One of the greatest challenges for non-profit services is adapting to the new and varied ways in which the people in your community want and need to access your services. We’re dedicated to helping our clients face those challenges head-on with innovative solutions that help you help your community through the methods that work for them.
One of those solutions is iCarol’s Public Resource Directory (PRD): A feature that takes your iCarol Resource Database and turns it into a public-facing, searchable directory of community services. By taking your internally curated database and placing it online for public access, you’re expanding your reach, helping more people, and accommodating the growing number of individuals who prefer self-service over engaging directly with your specialists.
Late last year we shared with you our plans to refresh the iCarol Public Resource Directory and add some new tools and other enhancements. We’re excited to say that this new version of the PRD has officially launched! When you use this PRD you’ll enjoy:
A built-in Guided Search builder that allows your Resource Specialists to bypass web developers and instead build a guided, graphical search right within the PRD. For more on guided searching, stay tuned to our blog for details on an upcoming webinar on that topic.
Intuitive geographic searching that is easy for your visitors to use. They can simply begin typing in their known geographic location, be it zip/postal code, city, county, or state/province, to produce results that are relevant to their location.
Expanded customization around the look and feel of the PRD using Cascading Style Sheets that allow you to blend the search seamlessly into your website with highly granular control over things like font sizes types and colors, background color, logo integration, and more.
Mobile responsive functionality, delivering a mobile-friendly experience that rivals that of more costly mobile apps and accommodating the many individuals using their mobile phones or other handheld devices as their primary means of accesing the internet.
Relevant search results that improve your clients’ outcomes over what they’d likely experience if they tried to search for helpful resources on their own via a regular internet search engine. When your web visitors search or browse your PRD, they’re benefitting from your expert curation of the resources, reducing their frustration and confusion as they try to address their challenges.
To see some of these benefits in action, check out our video about the Public Resource Directory.
The PRD is available now and we encourage you to contact our Support Team to learn more about the upgrade process. Also stay tuned to our blog for announcements on upcoming webinars that provide further insight on using the PRD.
One thing that makes iCarol software so especially suited for not-for-profit helplines of all types is that it was created from the direct experience of helpline volunteers, and continuously grows by incorporating the great ideas from our users and from industry experts. In fact, a bunch of the features and enhancements you enjoy today started out as an idea from someone who uses iCarol at their helpline. While we work on new big features and changes with our planned roadmap, we also use a community development approach for custom projects which enhances iCarol for all subscribers. All of this amounts to creating a robust and comprehensive all-in-one software solution that is invaluable for helpline staff and volunteers in their daily work.
So, with so many users sharing their great ideas, how do we gather and track them and eventually decide which are developed and added to iCarol? Well, we’ve been working on a new system for organizing and tracking the ideas submitted to us, and now it’s ready to make its debut! It’s called the iCarol Ideas Portal — a new and better way to submit and follow enhancement ideas. This portal is available to all iCarol users with a security setting of Standard or higher and offers a number of features and benefits, including:
- Directly submit your idea right within the security of your iCarol system
- Browse ideas submitted by other iCarol users
- Add comments or additional thoughts to existing ideas
- Filter ideas based on their status, feature area of idea, how recently they were added, or see ideas that are trending
- Receive updates when your idea or an idea you’re interested in changes status or when another user adds a comment
- Vote on the ideas which are the most important to you
That last capability will surely add some fun and interactivity to the portal, while also giving us helpful feedback towards prioritization by seeing which ideas are the most popular and meaningful to our clients. Each user will get 10 votes to apply to the ideas they like, and you can apply up to 5 votes to a single idea you really love. Ideas can also be retracted and added back to your bank of votes. This may be useful in times where you are out of votes but see a new idea you like more than one you’ve previously voted for. When an idea is released to iCarol, or if we move an idea to not likely to implement, all votes for that idea are returned to you.
You’ll find the iCarol Ideas Portal by navigating to the Help section of your iCarol system. We’ve also included a number of Help Articles that outline how to use the portal to browse ideas, vote on enhancements, add comments to existing ideas, or add your own idea for consideration.
