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Simple Ways to Make the Most of Giving Tuesday

In recent years, Giving Tuesday has emerged as a counterbalance to the consumer-based Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday shopping traditions. It serves as a reminder that the holiday season is about charitable acts of kindness and helping our neighbors in need. Giving Tuesday (this year it’s held on November 28th) is an excellent opportunity for non-profits and charities to tell their communities about the work they do and encourage charitable giving to their organization. Smaller organizations or those that may be completely volunteer based shouldn’t feel incapable of participating — you don’t need a dedicated marketing team to take part in Giving Tuesday.

Like other organizations, you may be finding yourself short-staffed or low on time to put effort into projects like Giving Tuesday. But like with COVID-19 and its recovery efforts, including impacts to our economy, by now you’ve had to creatively adapt to a lot of things — doing so for this event should be no problem! In fact, you should lean into fundraising efforts now more than ever — experts share that donors are focused on giving to local organizations, especially those who have provided direct response to the Coronavirus pandemic or economic hardship due to COVID recovery and inflation. However, be extra sensitive and mindful of the fact that that donors themselves could be having a tough time, so carefully think through your messaging.

Below are some simple ideas to try that don’t take a large budget or tons of advanced planning.

  • Simple Social Media

    At a minimum, your social media accounts should publish posts about Giving Tuesday (remember to use the hashtag #GivingTuesday to maximize your reach!). Post throughout the day or schedule your posts ahead of time with social media management software like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social. Posts should include a call to action, i.e. do you want them to donate? Volunteer? Learn more about your work? Become an advocate? Depending on the call to action, include links to applicable web pages such as your volunteer opportunity or donation pages. Posts can focus on the work you do, success stories (shared either with client permission or written to remove identifying info), milestones and achievements, goals, and other information that you’d like your community to know about you. Examples of general Giving Tuesday social media posts can be found here. We’re always happy to help you boost your Giving Tuesday social media messages, so be sure to follow us on X (formerly known as Twitter) so we can follow you back to see your posts in our feed, then we can retweet your message to our followers.

  • Share Video or Photos

    Images and video are more compelling than text-only posts, and most social media sites say that posts that include them get more views, so use them if you can. Lean into content that tells real stories or provides facts and data, and why the services you provide are needed now more than ever. Your video doesn’t have to be Academy Award worthy — spontaneous and unrehearsed videos are authentic and give people a sense of who you are. If you’re working in an office, try a quick interview with a colleague about what they do and why they love working for your agency. Those working remotely can submit videos filmed themselves at home. Videos should be short and sweet, as most research shows short videos are the most watched. For more video guidance, check out this article by London based creative advertising agency Don’t Panic.

    After taking the video you can usually do some light editing or clipping right on your phone before posting it to social media. If you’re feeling brave you can even do a live video right from platforms like TikTok, Facebook and Instagram via Reels, or X (formerly known as Twitter), directly from a mobile phone.

  • Engage Your Neighbors

    Hopefully your organization is lucky enough to have some supporters in the business community that work with you throughout the year by holding fundraisers or making donations. Giving Tuesday is another perfect opportunity to engage with your biggest fans. Perhaps they’d be willing to post a short video to their social media feeds. Or maybe they’d do something as simple as keep a donation box or stack of your agency’s brochures at their register or other space in their business. Most businesses, especially those that already support your work, will welcome the opportunity to continue their advocacy during the holiday season. Many businesses are also motivated to align themselves with the work of non-profits especially now, to show that they are giving back to the community.

  • Work Your Website

    Your website is one of your greatest assets, especially now that so much of what we do is online rather than in-person, so make sure your Giving Tuesday participation is prominently featured there. This can be accomplished through something as simple as a blog post or homepage image, or more advanced like adding a new temporary banner or widget to your homepage that directs website visitors to your donation page, volunteer application, etc.

  • Don’t Let Callers Off the Hook

    If when people call you they first hear a general message or listen to a menu routing them to their desired destination, consider temporarily altering your greeting in honor of Giving Tuesday. This can be as simple as a 10-15 second “hello” wishing them a happy holiday season and inviting them to support your work, along with an invitation to visit your website for more information. This won’t add much at all to their wait time but will get your message in front of everyone who calls you.

