One of the most common challenges faced by non-profit human services agencies is taking all the data that they generate each day and finding ways to use it to tell the story of their impact. Every day in iCarol systems across the world, thousands of pieces of data, are recorded. There are the calls, chats, texts, and other interactions where specialists record detailed information about those contacts, what they need and what services were directly provided, or the referrals made. Each referral record may contain over a hundred fields of information updated by resource specialists on an ongoing basis. There’s shift information, who worked and when, and how many hours each volunteer logged in a given period of time. Speaking of volunteers, in addition to hours worked there are the trainings and certifications they’ve achieved, new skills obtained, contact information, and the list goes on. That’s just a small sampling of the kinds of information being captured, and when you multiply just the things listed so far by nearly 70,000 users worldwide, it really adds up!
Much of your storytelling can be achieved through the dozens of charts, graphs, and other tools available in the Statistics area of iCarol. All of the most common data points our customers require are typically found there, and especially once you add in the available standard filters like location or time frame, or more custom filters from your call report fields, the information produced from these in-system reports is very powerful. Still, there are reasons you may need to dig deeper and export detailed files. Some take the raw call report data and place it into external programs for further manipulation or cross tabulation, or prefer to write their own queries. In the cases of fields where a text answer is provided instead of selecting from a dropdown or checkbox list, an export is needed to review the information that can’t be quantified.
Using iCarol you can export much more than your call report data. Detailed information on your shifts, volunteer information, client profiles, and your full database of resource records are all available to be extracted. Some centers have policies or contracts that require local copies of contact data or a hard copy of the resource database be downloaded on a regular basis. These are just a few of the instances where a data extract may be required.
Of course we take great care to ensure that this data is secured and protected, but also accessible to you when you need it. While we act as its caretakers, the data is owned by our clients and it’s important that they be able to download it for offline use outside of iCarol when needed. As you can imagine, these large amounts of data take time to retrieve and process. Our systems also contend with multiple simultaneous requests from various organizations across the globe. As iCarol grows and more and more non-profit agencies use it and add to this mountain of data, it’s our job to ensure that our high performance standards continue to be met.
Early this year, members of our technical team endeavored to apply a fresh approach to the processing of this data. We made changes to the service that generates those data exports in an effort to reduce the wait times between making the request and receiving the data. The team was able to accomplish this by optimizing queries, re-architecting the exporter service being used, deploying additional services, as well as making changes to the exporter schedule.
So with all this talk of data, it’s time to share some of our own. Following these changes to our export service, we decided to compare some numbers occurring in February of two different years: 2016, prior to any changes, and February 2017 after the new approach had been put into place. The table below shows this comparison. The “Time to complete” accounts for the number of minutes that elapse between when the extract request is made, and then the email notification of completion gets emailed. It’s also worth noting that there were over 100 more exports requested in February 2017 than in February 2016, and yet as you can see our average time overall and for the individual types of exports all decreased by significant percentages.
As time goes on we’ll continue to monitor this performance and look at comparisons using a larger sample size to get a fuller picture of the progress. This first look, however, is very promising and we’re hoping this has had a noticeable positive impact on our clients as they request these exports.
From April 26th through the 29th, members of our team will be in Phoenix for the 50th American Association of Suicidology Conference.
We’ll have a booth at the conference and you’ll see us at many of the events and sessions, too. It’s important to us to learn about and be aware of all the latest research and the expanding needs of helplines as they work to build suicide-safer communities.
We hope you’ll stop by our booth and let us know how things have been going for your organization, and tell us about the exciting initiatives you’ve had going on. We’ll be available to answer any questions you may have about iCarol, and we’ll have some fun activities to check out that are brand new this year!
In particular we’d really enjoy hearing your feedback about the new iCarol Ideas Portal we recently released. We’re excited to hear from our users about how it’s going, what you like about it, and any other feedback you may have. So if you’ve used the Ideas Portal, we definitely want to see you!
With all the excitment and so much going on, the time at the conference goes by quickly, so please look us up at the conference, or
beforehand to schedule some time to chat so we’re sure not to miss the opportunity to see you!
We look forward to seeing you and learning about all the latest in the life-saving work being done by the helpline industry so that we can continue to build our systems to support you.
From April 2nd – 5th, iCarol Co-founders Jackie and Neil McKechnie will attend the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference in Seattle, Washington. Many of our friends and clients have encouraged us to attend and have spoken highly of the conference, the people and organizations it attracts and the fantastic learning opportunities it presents, so we’re looking forward to experiencing this first hand.