It’s our hope that the new iCarol Ideas Portal will improve communication and help you share your great ideas for iCarol with us. We’re excited to open this new communication channel with the aim of continuing to enhance iCarol and have it reflect the many fantastic ideas from which all our users, and their communities, can benefit.
One of iCarol’s most versatile features, Online Forms, enables visitors to your website to enter information that, when submitted, becomes a completed call form in your iCarol system. While there are several use cases for iCarol’s Online Forms, one major focus of these forms is in enabling a true continuity of care between the initial service providers (e.g. hospitals, clinics, physicians) and the helpline service following up with the patient following discharge.
Health advocates agree, one of the biggest issues they face relates to following up with patients after they have been discharged. Many hospital systems lack the time, resources, and specialized knowledge to provide a comprehensive continuity of care and as a result are looking to helplines, warmlines, and information and referral services to provide follow-up to their recently discharged patients.
With iCarol’s Online Forms, hospital staff can enter patient information through a website, either yours or theirs, and the submitted information comes into your iCarol system as a completed call form. Once submitted, other actions can occur, including follow-up scheduled automatically and an email sent to one or more of your helpline staff. Then, your staff can use iCarol to contact the patient through a phone call or even a text message. Best of all, the data related to the initial form submission and all subsequent contact with the patient is all kept and reportable through the iCarol Statistics, allowing you to keep track of how many patients you’re receiving, why patients require a follow up from your helpline, and what happened when your staff followed-up with the patients.
We are acquainted with privacy laws like HIPAA (US), PIPEDA (Canada) and the Data Protection Act (UK and Europe). We have safeguards and processes so that we do our part to maintain compliance with these laws, and are willing to sign needed agreements asserting our role in your compliance with them. For more information about iCarol’s security settings and standards, download the iCarol Security Summary.
As more hospitals and physicians look to enhance the continuity of care for their discharged patients, helplines, warmlines, and information and referral services are uniquely positioned to fill this service gap for health providers and using Online Forms may just be the missing link that can help you fill this need.
iCarol is a large and complex piece of software, and every client uses it a little differently. Some clients use some features, and other clients use other features. Client needs also change over time, necessitating the discontinuation, addition or adjustment of processes and policies. We understand that there is turnover in our client agencies, so training new staff or volunteers is a continuous need.
We are here to help! We have a number of self-serve options for training and notification of new features and enhancements. We encourage all of our clients to explore the information available through these options to assist you with building and maintaining your knowledge of how to use iCarol to meet your needs.
iCarol Help Page – Online Video Tutorials and other training and informational material
To access the Help page, simply click Help in the left hand menu when you are logged into iCarol.
The Help Page is organized into sections representing the major features of iCarol – Volunteers and Staff, Shift Calendar, Call Reports, Messaging, Resources, and Statistics and Reporting. Each section has a number of videos or other documents (for example, PowerPoint presentations) explaining how to use the different features in iCarol. Feel free to use any of these materials in your own training programs at your agency.
iCarol Help Page – Help Articles
To access iCarol Help Articles, click Help form the left hand menu when you are logged into iCarol, then, at the top of the page, click “Help articles – browse solutions to common questions”.
You can search for help articles in a few different ways. You can enter a word or phrase in the text box next to the Search button, and then click the Search button. You can refine this search to a particular category by choosing a category from the drop-down menu below the search text box. Or, you can browse through the various categories and sub-categories listed on the screen by clicking on the name of a category. For example, the screenshot below shows the help articles available in the category Calls, sub-category Call Reports – Create & Submit Call Reports.
iCarol staff are continually updating and expanding the Help article database as new features, enhancements and updates are released.
iCarol Dashboard – Announcements, tips and tricks
Users with Admin or Supervisor security status can access the iCarol Dashboard, which contains an Announcements, tips and tricks section. To access, simply click Home in the left hand menu when logged into iCarol.
This section contains posts about updates, new features, upcoming webinars, and more. Due to space limitations, you will likely only see the latest 3-4 posts displayed. To view earlier posts, scroll down to the bottom of this section and click the link labeled “See all news”.
To access the iCarol blog page, access the iCarol website at www.icarol.com, then click Blog at the top of the page.
