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:
- 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
- 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 the 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.
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.
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.
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!
We’ve previously talked about the many ways in which your community can help you build and refine your resource database. For example, iCarol’s Public Resource Directory allows you to embed your searchable database right on your website and encourages self-service searches for resources, while at the same time allowing your organization to accept feedback about a resource, or receive requests from service providers to verify or correct a record using another useful tool, Automated Verification. Being able to partner with your community at large, and crowd source information this way, can ultimately help you build a robust database that’s going to be super useful, and help even more people.
We just added yet another tool designed to boost your referral database accuracy and comprehensiveness. Users of Automated Verification can send a unique web link via email, in an Automated Verification request, or posted publicly on their website, that allows new organizations to submit their information. Best of all, the resulting information lands in your iCarol system as an Automated Verification response. Review the submission, edit if necessary, and once accepted the new Agency is seamlessly added to your resource database!
You’ll also recall that awhile ago we added the capability for responders of existing resources to add Program or Site records when submitting their Automated Verification request. If this feature is turned on, then those who are sending in these new Agency submissions will also be invited to add Programs or Sites at that same time.
How it works
You must be using the Automated Verification tool in iCarol to enable these new Agency submissions or allow existing Agency representatives to add Programs or Sites. To learn more about Automated Verification, click here. If you’d like to turn on Automated Verification in your iCarol system, contact our support team.
To allow all responders, of both new and existing submissions, to also have the ability to add new Programs or Sites to their Agency, take these steps:
- In the left main menu of iCarol, click on ‘Admin Tools’
- Click the ‘Resources’ tab
- Scroll down to the heading for Automated Verification and check the boxes for “Automated Verification responders can add…” for either or both Programs and Sites
- Be sure to click “Save all settings” at the top of the page
To invite new submissions, first click on ‘Resources’ in left main menu of iCarol. From there:
- Click on the ‘Verify’ radio button
- Click on the ‘Requests’ link
- Just under the area where you’d create and edit your email templates, you’ll find a URL. This URL is unique to your helpline.
This link can be used to encourage agencies to add their information to your system, and can be shared with your community in many ways — Send it in a personal email, or include it in an email template that can be sent within iCarol via Automated Verification. You could also create a button or hyperlink text on your website that sends visitors to this URL inviting them to “Click here to add your organization to our resource database” or other language you see fit.
When someone clicks on this unique URL, they’ll be guided through the process of filling an entry form that’s very similar to the one existing organizations see when they complete a verification request from you. The main difference is that this entry is blank, and grants the user the opportunity to submit all new information about a resource that may not yet be known to you.
If you enabled the addition of Programs and Sites by responders, then once the Agency is added, they’ll be invited to add on that information as well. Similarly, Automated Verification responders who are simply updating their record information as part of a verification request will also be invited to add new Program or Site records when they make their updates.
Once they complete and submit all their information, it arrives directly into your iCarol system alongside other verification responses. You’ll be able to tell the new submissions apart from the rest of the responses — If you look under the ‘New Record’ column, you’ll see that new resources have the word ‘True’ appear here.
From there, the new record continues to behave much like other Automated Verification responses. You’ll need to review the entry and make any necessary edits. Once you save and accept the record, it will be added as a new Agency in your iCarol resource database.
Important note: Once new records are accepted, don’t forget to edit these records to add any necessary custom or Taxonomy categorizations!
We hope you enjoy yet another new way to invite inclusion of new and helpful resources to your database, further increasing your responsiveness as an organization, as well as the reliability of the resource information you provide to those in need. The convenience of adding these new records will mean a more complete collection of services which will ultimately help even more people in your community.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the United Way CEO 2-1-1 summit hosted in Denver, Colorado. It’s important to us that iCarol continue to be involved and at the forefront of developing initiatives and thoughts in this industry, hence our attendance at this summit and the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems conference next month, including our own all-day training just before AIRS which we hope you’ve heard about by now. We’d love to see you at that event, or at our usual User-group open session that we’ll hold at about 2:30pm on May 22nd. For information on all our activities at AIRS next month, check out our web site.
