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Registration open for annual iCarol User Group Summit

On Sunday, June 2nd, members of the iCarol team will conduct our annual User Group Summit, held just before the start of the Alliance of Information and Referral (AIRS) Training and Education Conference in Atlanta, GA.

The User Group Summit provides iCarol customers, and those not yet using iCarol but considering it for their organization, the chance to receive hands on training that will directly benefit service delivery and program administration. Following a number of training sessions held in the morning and early afternoon, the day concludes with a traditional user group session where guests can learn more about our strategy and product plans for the year, provide input on the types of solutions most important and impactful to their agencies, and help prioritize product development with their input on features in stages of consideration, development and implementation.

Our training topics were picked by our customers and will cover a number of in-demand topics including:

  • Recording and Reporting on Met and Unmet Needs
  • Resource Advanced Search and Bulk Editing Tools
  • Statistics and Reporting

**Note** We welcome our guests to attend any part of the day they wish — it is perfectly acceptable to attend only the User Group session, which will get started at approximately 2:30pm.**

We do ask that regardless of what part of our day you plan to attend, you register for the event so that we can plan accordingly. Registration is open now! Click the button below to learn more and register you and your staff. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

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7 calls you’ll take on Christmas (or any major holiday)

If you want to witness one of the most challenging yet also most rewarding aspects of helpline work, look to the major holidays. Centers that operate 24/7/365 experience the challenge of staying open all the time and being there for help seekers even on major religious and civic holidays. It can be tough to staff these days, and hard for staff and volunteers to spend a special holiday away from friends and family, but ultimately knowing that you helped someone in their time of need makes the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.

So what kinds of calls (or chats or texts!) do such services receive on these major holidays?

Hello from a familiar voice

    At any given hotline it’s fairly common to have a population of people both in and outside their communities for whom the helpline is a part of this person’s support network. These folks rely on the helpline as a support system for a number of reasons; limited social and familial relationships, daily coping with mental illness or disabilities, loneliness, or someone simply had a very successful interaction that keeps them coming back for support. Regardless of the reason, helplines should take this caller loyalty as a compliment and endorsement. And you’ll likely hear from these same people on the holidays as well, either to check-in and talk like they normally would, or often with an added “Thank you for being there.”

Surprise!

    More than a handful of times I can recall answering the phone on a major holiday and the person on the other end was baffled by the sound of another human voice. “Oh…hello? Are you a real person?” or “Oh wow, you guys are there today!” Often they were prepared to have to leave a message or were just testing the line. It was nice to hear someone pleasantly surprised that they could speak to another person on a day where so much was going on and so many other services are closed, and it usually made me feel like I was in the right place that day.

I need a meal/toy for my child/counselor/shelter/etc.

    These calls can be a challenge because for many situations, the help seeker isn’t going to be able to get help that day. As mentioned above, many services are closed and it can be tough to give a person referrals but know that their situation may remain in limbo until the holiday has passed. Thankfully in my experience there were at least a handful of non-profits or religious institutions who were open and providing things like hot meals on many holidays, and even those who had last-minute toy giveaways for families with children who hadn’t signed up for such programs in advance. And, even when the referred service isn’t open, you’re able to at least provide empathy and hope which can make a world of difference.

Crises don’t take a day off

    For many people, holidays are more stressful than they are delightful, and actually present a recipe for crisis. Tensions that were simmering below the surface can easily rise up when a person is under stress. And while for most people family gatherings are a happy occasion, for others these get-togethers can easily result in outbursts or even violence. Of course this can happen in a group setting or to someone who is alone. After all, a holiday is just another day, presenting all the same hardships as the day before. There is nothing special about a holiday that can create a foolproof barrier against a crisis or suicidal thoughts — making it all the more critical that someone be available to help talk things through or intervene in some way.

I want to help

    Holidays that put a focus on gratitude and generosity will bring out the best in people. For many, the spirit of giving is coursing through them so much that they’re looking for a last minute opportunity to volunteer somewhere so they can give back to others in need. Unfortunately for these generous people, most organizations have long since filled their need for volunteers on the actual holiday, plus there are application processes and/or training that make it infeasible to accept these spur of the moment offers of volunteerism. Luckily these folks are usually willing to accept referrals to the many organizations in their area that need volunteers year ’round, not just on the holidays, and would hopefully follow through with their plan to help after going through the proper processes.

