Enhancing Charity Operations with AI

Doug Ayres

Doug has been in the software and services industry for 20 years, having started out in 2004 with his first agency, which was acquired in 2011. Since 2017 he and the EBM team have been delivering chatbots for clients across a variety of industries and now focus most of their efforts on chatbots in the charity sector.

Doug Ayres, Managing Director, EBM

The Rise of AI in Business: Opportunities, Costs and Ethical Considerations

As I think we all know, AI is rapidly making inroads into nearly every industry and business sector. From automating repetitive tasks to providing data-driven insights, AI offers immense opportunities for organisations to boost efficiency, improve decision-making, and drive innovation. However, the integration of this powerful technology also comes with inherent costs and raises significant ethical questions that organisations must carefully navigate.

Opportunities Unlocked by AI

The potential benefits of AI for charities are vast and compelling. One of the primary advantages is process automation, where AI can take over mundane, repetitive tasks, freeing up human employees to focus on higher-value work. This not only increases productivity but also reduces the risk of errors and improves consistency.

AI excels at analysing vast amounts of data, identifying patterns, and providing valuable insights. This data-driven decision-making can inform everything from marketing strategies to predicting donors giving patterns. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can also enhance customer experiences by providing round-the-clock support, recommendations for events and fundraising opportunities, and seamless self-service options.

 

The Inherent Costs

While the potential rewards of AI are enticing, we must also consider the inherent costs associated with its implementation. Developing and deploying AI solutions often requires significant upfront investments in hardware, software, data acquisition, and specialised talent. Additionally, maintaining and updating AI systems to ensure accuracy and relevance can be an ongoing expense. There may also be costs associated with data storage, privacy compliance, and cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive information used by AI models.

 

Ethical Considerations

As AI becomes more prevalent in business operations, it raises critical ethical concerns that organisations must proactively address. One key issue is the potential for AI to perpetuate and amplify existing biases present in the data used to train the models. This could lead to discriminatory outcomes, particularly in areas like hiring, lending, and marketing.

There are also concerns around privacy and data protection, as AI systems may collect and process vast amounts of personal information. Organisations must ensure they have robust data governance policies and safeguards in place.

Finally, there are ethical considerations to the impact of AI on employment. While AI can enhance productivity, there are fears that it may also lead to job displacement in certain industries. Businesses must carefully manage this transition and prioritise reskilling and upskilling initiatives for their workforce.

Image for Laptop screen showing the website homepage of a software chatbot built for charities

The Charity Sector’s Approach

For the charity sector, the adoption of AI presents both exciting opportunities and unique challenges. On the one hand, AI can help charities streamline operations, optimise resource allocation, and potentially reach more service users with limited resources.

Charities must also navigate the ethical implications of AI with particular care. As organisations dedicated to serving the public good, they have a heightened responsibility to ensure their AI systems are fair, transparent, and aligned with their missions and values.

Charities must be mindful of the potential for AI to exacerbate existing societal biases and inequalities. For instance, if an AI system used for service user selection or resource allocation is trained on biased data, it could inadvertently discriminate against certain communities or populations. Ensuring the privacy and ethical treatment of these groups’ data must be a top priority when implementing AI solutions.

As AI continues to evolve and permeate various sectors, businesses and organisations must remain vigilant in maximising its potential while mitigating its risks and upholding ethical standards. By approaching AI thoughtfully and responsibly, organisations can harness its transformative power while fostering trust and maintaining their integrity.

One powerful solution that has gained significant traction in other sectors is the implementation of AI chatbots – virtual assistants that can interact with users in a conversational manner. By harnessing the power of chatbots, charities can unlock a host of benefits that can revolutionise their operations and amplify their impact.

Image for Laptop screen showing the chatbot design configuration

Insights that support the case for deploying chatbots for an organisation’s user base are also highlighted from a variety of sources:

81% of customers attempt digital self-service first
Across industries
81% of all users attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative
– Harvard Business Review, Kick-Ass Customer Service
20-30% contact deflection rate with conversational AI chatbot
Closing the Deflection Gap, ServiceXRG 2023 survey and SpiceWorks 2023
$80 billion reduction in contact centre costs by 2026 due to conversational AI chatbot adoption
– Market Trend: Conversational AI for Agent Automation Delivers an Efficient Customer Contact Center Experience. Gartner August 2023
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The number one advantage of deploying a chatbot on a charity’s website is the ability to gain invaluable insights into their users and the questions they are asking. Chatbots act as a direct line of communication, capturing the queries, concerns, and interests of website visitors, donors, volunteers, and service users. This valuable data can then inform strategies, tailor services, and shape future initiatives, ensuring that the charity’s efforts are aligned with the needs of its stakeholders. 

An example of a tailored solution can be found on the Turn2Us website that has a chatbot to support users using the benefits calculator – the solution also includes a live-agent (human) handover.

Beyond this crucial benefit, chatbots offer a multitude of advantages that can significantly enhance a charity’s operations. One of the most compelling features is the ability to provide 24/7 support, ensuring that enquiries and requests are addressed promptly, even outside of regular business hours. This round-the-clock availability can foster a sense of accessibility and responsiveness, strengthening the charity’s connection with its community. One such example of this can be found on the Centrepoint website – an out of hours support chatbot providing useful information and resources.

Moreover, chatbots can streamline processes by triaging enquiries and routing them to the appropriate human staff or department, improving efficiency and reducing response times. They can also facilitate fundraising and donation collection by guiding users through the process, providing information about campaigns, and enabling seamless online donations.

For charities heavily reliant on volunteers, chatbots can be invaluable tools for recruitment, scheduling, and management. Automating routine tasks such as signing up, providing information, and answering frequently asked questions can free up valuable human resources, allowing staff to focus on more critical tasks. The technology can also be integrated into other messaging interfaces such as Facebook & Whatsapp for automated conversations.

Chatbots can also disseminate information about the charity’s mission, programs, events, and resources, acting as virtual information desks. They can engage website visitors, capture their interests, and collect contact information for future follow-up, fostering lead generation and community engagement.

Chat2Impact is a pre-built, templated chatbot solution specifically designed for charities at a cost that should be comfortable for charities. The solution is easy to set up and can be very quickly deployed on charity websites, providing an accessible entry point into the world of chatbots.

For more tailored and advanced chatbot implementations, EBM, the chatbot specialists behind Chat2Impact, offer services to help charities build customised chatbots. These bespoke solutions can be designed to cater to specific use cases, such as providing direct support to charity service users, leveraging the full potential of chatbot technology. An example of this can be found on the National Deaf Children’s Society website, with a chatbot providing support to parents and carers of deaf children.

Image for Laptop screen showing the chatbot feature on the NDCS charity website

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, embracing innovative technologies like chatbots can be a game-changer for charities and non-profit organisations. By harnessing the power of these virtual assistants, charities can enhance their operations, improve accessibility, and ultimately amplify their impact on the communities they serve.

For more information on Chat2Impact or any of the case studies linked in this article, please get in touch with Doug Ayresdoug.ayres@ebm.ai

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