In Denver last week, Stacey Stewart, President of United Way, opened the CEO 2-1-1 summit with an emphatic speech about the importance of 2-1-1 to United Way. It seemed clear to me that United Way wishes to continue bolstering 2-1-1 as a national initiative and several thoughts were put forth to support those plans. My additional takeaways and interpretations about United Way’s position on 2-1-1 after listening to the speech include:
That the major focuses for 2-1-1 should be…
- Self-service options that are intelligent and accurate
- Providing predictive trending to community and national leaders and decision makers
- Meeting help-seekers where they are, notably on mobile devices
And that the 2-1-1 Brand promises access to:
A note on Outcomes: there is a growing chorus of support for 2-1-1 ensuring not just that a quality referral is made but that the person actually received the help they needed. This of course means added emphasis on follow-up, surveys, and the like.
In her opening remarks Ms. Stewart also left us with the thought that 2-1-1 should, “Be the barometer of human need in America.” We know this to already be true; 2-1-1′s have long been on the front lines of hearing directly from help-seekers about what is needed, and having first-hand knowledge of the gaps between needs and availability and accessibility of services to fulfill those needs. This is one of the reasons why reporting and other information about the Needs as tracked with the Taxonomy, as well as documentation on Unmet needs and why those needs go unsatisfied, have long been a part of iCarol software.
In her closing speech on Day Two, she clarified an earlier mention of a “National Platform” to make sure people did not think it equated to one specific software ‘platform’. Although software and technology will certainly be a component, by “Platform” they mean an encompassing suite of services and initiatives from UWW that will advance 2-1-1 at the national level. Examples included:
- Develop marketing materials like commercials, videos, websites, etc. to both provide as turnkey items for local 2-1-1’s as well as execute their own national campaigns
- Strategy setting
We’d be interested in hearing from those of you who also attended to get your thoughts on all of this, and any other takeaways you had from this summit. Leave us a comment below to keep the discussion going. As for us at iCarol, we’ll continue to stand strongly behind our 2-1-1 users, who make up about one-third of all 2-1-1’s in North America, as these initiatives by UWW move forward. We’ll be there to support you with all the latest tools and innovation and strong infrastructure that will help you meet and exceed these big ideas put forth by UWW.
Right now the information and referral industry is in the midst of transformation. In a time where there are varying challenges facing our communities, help-seekers need the expertise and hands-on guidance of information and referral specialists now more than ever. And, in an ever-evolving mobile and connected world, consumers are hanging up their phones in favor of the convenience of communication via texting, live chat, and simply finding the right resources on their own via the web. Meanwhile, stakeholders desire access to data about the needs of the clients served by helplines, the efficacy of the services, and the gaps between human needs and the availability of services to meet them. These changes, and the need to adapt to them in order to stay relevant, can understandably overwhelm members of the industry, from visionaries and leaders to helpline staff.
Coming from helpline backgrounds ourselves, we’ve always been passionate about creating tools that make helping people even easier. We want to share our insights with you, and that’s why this year we’re holding a special day long intensive training summit just before the AIRS conference in St. Louis. Whether you’re a long-term customer or are considering iCarol for use in your I&R center, please join us to focus on best practices using iCarol, led by our staff of Certified Resource Specialists. Focused on 2-1-1 Directors, Call Center Directors and Resource Managers, you’ll learn about:
- Strategies for getting the most out of the software
- Cases studies from our clients using iCarol for innovative solutions
- Serving clients by phone, web, chat and text in one integrated system
- Applying the AIRS Standards and using the taxonomy well
- Advanced training on existing iCarol features and a peek at features coming soon
This day long event will be conveniently located at the same hotel as the AIRS conference, and lunch will be provided.
Learn more and Register
September is considered the peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic, but disaster can strike all year ’round and in all regions. Earthquakes, wildfires, blizzards, tornados, floods, super storms – all areas have seen their share of destructive events.
Non-profit helplines play a large role in any community’s disaster plan. Local governments often partner with these helplines and advertise their contact information during disasters as a place to contact for non-emergency information and referral. Information about shelters, emergency food or water drops, road closures, and shelter-in-place tips, are just a few examples of the information that these helplines can relay to the public in a local emergency.
The availability of such services in times of disaster is crucial – they serve as a way for residents to get much needed information and listening support, while also reducing the burden on local government and diverting non-emergency calls away from 9-1-1.
Providing this service presents unique challenges to helpline staff, but iCarol offers a number of solutions to reduce the stress of being there for your community during emergencies.
Benefit from Partnerships
During a disaster helplines in a region often need to work together to coordinate response. Some disasters may force one or more local helplines to close entirely, or at a minimum a helpline may be short staffed. Using iCarol you can easily share responsibility for managing call/text/chat volume and resource maintenance by using our collaborative options.