How is your agency planning to make the most of Giving Tuesday? Leave a comment below with your plans, or any ideas we may have missed! And be sure to follow iCarol on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and we will try to share your Giving Tuesday post as our way of saying thanks for the work you do!

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Stigma is Scary – Let’s Change the Narrative Around Mental Illnesses and Halloween

pumpkins stacked on top of a bale of hay

One of the things I like most about Halloween is that it offers such a wide range of ways to participate and have fun. Horror movies not your thing? You can stick to fun activities like carving a jack-o-lantern and handing out candy to trick or treaters (in normal, non-pandemic years at least). And then there are the endless costume possibilities. You can be anything from a superhero to your favorite movie character to some very obscure cultural reference or the more traditional choice of ghost or vampire.

So with that range of costume possibilities and ways to have fun in mind, it’s always deeply upsetting to see Halloween become an event where mental illness is misrepresented and stigmatized. Some haunted house attractions are centered around “asylum” themes, or have a “haunted psych ward” component. Actors wearing straight jackets or wielding weapons chase visitors and shout lines about hearing voices. The message is very clear: Mental illness, and people who experience mental illness, are scary, violent, and to be feared.

In recent years, several costumes have been pulled from the shelves following pressure from mental health advocates. Unfortunately every year there are still a few new inappropriate and offensive costumes that pop up and make their way to stores and online retailers, and regrettably they are eventually seen out in public at bars and parties. And each time one is sold and then worn, it perpetuates the stigma and misconceptions around mental illness.

These interjections of mental illness into Halloween are neither fun nor harmless, but keep in place harmful stereotypes. These attractions and costumes continue pushing the idea that a person living with mental illness is violent and should be avoided. Discrimination is still a problem for people living with mental illness, and every day those who experience symptoms choose not to seek help for fear of mistreatment by the public, or that their relationships with family and friends will suffer. These depictions also hurt those who have experienced mental illness, especially those who have been hospitalized. Their deepest fears about what society thinks of them are realized when they see illness become a subject of fear-based entertainment.

It would never be acceptable to have haunted houses set in a hospice or cancer wing of a hospital, nor would we find cancer patient costumes to be appropriate. It’s important that we all speak up when we see mental illness being stigmatized, and stand up for those who have experience with illness and are negatively impacted by the perpetuation of stigma.

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iCarol Attending Child Care Aware of America Leadership Institute

child care aware of america logo

iCarol is proud to sponsor the upcoming Child Care Aware of America Leadership Institute, and will be on-site during the gathering in Chicago, Illinois from October 18-20, 2023.

The Leadership Institute will focus on supporting caregivers in a more holistic way by building a culture of connection, authenticity and empathy. Child Care Aware of America believes that by prioritizing the mental health and well-being of teachers and providers, we can create a more supportive and healthy learning and care environment for all. And we at iCarol couldn’t agree more!

The participants at this sold out institute will:

  • Gain a holistic understanding of well-being that includes happiness and a sense of purpose as well as having adequate economic resources and respect.
  • Expand the possibilities of their unique role as a leader and partner to advance well-being and connections for early childhood educators.
  • Engage with peers, experts and thought leaders as you design strategies to support the well-being of early childhood educators in their community.
  • And much more!

Why are we at iCarol eager to support this cause and be present in this space with those in the Child Care industry? In recent years iCarol has welcomed several new customers who are Child Care Resource and Referral agencies. These agencies curate a comprehensive database of child care providers in their state, province, or region. This includes all sorts of information that parents and caregivers need when researching their options and making decisions — hours of operation, current openings, languages spoken, pre-school or educational programs offered, voucher acceptance, locations, and much more.

Child Care Resource and Referral agencies using iCarol have found that iCarol’s resource database offers the ultimate flexibility for their needs. Further, iCarol helps them document and track their interactions with parents, caregivers, and others who are inquiring about available care in their community. iCarol is also helping them send child care referrals by Email and SMS/Text, allowing them to accept online inquiries using Public Web Forms, and keep their listings updated while using less staff resources to do so with Automated Resource Verification.

