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Posts Tagged ‘Helpline software’

Going beyond “Calls” – We need your input

helpline call chat text

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.

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North Carolina 2-1-1 weathers the storm, helps those left in Matthew’s wake

NC 211

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.

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Join our next Quarterly Enhancement Review Webinar

Webinars w gray

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
  • …and more!

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.

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Creating ProgramAtSite records as a Link Only


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:

  • 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”

  • Enable LinkOnly ProgramAtSite

  • Click the “Save all settings” button
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.

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:

  • 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 >>”

  • Create a Link Only ProgramAtSite record

  • Click the “Save” button
Note: Not selecting the Link Only setting will create a standard ProgramAtSite record by default.

Converting Records

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.

  • Convert ProgramAtSite record

  • 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.

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Following year anniversary of services, ONTX shares data

chat vs text

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.

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iCarol Summit and AIRS Conference recap


May was a busy month for our team, capped off with a trip to St. Louis for the 38th Annual Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) training and education conference. But before that conference got started, we had an exciting event of our own to host.

For awhile now we’ve been wanting to experiment with holding an in-person training event for our clients; something that would allow us to go beyond the sessions we historically participate in during these conferences which generally must be not vendor specific. We love sharing our broad knowledge with folks at sessions like this, but recognize there’s an opportunity for iCarol-specific education especially given that so many of our clients would be present and, we hoped, interested in spending some time with us.

So late last year we began planning what would become the iCarol Summit, a day-long intensive training event hosted by us and featuring members of our team with extensive knowledge and expertise in Information and Referral (I&R). The Summit was held on Sunday May 22nd to superb turnout by iCarol users all across North America.

Neil welcomed everyone with an opening keynote where he discussed recent iCarol growth, the state of the I&R industry, and trends we’re seeing. A few highlights include:

    iCarol Growth
  • The size of our team has doubled in the last 18 months
  • The number of users worldwide is solidly above 50,000 and growing
  • 1/3 of 211s in North America use iCarol and that number is continuously growing
  • 5 of our staff hold CIRS or CRS certifications from AIRS
  • iCarol leadership continues to take an active role in discussions about AIRS standards and technology initiatives in the I&R industry
    iCarol Software
  • In 2015 we added over 1,600 enhancements to our product with many more coming before 2016 ends
  • There are more ways than ever for our users to enhance their iCarol knowledge, from training webinars and on-demand videos available now, to tailored walk-throughs which are coming soon
  • Discovering and trialing iCarol will be made easier with added automation to the onboarding process
    The I&R Industry Trends
  • AIRS standards continue to evolve
  • Big data and data sharing
  • Extending reach via mobile, live chat, texting, and social media
  • Self-service via the web and apps

From there, our participants headed onward to a day of sessions we developed with our users’ needs in mind. Polly gave a thorough presentation which walked us through bringing together AIRS standards and AIRS resource database quality recommendations using iCarol. She discussed iCarol program metrics and tools and how they can directly improve your ability to meet certain AIRS standards and recommendations. Just one of many examples, the Resource Complexity report, which provides an analysis of your records and how they rate on complexity. The report suggests statistical reportsthe number of hours it may take to manage them using the AIRS standards as a guide, therefore giving the tools to determine the number of FTEs needed at your agency to meet these standards. The rest of the presentation covered similar program tools and metrics that directly assist with meetings AIRS standards and thus achieving certification.

Christa led a session on the many ways you can use iCarol to reach your community beyond fielding phone calls — and we’re not just talking about iCarol Messaging (Live Chat and Texting). This session covered tools like the Public Resource Directory, Online Forms, texting or emailing referrals, follow-up texts, the API, and more. In fact, for each of these areas she discussed not just the tool as a whole, but some individual components or settings in each function. The group was exposed and educated on many iCarol features that they had previously not discovered, or didn’t have extensive knowledge of. Crystal held a session on Proving Your Value, covering topics like Needs and Unmet Needs reports, examining your exports, and a peek at new exporting tools coming soon, along with some discussion about Microsoft’s powerful Power BI capability.