We’ve discussed in previous posts how you can build chat or text networks using iCarol, and such a collaboration would come in extra handy if your center needs to shut down or simply offload some traffic during a disaster. And most phone systems allow for the easy transfer or forwarding of calls.
With Call Report sharing capabilities, forms used by one center can be set up for use by another helpline in the event calls, texts, or chats are being routed elsewhere. By setting up these shared forms, the original call center can be certain that the center answering calls is filling out all the necessary information and collecting the essential data as if the call was being handled by the original center. You’ll still be able to review the forms and collect statistics on those calls handled by your partner.
Collaboration is not just limited to call reporting forms, however. Helplines can also share a database of community referrals and resources with other helplines so that in the event of an emergency, these helplines can access resources not just in their own community, but elsewhere in the region. Further, helplines can partner together to not only access this database to give referrals to help seeker, but can also share in the responsibility of editing these resources.
Collect Essential Data
In the event of a disaster, helplines will likely have specific data they wish to collect on those disaster-related calls, as well as needing a way to separate those calls, chats, or texts from others that may ring through to the center. It’s also very common for local governmental and other agencies to request this data from the helplines so they can monitor the needs of the community and respond accordingly for this and future events.
The key to collecting data in iCarol is found within the customizable report forms you fill out for each client interaction. Using the robust form editing tools, staff can add necessary questions and other fields for data collection when needed, so as soon as the disaster-related calls come in they are ready to collect the necessary information on the form. Staff can also use this capability to create a simple checkbox where call takers can note that the call was related to the disaster event, which will help identify these calls during statistical reporting later.
When it’s time to report on the helpline’s calls, staff can run various spreadsheets, reports, and charts. Results are available in real-time and can be filtered based on whether or not the call was related to the disaster, making it easy to run reports specific to the event, excluding unrelated calls.
Offer Alternative Channels
Offering alternative channels becomes especially important during a disaster. Phone lines may be down or it may be easier for people in need to text you during these trying times. Plus the mobility of texting means that someone can reach out to you from anywhere, even if they’ve been displaced from their home.
With iCarol you have complete control over when your messaging service is available, so you can very quickly create a shift and open up your channels as needed. You could even have a special portal specifically for disaster that has its own special report form that collects all the necessary information. And remember with Messaging you can offer all the same referrals and run the same statistical reports as you would for phone calls.
Increase Your Bandwidth
An emergency in your community means your volume could increase, so reaching your volunteers and staff is important. Inside iCarol you can promptly send out an email blast or mass text to alert your staff and volunteers of information they need to know, or ask for additional staffing. Quickly adjust your shift calendar to accommodate more open spots and assign your workers to shifts on the fly.
If you’d like to specifically track disaster staffing, consider creating new shifts and naming them accordingly for easy reporting. Analyze the hours worked for use in future planning, or to apply for future grants or compensation that may be offered by local governments and other organizations.
iCarol can be reached from any internet connected device, so you could explore work-from-home options for disaster staffing. You may wish to temporarily turn off any restrictions in place for which computers can access iCarol, or grant certain staff the ability to certify their home computers.
Provide Critical Information and Referral
During any sort of emergency, information could develop rapidly and change throughout the event. As your resource managers receive information from the various community agencies or collect information released by your local government, they can respond quickly. Update resource records accordingly, or create new ones with just a few clicks. Use the iCarol News area to post the most up-to-date information; it’ll be front and center when your volunteers first sign on so they won’t miss the latest updates.
Much like we mentioned earlier with alternative channels, a disaster could mean that even more people are seeking information in alternative ways. Help seekers likely want self-service options to find resources. This is where your Public Resource Directory comes in. Visitors to your website can use an embedded search of your live resource database right on your website to find what they need.
You can even quickly add highlighted resources during a disaster event to point your visitors right to the information and resources they need. You can also set up advanced, guided searches that are both visually appealing and direct your community to the right resources
Our API is another option for referral sharing, giving you and your developers access to your resource data so it can be used in whatever ways you see fit, such as creating a home built web directory, mobile apps, and more.
Providing assistance to your community during a disaster is a lot of work, but having so many time-saving tools integrated in your helpline software will take some of the stress out of the event, and your seamless response will prove that your helpline is an invaluable resource in your community. And even if your center doesn’t use iCarol, I hope this blog has sparked some ideas for how your helpline can plan ahead and more easily provide services when your community needs it most.
Peanut butter and jelly. Chocolate and caramel. Peas and carrots. Some things just go well together!