The iCarol Blog contains a variety of articles that pertain to the iCarol software as well as other topics we feel would be of interest to helplines, such as Bell Let’s Talk Day, as shown above. Please note, you can subscribe to the iCarol Blog by filling out the small form you see in the lower right hand corner of the screenshot above. Doing so will deliver a weekly Blog Digest to you via email.
iCarol Quarterly Newsletter
To sign up for the iCarol newsletter, access the iCarol website at www.icarol.com, click Blog at the top of the screen, then click Newsletter along the right hand side of the screen.
The newsletter will be delivered to your email inbox. Articles include trends, tips, downloads and iCarol updates, including things like worldwide news and events, helpline best practices, iCarol product and feature updates, testimonials from iCarol users, Case studies of helplines, non-profit and charity contact centers, ask the expert and more.
Finally, if you are unable to find the answer to a question you have, you are welcome to submit a case to the iCarol Support Team using the Online Case Management system. This is accessed by clicking Help in the left hand menu when you are logged into iCarol, then, at the top of the screen, clicking “Cases – contact the iCarol Support Team”.
It’s almost time for our next Quarterly Enhancement Review Webinar, the first of 2017, which will occur on Monday January 9th at 1pm EDT.
In this webinar we’ll review several features released to iCarol in recent months, plus we’ll speak a bit to enhancements coming soon.
These webinars are typically most beneficial and interesting to current iCarol clients who are Program Managers or Directors and use iCarol at an Admin or Supervisor security level, or those who are considering subscribing to iCarol. That said, all are welcome to attend.
This is part of our commitment to providing excellent communication about iCarol capabilities, updates, and enhancements on a regular basis. We hope you’ll join us!
Interested, but can’t make it on the 9th? No worries, we’ll have the recording available on our website shortly after the live broadcast.
More than a decade ago when iCarol was first created by two helpline volunteers, Neil and Jackie McKechnie, helpline work was very much based in serving people via the phone. And the phone remains a method of communication to this day for helplines all over the world.
Over the years though, as new technologies grew in popularity and availability, people increasingly turn to channels like chatting, texting, or connecting with services through websites. And helplines need to embrace these new channels to stay relevant and reach more people. The flexibility in iCarol enables helplines to capture important information regardless of the type of contact — our Call Report Forms are used to collect data on interactions, whether they happen over the phone, online, via text, or even at in-person visits from mobile crisis teams or walk-in clinics. But some of the verbiage inside iCarol still centers around calls as a primary service, like the main Calls page, Call reports, and Caller Profiles.
We know that many helplines have expanded services beyond the phone, and that iCarol plays an important role in your documentation of all channels. For that reason, we are considering a name change for the “Calls” section of iCarol to better describe what you do and how you use these features. Please take 2 minutes to give your input about this by taking a brief survey.
In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, many states in the southeastern United States faced destructive damage including massive flooding.
Here’s the latest from our friends at 2-1-1 in North Carolina:
NC 2-1-1 Provides Resources to NC Residents Affected by Hurricane Matthew
NC residents in all 100 NC counties can dial 2-1-1 from any phone 24/7 for resources
Raleigh, NC – NC Emergency Management has asked NC residents affected by Hurricane Matthew or those wishing to help with disaster relief to dial 2-1-1 for storm related resources. Residents in all 100 counties can dial 2-1-1 from any phone to reach a trained call specialist who can help them find shelters, and learn about evacuation routes, find help with storm clean-up, locate food, water and ice, learn more about volunteer needs and more. The service is available 24/7 in any language and callers will always be connected to a live call specialist trained to assist during disasters.
NC 2-1-1 call specialists are in contact with emergency management personnel and have the most up-to-date information on storm related resources, both during the storm and after. Call specialists can provide evacuation and shelter information, help people find food, water and ice distribution points and storm clean-up information and help, and help people find storm related clean-up help. Call specialists also have information about volunteer and donation needs and can provide that information to callers wishing to help those affected by the storm. NC residents should dial 2-1-1 or 888-892-1162.
In addition to disaster related calls, NC 2-1-1 can help NC citizens find resources for other health and human service needs, such as food, housing, assistance with utilities, job training, information about health care providers, and more year round. All calls are confidential and the service is offered at no cost to North Carolina residents.