Holidays are a painful reminder

    For many people the holiday itself can be a cause of negative feelings, and they need someone to vent to. Perhaps they have a particularly bad memory associated with the day or time of year, and pain surfaces as a result. This may be a memory from long ago or something that happened much more recently, but anniversaries tend to make us recall these past events and relive the emotions experienced, good or bad. Some people are grieving a lost loved one, and holidays remind them of the empty seat at the table. For others, seeing people enjoying get-togethers with family and friends shines a painful spotlight on their own loneliness or broken relationships. Being the person that was there for them when they needed it most can be very rewarding.

Thank you

    Perhaps the most heartwarming interaction you can have is with the person who calls just to say “Thanks.” Sometimes they’re people who have used your service in the past. Or, it may just be a person who finds out you’re there on a major holiday and recognizes that by sacrificing some of your time, you’re making a positive impact on others. A simple “Thank you” goes such a long way.

During the holidays we know many of you out there will be spending some time apart from your families as you work to serve your communities. On behalf of all of us here at iCarol, thank you for all you do and we wish you a happy holiday season and bright New Year!

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Sober fun at family gatherings: How to be a good host for someone in recovery

Guest Blogger Adam Cook started AddictionHub.org after losing a friend to substance abuse and suicide. Mr. Cook’s mission is to provide people struggling with substance abuse with resources to help them recover. He founded Addiction Hub, which locates and catalogs addiction resources.

Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic and iCarol

Recovering from addiction is a long-term process. In fact, it’s a lifelong struggle. To help recovering addicts remain sober, treatment professionals often encourage them to spend time with friends and family. Loved ones can be an important source of emotional and moral support at a time when help is most needed. But there are times when even the most dedicated family member can be a distraction without realizing it. As fun and reassuring as get-togethers can be, addiction may assert itself at any time. One well-meaning but forgetful relative hanging around an open bar can easily lead to a relapse that undoes months of progress.

People with substance abuse problems can enjoy the fun and fellowship of family gatherings just as they always have, even in the early stages of sobriety. But it’s important to observe a few rules and to understand the challenges and stresses that are likely to arise, especially during the holidays.

Think it through

As we all know, family parties and social events tend to generate their own unique kinds of stress, so be certain that you’re doing everything you can to help your guest handle it from a sobriety standpoint. One good strategy is to rate the situation based on risk level. If you know it’s likely to be a high-risk scenario for a recovering addict, consider limiting the amount of alcohol that’ll be served. Or you can plan to shorten the evening a bit and reduce the likelihood that your guest might give in to temptation. If it’s feasible, consider throwing a non-alcoholic party.

If you’re throwing a holiday shindig, make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options on your drink list. Include drinks like sparkling water and an array of soft drinks, and plenty of finger foods. Remember that people in the early stages of sobriety need to watch out for things that might trigger a relapse. Try to put yourself in their shoes and make it easy as possible for them to avoid exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

The buddy system

Do you know someone who doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs? If so, invite them to your party so your newly recovered family member won’t feel so alone and uncomfortable. It’s a positive distraction, and provides a ready-made excuse to steer clear of the action around the bar and people who are just there to tie one on. Remember, peer support is essential for someone going through the early stages of sobriety.

Exit strategy

If you have limited space or you’re expecting a lot of guests, remember that a recovering addict is very vulnerable to peer pressure and needs an easy means of escaping the crowd. Provide ready access to open areas such as a patio or lawn or a quieter space in the house; they’re great refuges when things get a little too claustrophobic.

Learn your lines

Take a few minutes to think through how you’ll respond if a boozy great uncle shoves a scotch and soda at a relative who’s newly sober. Knowing how you’ll respond can help smooth over a potentially awkward situation. It’s not necessary to concoct a world-class fable, just have something in mind that’ll help your guest steer clear of embarrassment.

Keep it kid-friendly

You can also help young people avoid exposure to alcohol and drugs by establishing secure, “adults-only” areas if you’re having a party. This way, you’ll avoid creating opportunities for any kids and teens who might be hanging around to experiment with alcohol and, possibly, develop substance abuse issues later in life.

There’s no reason that people who live with substance abuse problems can’t enjoy a good time when friends and family get together. Making sure they do just takes a little extra consideration and effort.

unsplash-logoMark Rabe

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iCarol End-of-Year Housekeeping Tasks

As the end of 2018 approaches, we want to take the opportunity to provide some housekeeping tasks for you to review. We know how busy you are every day of the year, and even if you already have processes in place for these tasks, getting them done might fall to the bottom of your to-do list sometimes. Now is a good time to review these housekeeping tasks to help you get the most out of your iCarol system, while you’re getting ready for another exciting year!