We love it when we can make features in iCarol work well together, too. Take Automated Resource Verification and the Public Resource Directory as an example. By themselves they each have a specific and valuable role to play with your referral management. And these two features are now working together in new and exciting ways!
As you’re already aware, help seekers like having self-service options, like searching online for resources. Having a Public Resource Directory (PRD) means you can embed a live search of your iCarol resource database right on your website for easy access by the public. And of course there’s lots of flexibility and control over what is seen by the public and what isn’t.
But help seekers aren’t the only ones using your PRD. Staff at your local community organizations are likely going online to check out your resource directory to see what you have listed. If they see something that’s incorrect or needs an update, they could call or email you. If you use Automated Verification, you could then send them a verification request that lets them quickly and easily see what you have on record, make suggested updates, and send that back to you so you can review and update records with the click of a button.
But let’s see if we can simplify that process even further: Now, when you have both the Automated Verification and the Public Resource Directory features enabled in your iCarol system, you have access to an advanced feature that allows Resource record verifiers to initiate a new verification request directly from their Resource records in the PRD.
On your PRD, for resource records that include an email address in one of the available email fields of the record, the public will see a disclaimer on the details page of the Resource record that asks:
The public user has to fill out the security captcha, then click the button below, and this tells iCarol to send the verification request using the template and settings you’ve specified (See below for more on that). The request will be sent to the email specified on the resource, requesting a review. And if a record does not have an email then the disclaimer, captcha, and email button will not appear at all for that record, so verification Requests cannot be initiated.
When someone in the public initiates that verification request on your PRD, your staff with the “Resource verification requests from service providers” setting enabled on the Notification tab of their profile will receive an email.
And the resource verifier, depending on the email on record and the saved Automated Verification settings, will receive an email with their unique verification link.
So, how do you get this to work for you? Well first, you must subscribe to both Automated Verification and the Public Resource Directory. If you want to start subscribing or just want to learn more about these features, please contact our support team. Not using iCarol yet? Please contact us for a demo and free trial!
If you already subscribe to both of these features, setting up this advanced tool is a snap. Just take the following steps:
1. On the PRD settings page, make sure that the highlighted setting below is checked, and click the Save button.
2. In your Automated Verification settings, create a new email template that will be used for these PRD initiated requests, and check the box for “Use this template to email users on the Public Resource Directory when one of their saved records is updated” before saving the template.
3. Choose the Automated Verification settings you’d like to apply to all the PRD initiated requests by either finding an existing Automated Verification Request where suitable settings were chosen, or create a new request and set it up how you’d like all PRD initiated requests to be set.
4. Use the ‘Saved Settings’ tool to save these settings for PRD initiated requests. Make sure you check the highlighted setting before clicking the ‘Save’ button.
Once you’ve taken these steps, you are all set up! Now if someone visits your PRD and notices that their resource record is due for an update or needs a correction, they can easily initiate the request and receive the link to update their records. Not using the PRD or Automated Verification yet? Or maybe you’re using one, but not the other? Contact us today to get both of these features working together to boost your referral service!
You may have noticed some new tabs and tools recently added to your Repeat Caller Profiles. Here’s a look at what they can do.
The Referrals tab shows the most recent referrals from your resource database that were attached to Call Report forms filled out for this caller. They’re listed with the most recent referrals at the top, and older referrals further down the list. Clicking on the Date will take you directly to the finished Call Report where this referral was attached. Clicking on the name of the referral will take you directly to that resource record.
This is a quick way to see what referrals have recently been suggested to your caller, so you can ask them if those referrals have been helpful, or prompt discussions about progress in their situation or treatment plans.
The Follow-ups tab shows approximately 50 of the most recent Follow-up Activities scheduled on Call Reports filled out for the caller. The view here shows the Date on which the Follow-up is due, Status, and Subject line for a quick summary. Like the Referrals tab, each Date is a clickable link that will take you directly to the Call Report form where this Follow-up Activity was assigned.
This can be useful in a number of ways, because even repeat callers can benefit from follow-up calls. Some experts have suggested that receiving a call directly from the helpline during times of high stress or crisis can help repetitive users of the service better respect boundaries or comply with call limits. This list provides a quick way to see how many activities are set up for this caller, the frequency at which they’re being scheduled, and whether they’ve been completed or not.
Public Resource Directory Activity
Each caller profile has a field where an Email can be entered.