These are just a few examples of the highly detailed and helpful breakout sessions we aimed to bring our participants, and we’re so pleased by the attendance and enthusiasm at these presentations.

messaging 2.0

At the end of our Summit, Rachel presented a traditional usergroup session, which was open not just to Summit attendees but to any interested party who was visiting the conference and wished to learn more about iCarol. In this final session of the day, Rachel touched on some of iCarol’s product initiatives, including planned enhancements we’re currently calling “Messaging 2.0″ and “Public Resource Directory (PRD) 2.0.” Messaging 2.0 will enhance the usability of this feature via a more efficient approach to both the workflox and access to the resource search. These enhancements will also improve your productivity — not only will you be able to find and give visitors their referrals even faster, but the enhancement should result in a quicker response time when working in your forms. Messaging 2.0 will also bring with it increased reliability and fewer opportunities for the already low occurrence of “lost” messages. This enhancement is still being developed and so we cannot commit to a firm release date right now, however at this time we estimate a fall 2016 launch.

The new developments to the iCarol PRD will boost your ability to direct help-seekers to services via the PRD’s embedded resource search on your website. The enhancements will reduce the time it takes to obtain search results, while simultaneously offering greater control over appearance including more integrated tools to build “guided” searches, or customizing CSS or using the API for even greater control. Further, you’ll be able to configure the weighting of search results, set up guided searches, filtering, and more.

Rachel wrapped up our day by speaking to other recently released development, and spoke to a few other planned enhancements for the remainder of 2016.

We thoroughly enjoyed presenting our first ever iCarol Summit, and we truly hope all who attended enjoyed themselves and learned a lot that they can put into practice at their helplines. The feedback we’ve received so far has been extremely positive, and the success of this event has encouraged us to plan future events. We’d appreciate your help in making that happen. Please take a second to answer just a few questions that will help us develop future training events.

Help us plan future events

Next up was the AIRS Conference, and the team had a blast. It’s difficult to sum up so much activity and also express how much fun we had. These events are always a great chance for us to see each other, our clients, industry folks, and meet lots of new friends.

Polly and Crystal hosted an extremely popular session called “Crunching the numbers” where they took the audience through the process of interpreting your data through Excel tools like pivot tables. This workshop was non-vendor specific, meaning the session focused on elements that any helpline with data could find helpful, regardless of the software they use to collect that data. According to Polly, one attendee of the presentation said he was working on his MBA and some of the material covered in the session wasn’t even included in an advanced course on Excel.

We received great feedback about this workshop — Stay tuned as you may see the opportunity to watch either a live or recorded version of this presentation in the future.

As usual, we had a booth set up so we could share information about iCarol to interested parties, as well as having a place to greet our users who came to visit. The exhibitor’s hall was expansive and impressive, located in the lobby area of the historic St. Louis Union Station Hotel. Check us out in the bottom left of the photo.

St. Louis Union Station Hotel Lobby

We kept ourselves tuned in to the trends and discussions impacting the I&R industry. There were a lot of conversations that extended the themes of the keynote from the United Way 2-1-1 CEO convention back in March, which we attended. There are plans to build a national resource data repository for United Way Worldwide, and it appears those plans are progressing and getting more detailed. We’ll be keeping a close watch on this, as it could influence iCarol innovation and development of tools for our users who may want to participate in such a database.

Follow-ups, measuring outcomes, processing and effectively reporting your data, and expanding your reach to help seekers all emerged as hot topics. As we hope you’d expect by now, we’re actively engaged in these conversations and constantly assessing how iCarol can be developed to give you the leverage you need.

Our users are doing some pretty cool stuff using iCarol — notably Kings United Way in California which created the 211 Intelliful app that connects residents of Kings and Tulare Counties in California with the resources available to them. It’s available via the App Store and Google Play, and will give you a good idea of all the amazing things you can do using the iCarol API. We were happy and really impressed with the app they developed and others clearly were, too.

Kings united way California 211

Of course we left time for fun. St. Louis provided lots of opportunities for that. The gang enjoyed a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery

And as is tradition, we also took in a ball game, Cardinals vs. Cubs.