If you’re going to the leadership institute, please stop by and visit Veronica at our booth, which will be located near the conference registration area. We have lots of great information to provide, and you can also download our new eBook. We’re excited to see you in Chicago!

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October Support Training: Latest Security Enhancements

Laptop broadcasting with iCarol logo on screen

At iCarol, our system security is a top priority and we follow the best practices and guidelines put forth by major technology advisory groups, certification boards, and others. In recent months, we have enhanced elements of iCarol security such as password reset policies and automatic timeouts as a result of such guidance.

For our October Support Training, we invite customers to join us for a discussion around these latest enhancements, how they work, why we put them into place, and how adapt to these changes within your organization.

Date: Wednesday, October 18

Time: 2pm Eastern

To register for this webinar, log into iCarol — the link to register is posted in the iCarol Help Center Community Announcements as well as the Admin Dashboard.

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iCarol Recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month

woman crying with arms wrapped around herself

Content Warning: This blog article discusses violence and abuse, particularly that occurring between individuals in a relationship.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Unfortunately violence inflicted on or between parties in a relationship is an epidemic all over the world. Such violence can take many forms and have different titles depending on the nature of the relationship. For instance, Domestic Violence refers to violence and abuse in a current or former relationship where the people involved live(d) in the same household. Intimate Partner violence occurs when abuse occurs to people who were/are in a relationship but may not cohabitate, and Dating Violence is often the title given to violence and abuse for those in a current or former dating relationship, even those who are teenagers or young adults.

How common is the problem?

This violence is prevalent and unfortunately on the rise across both the United States and Canada.

In the United States, Domestic Violence Awareness Month has been recognized since 1987, when it was first observed by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually. One in 4 women and 1 in 10 men experience sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime with ‘IPV-related impact’ such as being concerned for their safety, PTSD symptoms, injury, or needing victim services. From 2016 through 2018 the number of intimate partner violence victimizations in the United States increased 42%. In relationships where the violence is perpetrated by a male against a female, the abuser’s access to a firearm increases the risk of intimate partner homicide by 400%, particularly concerning given the ease of access to firearms in the United States.

In Canada, domestic violence also goes by the names Family Violence or Spousal Violence. According to the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, there were 358,244 victims of police-reported violence in the country in 2019. Three out of ten victims or 30% were victimized by an intimate partner — a total of 107,810 reported domestic abuse victims. The violence is often perpetrated by a current partner: 36% of the abusers is a current boyfriend or girlfriend and 29% is a spouse. Former partners are also guilty of violence with 21% of abusers an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend and 12% an ex-spouse. The majority of domestic abuse victims are female, accounting for 79% of the total victims. Like the other years, Intimate Partner Violence is 3.5 times more prevalent in women than men with 536 women vs. 149 men per 100,000 population.

How can you best recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month?

Raise Awareness: One of the primary objectives of this month is to raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of domestic violence. By shedding light on the issue, society can better understand the urgency of addressing it.

Supporting Survivors: Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides a platform to support survivors, who often face physical, emotional, psychological trauma, or even death. By acknowledging their experiences, we can empower them to seek help and healing. However, providing survivors with safety and security is key — statistically the most dangerous time for anyone experiencing such violence occurs when they attempt to leave the relationship.

Education and Prevention: Awareness months offer an opportunity to educate the public, healthcare providers, and law enforcement about domestic violence. This knowledge can lead to better prevention, intervention, and support for survivors.

Advocacy and Policy Change: By drawing attention to the issue, advocates can push for policy changes and allocate resources towards domestic violence prevention and support programs.

Conclusion

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a crucial time for both the United States and Canada to come together and address the grave issue of domestic violence. By raising awareness, supporting survivors, educating the public, and advocating for change, we can work toward a future where domestic violence is eradicated. It is imperative to continue the efforts year-round, not just in October, to create safer and more supportive communities for all.