NC 2-1-1 is provided to residents in all 100 North Carolina counties by United Way. The service is free, confidential, and available 24/7/365 in any language.
NC 2-1-1 staff shared with us that amidst the challenges of the situation, their service is standing out and being recognized by leadership throughout the state for their availability and outstanding service to their community. The system has proven itself to be a great tool to help citizens in need, and the people reaching them are feeling comforted, and pleasantly surprised, when they reach a live person.
We received a nice note from them in the aftermath of the storm:
“iCarol has served us incredibly well and I am so pleased with how easily I can pull the statistics I need. A big thank you to Mary for helping me pull those saved chart templates together Friday afternoon. The leadership at emergency management has been so impressed with the kind of information we can provide to them with just a few key strokes.” – Heather, NC 2-1-1 Statewide Strategy Director
We’re honored to be NC 2-1-1′s choice of software providers and we’re glad that iCarol has been an instrument to help them help people and produce important data for emergency management personnel, while reducing stress on their staff. Our thoughts continue to be with them and with all the people in the southeast US affected by Hurricane Matthew.
It’s that time again! Our next Quarterly Enhancement Review Webinar will be happening soon: Tuesday September 13th at 1pm EDT.
In this webinar we’ll review some of the features recently released to iCarol that help you:
- Build partnerships and add new revenue streams
- Improve service delivery to chat visitors
- Expand service hours for Live Chat and Texting
- Grow your resource database without investing more staff time
We’ll also discuss how the new features can be used in your day-to-day work, and how they can improve and expand your service offerings.
The webinar is typically most beneficial and interesting to current iCarol clients who are Program Managers or Directors and use iCarol at an Admin security level, or those who are considering subscribing to iCarol. That said, all are welcome to attend.
This is part of our commitment to providing excellent communication about iCarol capabilities, updates, and enhancements on a regular basis. We hope you’ll join us!
Interested, but can’t make it on the 13th? No worries, we’ll have the recording available on our website shortly after the live broadcast.
Resources that are organized and have a hierarchical structure are going to be much easier to navigate, whether you are a Resource Manager looking to make updates, or an I&R Specialist finding referrals for a client. In iCarol we follow the structure put forth by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) called Agency, Program, Site structure. You can read more about this structure here.
The most detailed and complex way of organizing your referral database is to include the ProgramAtSite record in your hierarchy. This record connects exactly one Program to exactly one Site. That is to say, at a particular Site location for an Agency, a Program may be offered at that Site. And details about the way this Program operates at this Site may vary from the way that Program operates at a different Site.
ProgramAtSite records can include detailed, nuanced information about the way this Program operates at this Site. Conversely, a ProgramAtSite record may simply contain only the information that this Program is offered at that Site, and nothing more. When you go into your iCarol system, edit a Program record, and designate which Sites offer this Program, you’re essentially creating ProgramAtSite records.
But sometimes these ProgramAtSite entries that describe a simple link between a Site and the Programs offered there may not be considered true, fully fledged ProgramAtSite records depending on your organization’s policies, and having them treated as such in your helpline software may unintentional skew your results when analyzing the number of records you maintain, the staff hours needed to keep records up-to-date, etc.
In a recent release to iCarol, we created the ability for our users to say whether a ProgramAtSite record is a Link Only, meaning it is not edited or maintained by your resource managers or editors. Link Only ProgramAtSite records cannot be edited and will not contain detailed information about how this Program operates at this Site, just that the Program is offered at the Site.
This feature is currently available to any of our users who employ the ProgramAtSite record level to their resource database. If you’re not yet using an Agency, Program, Site structure in your iCarol resource database, please contact our support team for assistance.
Initial Set Up
First you need to be sure you have ProgramAtSite records turned on for editing, and turn on the Link Only feature. To do this, take the following steps:
Note: If in the future you disable the Link Only ProgramAtSites feature, all existing Link Only records will be automatically converted to standard ProgramAtSite records.