We can also enable the capability for visitors to your Public Resource Directory (PRD) to create accounts and save lists. (Contact our Support Team if you’d like to have this enabled for your PRD)
If this client were to create an account on your Public Resource Directory using the same email indicated in their profile, information about when their PRD account was created, when they last logged in to your PRD, and their saved Resource records is shared on the Website tab of the profile.
If you’d like to track this information for any PRD user, our Support Team can set up a process where each new PRD account created will automatically create a Caller Profile in your system. Just ask us to enable this capability for you.
We hope you’ll enjoy using these new features of the Caller Profile. If you encounter any questions, please reach out to the Support Team for help.
Passing parameters from your website to your Public Resource Directory (PRD) is a great and easy way to help guide your users to helpful resources. This feature is included in the Public Resource Directory add-on at no additional cost.
Guided searches can save time, help your users find what they need, and if you use the 211 Taxonomy, can help improve your statistics by encouraging exact Taxonomy searches. Webmasters can pre-load the Public Resource Directory public search page by sending search parameters in the URL hyperlink.
A current example of a client who does this is http://montana211.org/. They put a custom search box on their main page, which was developed by their webmaster. When a search is conducted by a PRD user, they generate a URL for the resulting page. Not only can search terms be passed to the Public Resource Directory (PRD), but other search filters such as location can be passed to the initial search.
Another client who uses pre-populated searches is http://www.211oc.org/211oc-guided-database-search.html. The guided search enables the public users to choose a general category, and then presents them with a list of more specific categories. Once a more specific category is chosen, the public resource directory is pre-populated and the user is presented with a list of appropriate search results.
Basic PRD URL vs. Populated URL
Example of Basic PRD URL:
This link will open the PRD in a new tab/window, with empty search criteria. A user will then have to enter a search term, choose geographic filters to refine their search, and initiate the search by clicking search (or choosing from the drop down list).
Example of a populated PRD search URL:
This link will open the PRD in a new tab/window, but will include populated specific search criteria. iCarol will also complete the query before the page loads for the user, removing the extra step of clicking “search”. The user can change any of the filters or search terms to further refine sequential searches.
How to read the Populated URL
The parameters are passed within a defined section of the URL, and by programming the hyperlinks from your website to the pre-populated URL, you can pass these criteria to the PRD. Search parameter starts with the field name, includes an equals sign (=), then includes the parameter value to pass. Each parameter is separated by an ampersand (&).
You can get the populated URL by completing a search in your PRD system, and copying the URL from the address bar. For a more dynamic approach, your webmaster can use text boxes or drop down boxes to help guide a user’s input.
Understanding Available Parameters
Org – Org is your Organization number, the unique number used by iCarol to represent your system
Country – Geographic Filtering for Country
StateProvince – Geographic Filtering for State or Province
County – Geographic Filtering for County
City – Geographic Filtering for City
PostalCode – Geographic Filtering for Zip/Postal Code
pst – [Coverage | Physical | All ] – Filter resources based on coverage area (“Resources serving”), physical location (“Resources within”), or omit this parameter to use your systems default.
Search – [Food] – Is the actual search term you want to find using the filters above. This can include the name of a specific resource, a general concept or phrase, or be specific such as a customized category or taxonomy term.
Sort – [Alphabetical | Proximity] – Is the sort order that the results will display in.
NameOnly – [True | False] – Set your search type to “Search Names” or “Search All Fields”, or omit this parameter to use your system default.
If your organization wishes to use this feature, or if you have any additional questions on how to use it, please submit a case to the iCarol Support Team via the Online Case Submission Tool, found in your Help menu.
March has been another month of improvements and enhancements released in iCarol. Here’s a review of what’s new this month.
Follow-ups and Surveys: Now easier
We understand the challenges with conducting Follow-ups and Quality Surveys, and new options on the pages that house those to-dos are meant to help streamline that work.
There, you’ll see new sort options as well as a new text search tool. It’s similar to enhancements we had made recently to the Volunteer and Staff page. We’d love to hear what you think of these improvements.
Categories and Keywords: New name, same feature
You may have noticed that in iCarol we use the terms “keywords” and “categories” throughout the software — those are actually the same thing. We’ve started making that verbiage more consistent, so over time we’ll standardize on the term “category.” That is, any place that says “keyword” will eventually say “category.” There’s no change in function here, just making the wording more consistent. It’ll take us a little while to find all mentions in the software, so please bear with us as we make this move towards naming consistency.