    Review Draft Contact Forms

    It’s a good idea to designate a user with appropriate permissions to review all Contact Forms in DRAFT and ensure they’re either submitted or deleted by the end of the year. This is important because any Contact Forms in draft mode aren’t included in Statistics or Data Exports reports, so you could be missing import reporting data if forms documenting completed calls are left in draft mode. And erroneous drafts can clutter up your draft list, making it harder for your staff to see the drafts that actually need to be reviewed and completed. To learn more about draft Contact Records, read this related help article.

    Draft call report forms

    Set Obsolete Contact Record Custom Fields To “Inactive” Status

    The information you need to collect on your Contact Forms may periodically change. For example, perhaps a project your helpline participates in ends, and you no longer need to collect that piece of data. It helps keep your forms tidy, and reduces time spent by your volunteers, if these unnecessary fields are hidden from the form entirely. This cleanup can be done at any time, but the end of the year is a perfect time to review the relevancy of your form’s fields. To learn more, read this related help article.

    Disable inactive call report form filter

    Disable Inactive Custom Fields in Contact Forms from Appearing in Statistics Call Content Filters

    If you’ve made changes to your Contact Forms, and set any custom fields to ‘inactive’ because they were no longer being used, now is a good time to review those inactive custom fields, and determine if the setting to ‘Use as a filter in Statistics’ should be disabled. If you no longer need to run reports on this information, it may help to have that filter removed from the list entirely. This way, your reporting staff will only see applicable filters when applying them to reports, saving them time as they browse through the list of filters. To learn more, read this related help article.

    Call Report Editor Use as filter in statistics

    Disable Vols-Staff from Accessing iCarol

    It’s likely you had users leave your organization throughout the past year for any number of reasons. Even if you have a process in place already for what to do when users leave your organization, now is a good time to review your Vols-Staff profiles to ensure you’ve disabled users from accessing iCarol, when appropriate. This not only keeps them from accessing data they are no longer authorized to have, but also ensures they won’t be called or emailed by your active volunteers for help covering a shift. To learn more, read this related help article.

    Disable volunteer access

    Review Organization Contacts

    During the year your designated Billing or Support Contacts may have left your organization, but you forgot to update your iCarol system accordingly with this information. To avoid unpaid invoices or delays in sending Support requests, it’s good to occasionally make sure the proper contacts are assigned to these roles. Read this help article to learn more about your organization’s designated contacts, and how and why to keep them up to date.

    Designate contacts

    Backup Resources

    It’s best practice to periodically create a backup file of your Resources, in case you need to access them offline for any reason. These files can then be especially helpful if your organization experiences problems with internet connection, but you are still able to handle interactions (i.e. take phone calls, or handle walk-in requests) and provide referrals. You can create this backup file using our standard Resources Data Export tool, or even better, use the Specialized Exports of Resources to Word/Excel feature if your organization is subscribed to it, which provides even more flexibility in how these exports are presented and organized. Use the links above to read the related help articles to learn more about each tool to create a backup of your Resources.

    Extract data

    Backup Contact Records

    It’s also a good idea to create an offline, back-up copy of your Contact Records for your users to access in case your organization ever experiences problems with internet connection. Depending on the complexity of your forms, you may wish to simply save a printable version of your Contact Forms for your users to print out, or for more complex Contact Forms you may wish to transpose your Contact Forms into an editable document so your users can fill out the form on the computer. Some of our users even create paper copies for use in the event of a full power outage. Then, once internet connection is re-established, you should have a process in place to enter the data into iCarol so the interactions are included in statistical reporting.

It’s likely your organization already has processes in place to complete most of these tasks throughout the year. But if you don’t, now might be a good time to consider if you want to develop any processes for the new year to help you stay on track with completing these tasks on a regular basis so you’re optimizing your iCarol system.

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iCarol Webinar: Why Advocacy and How the Heck Do You Do It?

Advocating for the needs of your organization and the clients you serve is a huge component of the overall survival and success of your agency. Some may find the prospect of lobbying elected officials intimidating and confusing, but it’s actually not as complex or scary as it may seem!

We invite you to attend a webinar on this topic on Tuesday, December 11th at 2pm EST. Sara Sedlacek from The Crisis Center of Johnson County will present information that takes the mystery and intimidation out of the advocacy process, helping you get the ear and support of the local, state, and federal officials elected to represent you and the people who benefit from your services.

With legislative sessions beginning in January, now is the time to learn more about how to advocate for your organization.