Resources

September Support Training: New Live Chat Enhancements

Laptop broadcasting with iCarol logo on screen

It’s so important to offer your community ways to communicate with you that fall in line with their preferences. For many, that means using channels like Live Chat rather than making a phone call to an organization. iCarol’s Live Chat tools help you meet people where they are on the communication channels they prefer.

For our September Support Training, we’ll review new options for how you present your live chat to those visiting your website. We’ll talk about the choices available to you when you create your chat widget, including font and color options, and a quick escape feature.

Date: Wednesday, September 20

Time: 2pm Eastern

To register for this webinar, log into iCarol — the link to register is posted in the iCarol Help Center Community Announcements as well as the Admin Dashboard.

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iCarol Enhancement Review Webinar

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Later this month we will hold one of our period Enhancement Review Webinars. In these webinars, we look back at some of the key enhancements or new features added to iCarol in recent months. Our Enhancement Review Webinars are not trainings, rather we go over the major enhancements and new features and talk about use cases, what problems or challenges these enhancements are intended to resolve, and give examples of how they may improve your workflows or add efficiency to your organization.

Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Time: 2:00pm Eastern

To register for this webinar, log into iCarol — the link to register is posted in the iCarol Help Center Community Announcements as well as the Admin Dashboard.

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September is Suicide Prevention Month

Content warning: The following blog article discusses the topic of suicide.

Throughout the month of September, and most especially on World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) and Suicide Prevention Week (September 10 – 16) we remember the lives lost to suicide, the millions of people who have struggled with suicidal ideation, and acknowledge the individuals, families, and communities that have been impacted by suicide loss and attempts. This is also a time to raise awareness about suicide prevention, and spread the word that suicide prevention is everyone’s business!

There are things all of us can do to recognize Suicide Prevention Month and raise awareness, which will ultimately help save lives.

Know the Warning Signs

One of the most crucial aspects of suicide prevention is recognizing the warning signs. These can vary from person to person, but some common signs include:
  • Expressing thoughts of suicide or a desire to die.
  • A sudden change in behavior, such as withdrawing from social activities.
  • Giving away possessions or making final arrangements.
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Drastic mood swings or expressions of hopelessness.

What should one do if they are feeling suicidal, or want to help a loved one who is exhibiting warning signs?

One of the best things you can do is to directly ask someone exhibiting warning signs if they have had thoughts of suicide/killing themself. Offer support, encouragement, and a non-judgmental listening ear. Let them know that it’s very normal to go through hard times or experience depression/anxiety and other mental health concerns, including thoughts of suicide. Reassure them that you are a safe place to bring those thoughts and concerns, and that you want to help be there for them. Often times, just having a safe and non-judgmental place to discuss a problem is immediately comforting and can reduce someone’s risk level. Breaking the stigma around mental illness and suicide, and showing someone that it is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about and that you will continue to be there for them, can be immensely helpful.

It’s also helpful to know what resources are available to someone who needs help. For many people, coping mechanisms and safety planning, along with potentially receiving assistance like therapy, can be very beneficial. For those who are in crisis and may need immediate assistance, resources such as a suicide prevention helpline, walk-in center, mobile crisis team, or crisis stabilization may be worth exploring.

In the United States, 988 is the number to dial to reach the national network of centers who are specially training for suicide prevention. This number also acts as access to your community crisis hub where knowledgeable individuals answering calls/texts/chats will know what local resources are available, and how you or a loved one can access them.

Canada is currently in the process of adopting a nationwide 988 number as well. In the meantime, Talk Suicide Canada can be reached at 1-833-456-4566, or 1-866-277-3553 for those in Quebec.

Above all, we should recognize that suicide prevention is everyone’s business and responsibility. It’s on all of us to know the warning signs and know what to do to connect someone with the help they need. Some will avoid or ignore the issue thinking it is always best left to the professionals. And while that is true of providing someone with mental health treatment, anyone is capable of learning the warning signs and risk factors, and knowing what to do next.

