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Conversational Marketing for Nonprofits: Three Chatbot Examples

8.20.20 By: Christopher Bayerle

*Bloop!* How can we help you today?

*Ding!* Got a question? We have answers!

Have you noticed the sudden popularity of chatbots all over the web? One should pop up in the bottom-right corner of this webpage just as you read this sentence.

Why is conversational marketing taking over the web? Automation, immediacy, and personalization. On the one hand, you can automate administrative tasks, like directing visitors on your website to the pages you think they might appreciate seeing. On the other hand, you can directly and immediately communicate with the most important visitors to your site whenever they visit your webpage.

It’s easy to see the benefits of conversational marketing in the business-to-business space. Here at Idealist Consulting we use an app called Qualified to automate chatbot experiences that help visitors navigate our site, set up time to talk with us, and qualify those visitors. We also use the technology to alert us when high-value visitors are on our site. The chabot opens up a direct line of communication.

But how and why would a nonprofit organization use a chatbot? In much the same way: to automate administrative tasks, personalize information, and open a direct line of communication with your most valued community members. Chatbots can highlight timely, targeted information, like an online event or a campaign, without having to put a ton of work into a new webpage or email program.

We came up with three examples of how a nonprofit might use a chatbot, and this article over at the Chronicle of Philanthropy lists several other nonprofit uses for chatbots. Use our chatbot in the bottom right corner of the screen on this page to get a feel for what some of these examples might be like.

Use Chatbots to Find Volunteers and Take Action

If your organization is looking for volunteers, you could use a chatbot to announce a call to action and display the days you need volunteers most.

If you’re following along with our chatbot in the bottom right, you can imagine being greeted with a little pop up that says “We’re looking for volunteers like you! Are you available to help?”. Visitors to your site would see a little button that says “I want to help!” and maybe other options to keep visitors engaged.

The bot might then pull up a list of the days you’re looking for volunteers, ask for the volunteer’s name and email address, and then link through to a page where they could finish registering as a volunteer for that date. In the process, if you use Pardot and Salesforce, you’ll also be registering that visitor in your database.

You could also use the chatbot to connect potential volunteers to someone who could answer questions about what it’s like to volunteer.

This example is very specific, but here’s how you should be thinking about a bot like this: what sort of engagement can you automate and can you simultaneously use that action to qualify and/or enter that constituent into your database?

Build a Chatbot to Tell a Story and Engage Donors

You might be familiar with the big party for nonprofit organizations Idealist Consulting throws every year at Dreamforce. Last year we raised money for Amplify at the event, and collected over. One way we could engage attendees after the event would be to use our chatbot to share information about the event and the money attendees helped raise. And even if Dreamforce and The Engagement Party and events in general are going digital, we still need to find ways to engage and inspire constituents before and after online events.

When we engage website visitors this way, what we’re really offering is a story. We’re telling a story about the impact of our efforts, keeping it fresh in the mind of attendees, hoping that they’ll remember it again next year. And maybe next fall, we’ll create a new bot experience to direct these attendees back to a registration page for a webinar or virtual happy hour or clinic. People can interact with the story and direct their own navigation of it.

And at the end of the story, we’re there, readily available via chat for anyone who came to the event and wants to talk more.

Chatbots like this can be used to drive attendance for online events and engagement. For example, after someone makes a donation, you could present a bot inviting a donor to an upcoming webinar. What stories can you tell visitors on your site in a dynamic way, especially with the potential ability to personalize a message based on Salesforce data?

Talk Directly to the Constituents Who Matter Most

One of chatbot journey examples shows a message we’d optimally display to the people in our database who matter most to us. For example, as a theoretical volunteer, you’d be important to us! We want to make sure you have all the information you need to show up to the day of service and we want to get you in touch with a live person if you have any questions. Or maybe you’re a major donor and we want to be immediately available if you have any questions for us.

In this scenario, we’ve identified an important visitor to our site (potentially either a volunteer or a regular donor) and have displayed a custom greeting for that individual. On the back end, Qualified could be alerting our development team that a high-value visitor is on our site. We want to make ourselves available to major donors and to registered volunteers.

If your organization is like Idealist Consulting, you don’t have a large staff that can be always available to directly and immediately respond to questions about everything. We direct prospects we don’t know to our calendar. They could have questions about anything, and we often don’t have the bandwidth to talk to everyone immediately.

But we definitely want to prioritize the prospects on our site we already know, the people we already have relationships with and to whom we want to be readily available.

Nonprofit organizations using chatbots could think about it in a similar way. If you have a limited number of people who can take calls, respond to emails, and chat with people online, and they all have a limited amount of time particularly because they have other tasks, you have to figure out who it’s most important to talk to. You can use a program like Qualified in conjunction with Salesforce and Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (powered by Pardot) to identify these visitors and engage with them directly.

Getting Started with a Chatbot

Here at Idealist Consulting we use a product called Qualified to run our chatbot. Qualified is a separate app that we can log into, but it’s built directly on the Salesforce platform. It’s integrated with Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (MCAE) and can identify visitors by their MCAE cookie. But other chatbot companies, like Drift and Chatbot, work in a similar manner and can access and update your Salesforce data. So if you’re looking to add a chatbot to your site, step number one is to choose a platform.

Step number two: figure out who you want to talk to directly. Who are the most important visitors on your site, the ones you most want to talk to directly? Then figure out which conversations you can automate, like career queries and requests for common information. Also, think about how you can use stories to engage visitors on your site, just like you use stories in the emails you send your constituents.

Step three: figure out the chatbot logic. In our experience, building a chatbot with Qualified or Drift is a lot like building a Flow in Salesforce or an Engagement Studio program in MCAE. And you’ll want to build different bots that pop up for different people based on the information you have stored about them in your database.

Chatbot Limitations

As you build different “Experiences”, as Qualified calls them, you can pull information stored in Salesforce and MCAE fields, which allows you to personalize the journeys you offer visitors who interact with your bot. But you do still have to get creative sometimes to make everything work. 

For example, if you tested our volunteer sign-up bot experience, you’ll see that we had to “hard code” the dates into the experience. We weren’t able to pull these dynamically from anywhere. That means two things: first, someone needs to be in charge of the chatbot to make sure dates and links get updated, and second, the person running your bot will need to know which dates you’re in need of volunteers.

Some chatbots can read the data stored in Salesforce or MCAE fields, but can’t show messages based on whether a person is on a dynamic MCAE list or the data stored in a custom object. Not the biggest set back, but it might mean you might have to consider building new automation to get the data in the right place to trigger the appropriate chatbot.

In general, we found that you definitely need to appoint someone to be in charge of your chatbot. This could be someone in marketing or your Salesforce or MCAE admin. But if you invest in a service like Qualified or Drift, we recommend setting someone with the imperative to get it up and going.

And if you need help with chatbots, MCAE, Salesforce, and how they all come together, we’re here to help. You can use the button below to fill out a boring old contact form, or you could, you know, use the bot and see if someone’s available to chat right now.


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