Register Now

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The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence hosts financial education webinar series

financial abuse

Although at least one study found it occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases, financial abuse is one of the least discussed aspects of unhealthy and abusive relationships between intimate partners. Financial abuse happens when the perpetrator of abuse controls the abused partner’s access to financial resources. This could include stealing money or creating an environment where the abused partner is unable or not allowed to work, leaving them financially dependent upon their abuser. Often, people in such situations won’t have complete access to their funds, and if they do have any access their use of financial resources is closely watched and they are expected to provide a detailed account of expenditures. This is another way for an abusive partner to maintain control and power over the person they are abusing. This also happens to be a common method of keeping the victim/survivor trapped in the relationship, as research shows that financial insecurity is a top reason survivors stay with or return to abusive partners. The effects and consequences of financial abuse can follow a survivor long after they have broken free of the relationship and affect their ability to regain financial stability.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) in partnership with the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), provides a free webinar series to assist survivors with financial education. The six webinars in the series focus on financial education and are aimed at both the survivors of domestic violence and those who serve them.

To learn more about the series and to watch the free webinars, visit the NCADV website.

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CharityVillage to present free webinar on fundraising for small non-profits

CharityVillage

CharityVillage, an online community dedicated to knowledge, training, and collaboration for non-profit organizations in Canada, will hold a free webinar on Thursday, December 6th from 1-2pm EST.

From the CharityVillage website:

    Fundraising in small organizations can be crazy-making. It can be demoralizing to hear “XYZ large organization just hosted a million dollar gala. I think we should try host a gala too”. Or maybe it’s the dreaded “I’ve never heard of your organization”. It’s tough to be a small nonprofit where it feels like the large ones have all the advantages. How can you compete?

    Add to that the many hats you wear and the immense time pressures. Who can fit fundraising in? There is never enough time in the day to do what we want to accomplish…

For more information on this free webinar, and to register, visit the CharityVillage website.

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Survive Together study aims to help Survivors of Suicide Loss

According to the latest available data, over 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016, leaving hundreds of thousands of suicide loss survivors to deal with complex grief and emotional pain in the wake of their loved one’s death. Researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Department of Psychiatry have launched the Survive Together study with the goal of better understanding the thoughts, feelings and brain-responses that occur during acute grieving which promote long-term growth and wellness. The knowledge gained from the study will serve as the basis for a treatment strategy aimed at helping people grow and thrive following their loss.

Researchers are inviting those who have lost a loved one to suicide in the last 5 months to participate in this study. You do not have to live in the New York City area to contribute. For more information and to contact researchers, please see Dr. Noam Schneck’s blog post about the study.

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What Does Making a Difference Mean Today?

There seems to be constant pressure among millennials to achieve.

At the University of Iowa, each successive year of freshmen claim the new title of the “most accomplished class yet.” As a senior, my Facebook feed is flooded with job acceptances and pictures of people traveling the globe to study and volunteer. In a world hyper saturated with success, it’s often hard to focus on my own path, my own passions.

In the Spring of 2017, I stepped in to W332 in the Adler Journalism Building for a typical day of class. Then my dad called. I ignored it once. My sister texted me, asking if I’d talked to him. He called again. I stepped out of class, knowing something was wrong, and barely made it down the hall before I sunk to the floor, stifling sobs. He told me my cousin had died by suicide the night before.

The rush of confusion, guilt, and anger washed my sadness away. That wouldn’t hit until later, when reality settled in, and it would hit hard. I got up and beelined to the woman’s bathroom, stared myself in the mirror, gave up on understanding the pain in my reflection, mindlessly walked back to class, failed a quiz, and went home to bury myself in bed.

The only quantifiable effect of my cousin Christopher’s death in my life was the drop in my GPA that semester. Yet my heart was never the same.

His death, his suicide at the same age as me, made me question everything. It made me wonder what I’m doing in college, what exactly this degree is supposed to get me, and which experiences really matter.

I’m 21 years old, and for the first time, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. All I know is that old intangible cliché: I want to make a difference.

Losing someone to suicide makes all the tragedies in life feel more poignant and for a while I could imagine how my cousin saw the world before he left it: cold and mean. Lonely. But this does not have to be reality, and I’ve come to realize that making a difference does not have to mean making the world perfect.

When I remember Christopher’s face, I choose to remember him smiling. Playing guitar, laughing. I remember the gray sweater he wore the last time I saw him, how old he suddenly seemed when he had to hunch over to hug me. I remember us grimacing over our glasses of wine, the youngest in the family and the last to learn to like it. The world was still sad and scary sometimes, but it was better off because I could look across the table and there he was.

