The American Red Cross introduced two chatbots to guide blood donors and individuals seeking emergency aid on their search for critical information: Clara, the blood donation chatbot, and Clara, the disaster relief chatbot.


Every year in US, we face a shortage of blood products which are needed for emergencies, surgeries, cancer patients, and other situations because only 10% of eligible people donate blood. The risk of a critical blood shortage has been particularly high during the COVID-19 pandemic due to donor safety concerns and blood drive cancellations to promote social distancing. To encourage blood donations, the American Red Cross must communicate accurate information about the donation process, safety protocols, and eligibility requirements in a manner that is convenient for our donors.

The American Red Cross also responds to an emergency every 8 minutes, adding up to an average of more than 60,000 disasters every year. From small house fires to multi-state natural disasters, the American Red Cross goes wherever needed, so people can have clean water, safe shelter, and hot meals when they need them most. To best meet the immediate disaster-caused needs of individuals, families, and communities, the American Red Cross must provide relevant and timely information regarding shelter access and safety preparedness.

Technical details & Operations

Clara, our Blood Donor chat bot, serves our donors 24 x 7 in three key areas:

  1. Eligibility assessment: People may assume that they are not eligible to donate based on the complex set of criteria and may not be comfortable talking about their unique situation with a call center agent. Clara provides a convenient channel for donors to ask questions about sensitive eligibility criteria without needing to call the American Red Cross. 
  2. Donation information: In the rapidly changing environment of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to provide access to up-to-date information on the donation process, including safety protocols.
  3. Appointment management: To reduce friction, Clara provides easy access to all key appointment management functions such as scheduling and donation history details.

Clara, our Disaster Response chat bot, offers advice and assistance to help disaster survivors in three main ways:

  1. Shelter services: Clara helps people find safe shelters during an emergency, whether it be after a home fire or natural disaster. Through integration with the United States’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Clara will look up shelters near the user’s location. 
  2. Support services: In addition to giving people a place to stay, the American Red Cross also provides essentials, such as food, water, and health services to provide the physical and mental support people need. Clara provides information on these services and directs disaster survivors to the appropriate resources to get the help they need.
  3. Disaster response information: As an organization dedicated to helping individuals give as much as helping others receive, the American Red Cross has a responsibility to inform potential donors how financial donations are used. It is important that people know what the American Red Cross is doing to help people who’ve suffered from a natural disaster and learn ways that they can also contribute to the cause.

Deployment & Impact

A key part of the American Red Cross’ vision is to ensure that everyone in the country has access to safe, lifesaving blood and blood products. The American Red Cross blood supply accounts for 40% of our nation’s blood and supplies hospitals nationwide, a supply that is built by generous donations alone. The blood donation chatbot, Clara, serves up to 20,000 users per month, enabling donors to access information quickly and seamlessly. Clara provides accurate eligibility information, answering 90% of questions about specific medications for over 100 different drugs, and sourcing travel related criteria directly from the CDC. This enables donors to self-defer from donating if they are not eligible, allowing more eligible donors to sign up and provide life-saving blood products. Additionally, many first-time donors use the chatbot to learn about different donation types, safety, and the donation process before registering to donate, calming their nerves and promoting blood donation through the power of information. With the help of Clara, the blood donation chatbot, the American Red Cross aims to ensure that anyone interested in learning more about blood donation can not only access all relevant information, but also learn how to engage their community, only furthering the reach of the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross also aims that all people affected by disaster across the country and around the world receive care, shelter, and hope. Because of this goal, the American Red Cross is dedicated to responding to disasters, both big and small, across the country and providing shelter, food and comfort to families in a time of need. With only a few short messages, the disaster response chatbot, Clara, can direct individuals to specific shelter locations in their area. At the shelters, health workers monitor individual’s well-being, provide first aid treatment, and replace prescription medications or eyeglasses. Using the disaster relief chatbot, Clara, as an integral channel for dispersing pertinent information, the American Red Cross helps families prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.