- Log into iCarol as an Admin
- Click on “Admin Tools” from the left menu
- Click on the “Resources” tab
- If not already enabled, click on the checkbox for “Can edit ProgramAtSite records”
- Click on the checkbox for the “Enable LinkOnly ProgramAtSites”
- Click the “Save all settings” button
Creating Link Only Records
Now that you’ve turned on this feature, you can start creating these Link Only records. To do that, take the following steps:
Note: Not selecting the Link Only setting will create a standard ProgramAtSite record by default.
- Click on “Resources” from the left menu
- Find or create a new Agency, Program, and Site record
- From the Program record, select a Site from the “Available sites” list
- Click the “Create ProgramAtSite as a Link Only record. Editing will be restricted” checkbox
- Then click “Add >>”
- Click the “Save” button
Now that you’ve created these records that are Links Only, you may find from time to time that you’ll need to convert them back to being full, editable ProgramAtSite records. Link Only and Standard ProgramAtSites can be converted from one to the other when editing the ProgramAtSite record. When converting from a Standard to Link Only ProgramAtSite all field values on the record will be cleared, and editing of the Link Only record will be restricted.
- From the Edit page of the ProgramAtSite record
- Click on the “Convert to [record type] ProgramAtSite” link above the ProgramAtSite Name field.
- Click “Ok” from the confirmation dialogue window that opens, and the record will automatically convert.
- Click the “Save” button
Impact on Automated Verification
You may be asking, how does this new enhancement impact my Automated Verification requests? Link Only ProgramAtSites will be sent merged with the Program record, even when the Automated Verification Request, Setting #6 “Send verification request to ProgramAtSite contact if one exists, otherwise Program Contacts” is selected. If Standard and Link Only ProgramAtSites exists for a Program, both separate and merged ProgramAtSite records will be sent to verifiers.
Example: Program “Fruit Collection”, is offered at three sites: 5221 60 Street (Standard), Southeast Community Centre (Link Only), and Northeast Family Centre (Link Only). When the AVR request is sent for “Fruit Collection” and setting 6 “Send verification request to ProgramAtSite Contact if one exists…” is selected, the Program verifier receives the Program and both Link Only ProgramAtSite merged, and the Standard ProgramAtSite separately to the verifier listd on the ProgramAtSite record (if available).
Reporting and Other Changes
For a number of reasons you may want to exclude Link Only ProgramAtSite records when running certain reports or other queries inside of iCarol. Here’s a quick breakdown of the areas where you can choose to do that, and ways to otherwise be aware of these records when analyzing your database.
- From the “Manage Resources”, “List all Resources” tool LinkOnly ProgramAtSites can be excluded from the list by clicking “Exclude LinkOnly ProgramAtSites”.
- From the “Statistics”, “Resources” reports LinkOnly ProgramAtSites can be excluded from results by clicking the “Exclude LinkOnly ProgramAtSites.”
- In Resource Exports, LinkOnly ProgramAtSites are flagged as LinkOnly in the “IsLinkOnly” column.
- LinkOnly records can also be excluded from API results
We hope that this new ability to create ProgramAtSite records as Links Only rather than full, standard records will be useful to your agency. Should you have additional questions about this feature, please contact our Support Team.
Ontario Online and Text Crisis Services program (ONTX) recently marked a year of service to their communities, and shared data with constituents in their latest newsletter. In the report they describe response to the program as “overwhelmingly positive” while allowing contact with many individuals who otherwise would not have reached out for help.
Some key findings:
- Total chats and texts: 8,921
- 75% of visitors were under 24 years old, while that same demographic makes up a very small portion of their phone callers
- Over 200 specialists trained to take chats and texts
- They receive an average of 5 suicide-related contacts each time the service is open
- More than half of visitors said that in the absence of an online emotional support service like ONTX, they would not have spoken to anyone about their problem
For a full look at the released findings click here, or read a summary here. Want future updates from ONTX and other services of DC Ontario? Be sure to sign up for Distress and Crisis Ontario’s newsletter by emailing your request to .
We’re thrilled by the success of our friends at ONTX, though it comes as no surprise to us that they’ve had this response. The caring people at the Distress and Crisis Ontario have been providing listening support and crisis intervention to Ontario for nearly 50 years. Their latest step to make their services available in a way that works for everyone in need demonstrates their commitment to helping people and saving lives.