And just like that, it was over! We loved our time in St. Louis and this was a particularly energizing conference in part because of the iCarol Summit and in part because of all the creativity, innovation, and excitement we were exposed to. Don’t forget to give us your input about future in-person trainings by iCarol — we’d love to take you with us on our next adventure!

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New and improved layout and access to settings in iCarol Messaging

chat vs text

With our latest release we’ve improved the flow of your Messaging (Live Chat and SMS/Texting) settings page, while also exposing new settings to our users. We think you’ll enjoy the ease of navigation and access to some settings and tools previously only available to the iCarol team.

These settings are still found in the same location, by first clicking on ‘Messaging’ in the main iCarol menu. Next, you’ll click on “Instant Messaging and SMS Settings’ in the upper right of that screen. Previously these were two separate links that would take you to two separate settings pages. Now this is a single link taking you to a single page where you can navigate through both Live Chat and SMS Settings.

Once you arrive on the settings page, you’ll find a tabbed layout to access various settings. Before changing any settings, you’ll first need to select the Portal to which your selections should apply. Your organization may only have a single Live Chat or SMS service with iCarol, but if you’ve added on additional services then you will find these portals listed in the drop down menu.

Messaging settings select portal

On the ‘General Settings’ tab, shown above, you can decide what terminology is used to reference your Chat Specialist within the chat conversation, and also decide what security levels can monitor chats, see all active conversations, and who can disable Messaging or a particular portal.

Live Chat Settings

On the ‘IM Settings’ tab shown above, you’ll first see some familiar settings where you can determine the messages that will appear to your visitor while they’re waiting in the queue or when the Live Chat conversation starts. You’ll also set your Terms and Conditions and Privacy policy for your visitors to read before agreeing to chat with you. This is also the location of the HTML code that you or your web master will place on your website so that visitors will know if you’re online or offline, and will gain them entry to begin the chat if you’re currently online.

The final set of settings in the top section of the page allow you to:

  • Decide whether or not visitors can chat anonymously
  • Choose whether or not to enforce geographic restriction so that only visitors in certain locations can chat with you
  • Prevent visitors from typing until the counselor joins
  • Hide a visitor’s IP address
  • Disable geographic fields
  • Disable the ability for users to create logins for repeated use

The lower part of the ‘IM Settings’ tab includes a feature where you can upload custom Online or Offline images to replace the default images offered by iCarol. This means your organization can design your own Online/Offline images that fit with your branding or make use of your logo or other images easily identifiable with your agency. Lastly, decide which fields should be available and/or required at registration, and also set specific coverage areas to be allowed access to the chat, should you choose to enforce geographic restriction.

Live Chat Settings 2

On the ‘SMS Settings’ tab you’ll find mostly familiar settings that were accessible under the previous layout. Here you can determine all the auto responses for the selected Portal, including the important responses that will describe the Opt-in and Opt-out procedures to your visitor. Here you’ll also enter any mobile numbers you plan to use to test your SMS service, and finally you’ll find new settings to enable geographic restriction and hide a visitor’s full mobile phone number. On this page you can also enter coverage areas should you choose to enforce geographic restriction.

SMS Settings

Finally on the last tab, Standard Messages, you will set all the pre-written greetings that should be available for use by your Chat Specialists. These standard messages can be set by Portal, and for Live Chat, SMS, or both. Once entered these messages can also be edited or deleted as needed.

Standard Messages 1 Standard Messages 2

We hope you’ll find this new layout even more user friendly and easy to navigate than before. Additionally, access to new tools and settings offer even more control over how your Messaging service works and grants immediate access to make important changes that once had to be submitted to our Support Team. We believe this expanded access will further strengthen your service as you offer these new and important communication channels to your community.

Should you have questions or need assistance understanding or using these settings, don’t hesitate to contact our Support Team for assistance.

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Enhancements coming with our next release

New Features copy

With each of our regular releases to iCarol we include enhancements, new tools, or new features. Our next release, tentatively scheduled to occur later today, includes many items, a few of which we’d like to highlight for you.