In case you are not yet familiar with this organization, the National Council for Behavioral Health with its 2,800 member organizations, is dedicating to serving millions of adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions. The cornerstone of their mission is to advocate for Americans’ access to comprehensive, high-quality care so that everyone has the tools needed for recovery. Many of you may also be familiar with their Mental Health First Aid program, a course that many of our users have not only taken, but their agencies often provide this training to their community. This highly impactful program has trained nearly 1 million people to play a role in helping someone experiencing a mental health or addictions emergency by providing immediate intervention and empathy while encouraging professional support. This program empowers all people, regardless of their personal field of expertise, to care for others and not ignore situations or feel powerless to help when they see mental health emergencies play out in front of them. It also highlights the importance of everyone having basic knowledge of mental health and addictions issues, which ultimately saves lives and reduces stigma.
We’re looking forward to learning more about this organization, attending some amazing sessions, and connecting with those in attendance to see how we might be able to work together. If you’re an iCarol user and you’re going to be there, we’d really love to connect so we can say “hi” and catch up with you, and perhaps grab a bite to eat or cup of coffee in between sessions. With this being such a large conference and knowing how much there is going on, it’d be great to plan ahead and schedule a time to connect and make sure we don’t miss one another. Please reach out to so we can find a time to meet up at what is sure to be a great event. See you in Seattle!
As our user base has grown over the last few years, we’ve scaled by putting into place major enhancements with our infrastructure. This ensures a stable foundation for your iCarol system to support the important work that you do. Likewise, we’ve recently added additional depth and stability to our company with the addition of a new position in our organizational structure. This change allows us to ensure continued quality service for all iCarol clients.
We’re pleased to announce the promotion of Rachel Wentink to the position of General Manager of iCarol.
Rachel first joined our team in February 2015 and came to us with a broad and extensive background in technology, product and business development, professional services and marketing along with many years of experience in managing small and large teams and working with clients in local, regional, national and international environments. Her educational background includes advanced leadership training and a Masters of Business Administration.
In the two years since joining CharityLogic, Rachel has taken on multiple responsibilities and managed several key projects. Most recently she served as our Director of Product Management and Strategy and was instrumental in forecasting our clients’ needs and then planning and implementing a product roadmap that exemplifies iCarol’s reputation as an innovative technology leader.
As General Manager, Rachel will oversee iCarol’s daily operations and drive strategies that ensure iCarol’s continued growth and success. She will also continue her work directing the Product Management team and will see through her current projects in that department.
Please join us in welcoming Rachel to this new role and wishing her much success!
In case you don’t know him, our CTO Neil loves to code. And he also loves to address social challenges with technology. So when the University of San Francisco’s School of Management announced their one-day Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference and subsequent two-day Tech4Good Hackathon, he immediately signed up to make the short drive down to the event to see how he could help.
About 70 bright individuals arrived for the hackathon’s opening ceremony on Saturday morning and, one-by-one, introduced themselves to the group by announcing their skills, why they were there, and an idea for what problem they would like to see solved in ways that would have social impact.
In the ensuing hour, participants informally coalesced into the teams that would start building their entry into the hackathon’s competition, to be judged the next day by an esteemed panel of five high-tech executives from the Bay Area’s startup scene. By introducing himself as a “CTO, architect and full-stack developer” Neil was in high demand to join numerous of the 10 teams who hoped to have a useful, coded prototype to show about 24 hours later.
As he has a family member who could benefit from it, Neil settled on a team to build a web-based tool that replicates a “real world” tool that helps young learners with phonics, letter identification and word formation in their journey toward reading fluency. Each of his other three team members brought very useful ideas and skills and were amazed at how quickly they organized into a highly functional and productive group.
After more than a few energy drinks, late night coding sessions, and last minute changes, the team submitted their entry for judging on Sunday afternoon. Although Neil’s team didn’t win, he helped other teams throughout the weekend and was impressed with all of the final entries.
Although it was his first hackathon, we’re pretty sure it won’t be his last!
iCarol is a large and complex piece of software, and every client uses it a little differently. Some clients use some features, and other clients use other features. Client needs also change over time, necessitating the discontinuation, addition or adjustment of processes and policies. We understand that there is turnover in our client agencies, so training new staff or volunteers is a continuous need.
We are here to help! We have a number of self-serve options for training and notification of new features and enhancements. We encourage all of our clients to explore the information available through these options to assist you with building and maintaining your knowledge of how to use iCarol to meet your needs.
iCarol Help Page – Online Video Tutorials and other training and informational material
To access the Help page, simply click Help in the left hand menu when you are logged into iCarol.
