Giving Compass’ Take:
• Direct Relief, along with its bot builder, Mind Heroes, have open-sourced their model of a chatbot that offers disaster relief guidance for other nonprofits to use.
• The chatbot helps organizations to disseminate information that families and individuals need. How can donors help expand this initiative?
• Check out the Giving Compass Disaster Relief and Recovery Magazine.
After Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in mid-2017, nonprofit Direct Relief encountered its own customer service disaster. The humanitarian aid group, which delivers medical aid and other support in crisis areas, expected to be able to use Facebook Messenger to answer questions from people wanting to help or seeking it. But its response time jumped from less than an hour to two days as more and more messages poured in.
To fix that, the company built a chatbot—but one that’s slightly more empathetic than typical customer-service automatons. It’s since proven to dramatically cut response times and allow people with special needs to reach real humans. Now Direct Relief and its bot builder, Mind Heroes, have open-sourced their model. It’s available for free to other nonprofits through BotsForCharity.com. At least 200 charities have expressed interest.
“Identifying the need was pretty easy,” says Direct Relief CEO Thomas Tighe. “The last thing you want to do is leave anyone frustrated who is interested or wants to help. And we just did not have the staff bandwidth to deal with the volume of inquiries and emails and requests that we are receiving with the staff we have.”
Last year, Direct Relief’s bot handled more than 6,000 requests—with an average response time of less than a minute. The charitable build-a-bot program allows organizations to put in their name and some basic website information. It can then redirect users to the right prompts for questions about how to donate, volunteer, receive assistance, or learn more information about the group.
Read the full article about chatbot designed for disaster relief by Ben Paynter at Fast Company.
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