needs to improve significantly before it becomes more mainstream. Currently I believe it is still quite gimmicky and frustrating. For example on my Sonos system at home I have to be very specific in what I say to Alexa to get her to do something. If often find I still end up using my hands to select the album I want to listen to!
Again this is another area where Advances in NLP have helped make great strides. One of the main areas where Chatbots are being used is within customer service and social media. You may have seen this in action on various e-commerce websites, where the is a little chat window. Here as a user you can quickly type in a question and get a quick relevant response back. This can boost sales and engagement if done well. However, most good chatbot systems still have a live person available for dealing with more difficult questions. Although the chatbot will handle most queries quickly and efficiently, saving the organisation staffing costs.
We are likely to see chatbox deployed more commonly within the supporter services function within the charity sector. One of our clients The Children Society have recently trialed a chatbot application on their Facebook page to support fundraising questions.
I can’t see this driving massive amounts of fundraising revenue, but I can see it making supporter service more efficient. However, it needs to be done well. It’s better to have no chatbot than a bad chatbot. I recently tried to report a case of identity theft to Action Fraud, a government backed crime agency. The only way I could do it was via an online chat, the chatbot struggled to give me any help or point me anywhere near the right direction. In the end I gave up, frustrated. I hope this doesn’t happen in the charity sector.