Search your Chatboard

The Chatboard is an included feature with any iCarol system and it’s a great way to improve communication at your helpline. Managers and staff can create and moderate forums for discussion, and volunteers and other members can add their thoughts and take part in the conversation. Decide upcoming training dates, debate hot topics, coordinate on-call coverage, and more. The chatboard promotes an ongoing, living dialogue as opposed to circulating printed memos that offer only one-sided information sharing. It also reduces email clutter, taking the place of mass emails and numerous reply all responses landing in your inbox. And all of this communication is enjoyed within the security and protections of iCarol, so sensitive or confidential conversations are limited to only those with access to your system.

Email did have a leg up on the Chatboard in that emails could be searched and filtered in a way our Chatboard didn’t support — until now. With this week’s release you can opt to turn on search functions within your Chatboard that will enable users to search and find posts more quickly — perfect for those of you who use your Chatboard regularly and may have logged dozens or hundreds or posts over time.

Admins can decide whether or not they wish to allow this search function. To turn it on you’ll simply navigate to Admin Tools on your left menu, click the Tools tab, and then take a look under the ‘Communication Features’ heading. There you turn on the Chatboard search function by checking the ‘Enable Chatboard Search’ box. Don’t forget to click the ‘Save all settings’ button found at the top of the page.

Enable Chatboard Search

And with that, the feature is turned on. When you next navigate to your Chatboard you’ll see a search bar above your list of forums.

Chatboard search main

Clicking ‘Advanced search’ will pop open more options. Here you can select a time frame to search within, filter by certain forum or by a particular user.

Chatboard search advanced

Data Export Queue

Export DataUsers with an Admin security level, or others granted special permissions, can export data from their iCarol system. This includes, among other things, Shift information, Volunteer and Staff user profiles, Call Report Form data, and Resource data. The export files are in .csv format and can be imported into a number of programs for viewing or analysis, Microsoft Access or Excel, for example. Columns of data can easily be sorted or filtered using the tools of these programs, and users with a more advanced grasp of these programs can further manipulate data via pivot tables or write queries to analyze the data that’s been logged.

Depending upon the amount of data being exported, some extracts are available on demand, while others have to compile in the background and the user will be notified when they’re ready for download. We’re very mindful of the importance of these exports, and balance that knowledge with the need to reduce the performance impact on our web servers and provide a top notch user experience for everyone. Our latest move to do just that is to adjust the queuing process for Resource exports. With this release, databases with 1,000 or more resource records will now be queued and processed systematically rather than being available for immediate download.

For a full list of the enhancements coming with our next release, or to review items included in past releases, check out the ‘Release history and plans’ section of your Admin Dashboard. When reading the information keep in mind that descriptions can sometimes be technical in nature, and some items may not be applicable to your particular iCarol system. If you have questions or concerns, please contact our Support Team.

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Samaritans texting program featured in The Boston Globe

Smart Phone  with one finger

Another texting success story, this time featuring our friends at Samaritans, was covered in a prominent US news publication.

In April, The Boston Globe highlighted the success of Samaritans’ texting program, which you can read here. According to the report, the organization received more than 300 text messages in February, which was nearly triple the number received in January. They expect to receive upwards of 1,000 text messages per month by this summer as word of the program spreads.

Samartians opted to text-enable their helpline number for the purposes of this program, which is part of its success. Another clear contributor to the volume they’re experiencing is their latest advertising partnership with MBTA in Boston which began in January. The T, as it’s known in Boston, began showing messages on LED notification boards with information such as, “Lonely? Desperate? We can help 24/7″ featuring Samaritans’ number. This and other messages appear periodically between 7am and 9pm on weekdays, and 9am until 9pm on weekends.

While Samaritans and MBTA had an advertising partnership prior to this one, it was MBTA that approached Samaritans last year about expanding the messaging to reach an even larger audience. You can read more about this advertising program in The Boston Globe article.

From all of us at iCarol, we’d like to congratulate Samaritans on the success they’ve had so far, and we wish them all the best with this life-saving program moving forward.