Resources: Search multiple custom categories
Speaking of categories, if you have custom categories for your resources, we have a new, optional, search tool that will let you conduct category searches on up to three categories simultaneously.
Those of you using the taxonomy are already familiar with this feature; what’s new is that this is now an option for those not using the taxonomy.
If you’d like this tool turned on, please create a support case. There’s no added charge.
In Development: Public Resource Directory
We’ve been hard at work in our labs for a while now overhauling our tool that lets you add a resource search page to your website – the Public Resource Directory. Many clients currently use that feature to allow people in their communities to find resources and attract them to their website.
Work is progressing nicely, and I thank all those who have offered suggestions. We’ve heard you loud and clear, and the new capabilities are shaping up nicely. We’ll soon have some early screens to share with anyone who’s interested in providing feedback. If you’re not already on the list of those who’d like to participate, please drop me a line at .
Our engineers are also forging ahead with streamlining counselor workflow for instant messaging and text messaging. We’ll be sure and let you know well in advance before we make any changes. If anyone wants to be on the list of those who will test it out — and thereby get a sneak peak and provide input on screens and functionality — please . Thanks to those who have already signed up.
2015 is already off to a great start. We've already launched one new feature, made some enhancements to the Volunteers and Staff page, and that’s just the start of what we have planned for this year.
Internal Chat – Newly Available
Have you had a chance to try out our new Internal Chat feature? It’ll let you exchange short, typed messages with colleagues right from within your secure iCarol screen.
We’re pretty excited about this one, and have gotten great feedback already. Some of us — not naming names — might have even blushed a little at the kind compliments you’ve sent our way. Folks have told us it’s sure helped them improve internal communications in their centers.
If you’re an administrator, you can turn this feature on whenever you’re ready. For quick instructions, please click on the Help button on the bottom left of your iCarol screen to find short videos. Help Articles are also coming soon – look under the Volunteers & Staff category.
Thank you to those of you who participated in focus groups and pre-release testing. We value your thoughtful feedback, which helps us build useful features.
This feature is available now in all iCarol systems, at no extra charge. It’s part of our ongoing effort to help you help others.
Volunteer – Staff Page Enhancements — Newly Available
Search & Sorting: Ever need to quickly see who would be able to cover a Tuesday afternoon shift? Who prefers text messaging shifts? Or who started in 2010? Maybe you want to quickly locate a particular person’s profile? Check out our new search facility on the main Volunteer and Staff page. It’s on the right-hand side, just above the list of personnel. Also you can now sort the columns on that page using the arrows next to the column names.
Tag Skills & Achievements for Multiple People at Once: Say you’ve done a CPR training, attended by 30 of your colleagues, and you’d like to document their participation in the Skills & Achievements area. Gone are the days when you’d have to go into each individual profile to do that. Instead, put a checkmark next to the names you’d like to tag, then scroll down to the bottom of the list and click on the new link that lets you tag all people at once.
Check out our blog from earlier this week that shows some screenshots of these enhancements.
Messaging with Visitors – Enhancements in the works
We’re busy in our labs these days building ways to streamline your messaging workflow. Those of you who use both Text Messaging and Instant Messaging know the screens are pretty much twins, so there will be improvements in both workflows.
The biggest change is that the messaging session will be conducted right in the report form – no longer will conversation occur in a separate pop-up. The whole process is more intuitive; we expect it ought to expedite training.
The improvements not only cut down on the number of “clicks” in your workflow – freeing up more time to spend with your visitors – but will also let you more quickly find resources using the full search filters you’ve come to know and love. And those of you using the taxonomy will be able to tag referrals in messaging the same way you do for referrals on calls.
Rest assured, we pledge to keep you up-to-date on expected availability dates and will provide a variety of materials to help with a transition to this improved workflow.
Please if you’re interested in testing out the improved workflow while it’s still in development. We’d love to get your feedback and hear your suggestions as we put the finishing touches on this over the next few weeks. I’d give you logins to our test system – the tests won’t impact your production system.
Public Resource Directory – Enhancements in the works
Our Public Resource Directory feature offers you a turn-key way to let visitors to your website search your carefully-curated resource database. Built-in, real-time reports let you keep on top of searches popular in your community. Now we’re actively working to make that feature even better: Easier searches, more precise results, more intuitive screens, and some great new capabilities.
Stay tuned for more news. If you’d like to be part of the focus groups and testing for these enhancements, please . Thanks to all who have volunteered already.