Taking Action

Here are some steps you can take to make a difference during Suicide Prevention Month and beyond:

  • Educate yourself: Learn more about the risk factors, warning signs, and available resources for suicide prevention. Consider taking a training like Mental Health First Aid, safeTALK, ASIST, or QPR.
  • Reach out: If you suspect someone is struggling, don’t hesitate to ask them how they’re feeling and let them know you’re there to listen.
  • Support mental health services: Advocate for increased funding and access to mental health services in your community. Encourage people to make donations to the non-profit organizations in your community that provide crisis services.
  • Share resources: Use your platform to share information about crisis hotlines, support groups, and other resources available to those in need.
  • Self-care: Take care of your mental health, and encourage others to do the same. Practicing self-care helps create a more empathetic and understanding society.

Summary

Suicide Prevention Month brings attention to an issue that affects far too many lives, and is a great entry point for many people to learn more about this important topic. But, it’s not enough to focus on suicide prevention for just one month a year. The work must continue year-round. By understanding the signs, breaking down stigma, and taking action to support those who are struggling, we can make a significant impact in the fight against suicide. Let’s work together to create a world where mental health is a priority, and every individual knows that they are not alone in their struggles. Remember, help is just a call or text away, and these organizations are here to support you or someone you care about.

Resources:

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Enhancements to Live Chat visitor experience and branding

Contained in our release of version 3.87 of iCarol we have loads of enhancements across different areas. Stay tuned for more, and save the date for our next Enhancement Review Webinar tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, September 27 at 2pm Eastern (registration opening soon) to learn about all of them.

For today, though, we wanted to share one big and exciting upgrade to our Messaging services — several items that enhance and improve the experience for your Live Chat visitors who are using mobile devices, as well as tools that allow you to further configure the overall branding and appearance of your Live Chat service on your website.

What’s New?

Chat widget

Traditionally, your iCarol Live Chat invited someone to chat with you using an image embedded into one of your web pages that, when clicked, took the visitor to an iCarol-hosted registration page and the visitor held a chat conversation in an entirely different window outside of your website.

The option to have that workflow remains, however now you can choose to have your chat appear in what we’ve come to recognize as a more typical and modern chat workflow, by offering an icon and option to start a chat from the bottom right of your website as pictured here:

Once opened, the chat widget presents your optional pre-registration questions to the visitor. When those are entered and submitted by the visitor, the chat comes through to your iCarol Messaging queue as it has in the past. Then once the conversation is accepted by your volunteer, staff member or counselor, they’ll handle the conversation within iCarol as they always have, meanwhile the chat visitor will continue to use the widget. Perhaps best of all, this widget is even more mobile friendly to better accommodate your website visitors using devices such as smartphones or tablets to visit your website and begin a chat with your organization.

Chat Widget Configuration

Along with our new widget option is the ability to configure the widget to blend in with your website, matching your color scheme and branding. This includes:

  • Uploading a logo
  • Enabling Safe Exit and assigning the exit website
  • Setting background colors
  • Selecting font types and colors

We hope you and your website visitors enjoy these new options. We think that your website visitors will enjoy the ease of use and intuitive style of the chat widget, along with how nicely and seamlessly it blends into your site!

The new settings can be found within the Messaging module of your iCarol system and is accessibly by Admins and others with the appropriate security permissions. Please visit the iCarol Help Center to look through our new knowledge base article about these settings and tips on how to use them. If you need additional assistance, you are always welcome to reach out to our Support Team during their normal hours of operation by opening a ticket, sending an email, or starting a chat with them from the Help Center.

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iCarol Career Opportunity: Client Support Implementation Specialist

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iCarol is currently seeking candidates to fill the position of CSIS – Client Support Implementation Specialist.

This is a remote position open to anyone living in the United States or Canada.

The person in this role provides application support to iCarol customers involving implementing new name and back to base sales, answering complex questions, contributing to a knowledge base, and advocating for the needs of the client. 

Those with at least 2 years of experience working at a helpline, preferably both on the phones and in an administrative role, and those with at least 2 years of experience as an iCarol Admin are particularly encouraged to apply.

Apply Now

Applications will only be accepted at the Harris Computer Workday site using the Apply button above. Email or phone call solicitations will not be accepted.

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