To learn more about texting with iCarol, join one of our Service Alternatives: Live Chat and Texting webinars. If you’d like to learn more about text-enabling your helpline number check out our blog article, and reach out to our support team to get started.

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New features recently released

New Features copy

Being a web-based software means we make regular updates to iCarol with each of our ongoing releases. In these releases we do some general maintenance and apply updates or fixes, but most exciting of all we add new tools and features.

In recent weeks we’ve added three new features that I’d like to tell you about. If you’re an iCarol user you may have already read about these in the release notes available on your dashboard, but in case you haven’t, here’s some information for you:

Laptop in useReceive feedback from Public Resource Directory visitors

You can now enable a setting on your Public Resource Directory (PRD) that allows visitors to submit comments. This will empower the public to alert you of errors in your record, or other troubles they may encounter with a resource. In order to submit their comment, they will need to enter their name, email address, and captcha code. This is not a comment for public view that will be there for all to see, but rather once submitted, the resulting comment goes directly to your resource staff as a resource flagged for review. Your resource manager will simply open and edit the record to view the comment. When they are satisfied that any reported issues are resolved, they can clear the comment to remove it from the record, thus removing it from the “flagged for review” list as well.

You simply need to follow a few steps to turn on this setting:

  • Click the Resources button on the left hand menu
  • Click ‘Manage Resources’ and then on the next page click ‘Public Resource Directory’
  • Scroll to “Page to show for details view” and ensure that “Combined view (blends Agency, Program, Sites and ProgramAtSite)” is selected (this feature will not work if the setting is “Simple view”)
  • Check the setting for “Allow people in the public to provide comments on resource records”
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Save” button

PRD comments setting

Then, users will be able to submit their comments when they view a record on your PRD.

PRD public comment

Resulting comments will be similar to when resources are flagged internally within your organization, appearing on the main Manage Resources page and within the record itself.

PRD comment in iCarol

Remove a user’s ability to post to the chatboard

Security and Reliability

Depending on the practices at your individual helpline, you may wish to restrict volunteer and staff access to the Chatboard. Previously you could restrict a user’s ability to see or use the Chatboard at all. Now you can more specifically allow your users to see and read Chatboard posts, but then decide whether or not any non-Admin user can post messages or replies to the Chatboard via a separate setting. This is available in the Advanced Security Settings of each volunteer or staff member’s profile.

Advanced Security Settings chatboard posts

Customize the list of resources marked as “Flagged for review.”


You can now choose to have a single, drop-down style Custom Field appear with a record that is Flagged for Review. When you enable this setting you additionally will see the date it was flagged along with the reason when you first go to the Manage Resources page.

To use this new tool you’ll first need to make sure you have at least one drop-down style Custom Field set up in your system, with choices assigned to the drop-down. Custom Field creation and editing can be found by clicking on Resources, then clicking Manage Resources, and then clicking Custom fields from the leftmost column.

custom field

Once a Custom Field is set up, you’d take the following steps to enable this field choice as visible within the list of flagged resources:

  • Click Admin Tools and click the Resources tab
  • Scroll down to Other settings, and click the drop down box for “On the Flagged for review list on the Manage Resources page, include a column for this single-select custom resource field”
  • Select the custom field that you would like to display in the list of resources that have been flagged for review
  • Scroll back to the top of the page and click “Save all settings”

Custom Field flagged for review

Now flagged resources will appear on the Manage Resources page, along with the flagged date, reason, and the information contained in that chosen Custom Field as it exists in the record.

Verification priority

This has multiple potential uses that could help streamline processing of your flagged records. You could use this Custom Field to assign a priority level to your records, so that Higher priority records could be investigated and cleared more quickly. Another potential use would be to identify which staff person or position, or center if managing resources across a network, is responsible for management of the resource and thus should be the one to investigate the flagged record.

We hope that you’ll try out these new features if you think they may be helpful to you in your daily work. Set up and other information can also be found via the Help Articles posted within the Help section of iCarol, but please contact our support team if you have questions or need additional assistance.

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