Just months before his suicide, my cousin reached out to me and told me about moving out of the house and in to his new apartment. He said, “I’m just worried about my mom missing me.”

I reassured him that of course she would miss him, but that would be okay because they had a lifetime together. He’d still see her. Neither of them would be alone. But was he trying to tell me something more? Was this the kind of conversation that could have saved his life, if he had called a crisis line that April night months later?

In a world with so many problems and so many people, my cousin’s death taught me that making a difference in the world can come down to making a difference in one single life. I believe making a difference is as simple as embracing co-dependence, reminding one another we’re in this together.

The insidious demons that caused my cousin’s death did not die with him, they threaten the wellbeing of people across the world. Not only depression but the pain of poverty, addiction, illness — the fear in feeling helpless, alone.

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know I want to make a difference, I want to fight that fear. The internship I recently accepted with The Crisis Center empowers me to do just that.

I’d like to ask everyone reading to take this number down, to make a note of it:

    1-855-325-4296.

This is The Crisis Center’s Crisis Line. It does not necessarily mean a suicide hotline. It means a set of ears to listen and a voice to respond, if you even want to talk, which you don’t have to. It means no judgement, no evaluation. It means a human heart, beating with the one on the other end of the line, a person dedicated to nothing but being there.

Please, put us in your contacts: 1-855-325-4296. Call or text if you need someone to talk to, call or text if you are worried about someone you love. Pass the number on if you think someone else needs it. Write it on bathroom stalls, turn it in to a song and sing it while you walk, I don’t care. Just don’t ignore it.

If the only result of my internship is one single person saving that number, I’ve succeeded.

It’s hard to allow vulnerability and weakness. We live in an era of individuality where everyone wants to succeed, and no one wants to ask for help along the way. But being human means being challenged. It means being exhausted. Sometimes, it means wanting to give up. On the assignment driving you crazy, the job you can’t stand, the degree you’ve worked so hard for; on life itself.

The second we start being more open about this fact, the easier it is to overcome. And change doesn’t have to be big. Change can be as simple as answering honestly next time someone asks, “how are you,” and expecting them to do the same. It could be as simple as listening.

Encouraging open lines of communications between loved ones and between complete strangers makes the world a more connected and more caring place. For me, for now, this is the kind of difference I want to make.

Check in with your family and friends, ask them how they are doing. Really ask them. When they ask you, really answer. This question, this conversation, could change the world.

And if you feel alone, with no one to talk to, you’re wrong. We’re listening, at 1-855-325-4296.

How are you?

To join The Crisis Center in their mission, consider volunteering your time to a number of local and remote services: by answering the crisis phone line, answering the online crisis chat/text service. Volunteers are at the heart of the organization. For more information, visit: https://www.jccrisiscenter.org/volunteer-now/

Guest blogger Brooke Clayton is a communications intern at the Crisis Center of Johnson County in Iowa City, Iowa and a senior at the University of Iowa.

Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic, iCarol, or Harris Computer Systems.

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Mega-Millions Jackpot Media Frenzy Offers Opportunity for Responsible Gambling Messaging

As the Mega Millions jackpot has reached record levels, the National Council on Problem Gambling urges consumers to protect themselves against excessive gambling and calls upon lotteries and the media to promote responsible gambling messages.

Responsible gambling efforts should be made by lottery operators and players alike. Here are four simple responsible gambling tips to know and share:

  • Set a limit of time and money spent gambling.
  • Don’t gamble to escape feelings of anxiety, stress or depression.
  • Know where to get help for a gambling problem.
  • Minors are prohibited from most forms of gambling.

“The media and consumer interest in high lottery jackpots creates an opportunity to provide responsible gambling messages designed to help people who choose to gamble make informed decisions about their play…Lotteries play an important role in reminding retailers and players about the minimum age to play and in educating their players about simple steps to promote responsible gambling.”

— Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling

State lotteries and media are asked to incorporate responsible gambling messaging and the National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700) into their upcoming promotion and coverage of the Mega Millions jackpot.

The National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700 or www.ncpgambling.org/chat) is the single national point of access for problem gambling help. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all 50 states. All calls are confidential and offer local information and referral options for problem gamblers and their families. In 2017 the Helpline received 233,000 calls, an average of one call every two minutes.

About the National Council on Problem Gambling

NCPG is the national advocate for problem gamblers and their families. NCPG is neutral on legalized gambling and works with all stakeholders to promote responsible gambling. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 or visit www.ncpgambling.org/chat for confidential help.

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