The Help Page is organized into sections representing the major features of iCarol – Volunteers and Staff, Shift Calendar, Call Reports, Messaging, Resources, and Statistics and Reporting. Each section has a number of videos or other documents (for example, PowerPoint presentations) explaining how to use the different features in iCarol. Feel free to use any of these materials in your own training programs at your agency.
iCarol Help Page – Help Articles
To access iCarol Help Articles, click Help form the left hand menu when you are logged into iCarol, then, at the top of the page, click “Help articles – browse solutions to common questions”.
You can search for help articles in a few different ways. You can enter a word or phrase in the text box next to the Search button, and then click the Search button. You can refine this search to a particular category by choosing a category from the drop-down menu below the search text box. Or, you can browse through the various categories and sub-categories listed on the screen by clicking on the name of a category. For example, the screenshot below shows the help articles available in the category Calls, sub-category Call Reports – Create & Submit Call Reports.
iCarol staff are continually updating and expanding the Help article database as new features, enhancements and updates are released.
iCarol Dashboard – Announcements, tips and tricks
Users with Admin or Supervisor security status can access the iCarol Dashboard, which contains an Announcements, tips and tricks section. To access, simply click Home in the left hand menu when logged into iCarol.
This section contains posts about updates, new features, upcoming webinars, and more. Due to space limitations, you will likely only see the latest 3-4 posts displayed. To view earlier posts, scroll down to the bottom of this section and click the link labeled “See all news”.
To access the iCarol blog page, access the iCarol website at www.icarol.com, then click ‘Blog’ at the top of the page.
The iCarol Blog contains a variety of articles that pertain to the iCarol software as well as other topics we feel would be of interest to helplines, such as Bell Let’s Talk Day, as shown above. Blogs topics may include industry trends or news and events, helpline best practices, iCarol product and feature updates, new case studies and eBooks, ask the expert articles, and more. Want blogs delivered to your email? You can subscribe by filling out the small form you see in the lower right hand corner of the screenshot above. Doing so will deliver a biweekly Blog Digest to your email.
Finally, if you are unable to find the answer to a question you have, you are welcome to submit a case to the iCarol Support Team using the Online Case Management system. This is accessed by clicking Help in the left hand menu when you are logged into iCarol, then, at the top of the screen, clicking “Cases – contact the iCarol Support Team”.
Many of our clients participate in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline is a network of over 160 crisis centers in the U.S. These centers take calls and chats from all across the country, focusing on suicide prevention. These free and confidential services provide crisis support and community resource referrals, 24-hours a day.
Members of the Lifeline network follow proven protocols and guidelines to ensure safe outcomes for those in crisis. Whether you offer crisis services and/or are part of the Lifeline network, protocols and guidelines are critical to the success of your program. Ensuring they are easy to follow not only gives you better outcomes for those in crisis, but makes it easier for your staff and volunteers to do their important work.
I’m often asked by members of the Lifeline network and others in the field doing crisis center work why they should choose iCarol. Very simply put, iCarol is the expert in helping not-for-profit helplines set up their technology, to best support the protocols mentioned above.
In my experience managing a not-for-profit helpline who took calls for the Lifeline, as well as helping iCarol clients do the same, here is how iCarol can help:
- Messaging built right in! Volunteers and staff sign into one system—iCarol—to handle calls for your agencies, calls for the Lifeline, and even chats for the Lifeline, or your own chats or texts. Read more here.
- A live risk assessment gauge, developed by the Lifeline for iCarol, calculates suicide risk in real-time, and provides instructions on the next steps with each risk level. Learn more about this tool.
- Intelligently designed call report forms allow for different ‘paths’ for your call takers. Example: If the call is a Lifeline call, a set of questions appears appropriate for that. Or, if the call is for a different program your agency takes calls for, have a different set of questions pop up.
- Worried that your workers aren’t following certain protocols for imminent risk callers? Take what is described above a step further to make the response(s) required or not. This reduces error, as well as can provide crucial guidance about next steps for the call taker in tense situations.
- Help your workers to provide referrals to community resources, designed in a very easy-to-use interface, even for a worker who is only there a few hours a week can use.
- Provide staff feedback—right in iCarol—to the call taker. This feedback can be private, or visible to all. Perhaps they did not follow a certain protocol of the Lifeline, or another program appropriately. We give you the industry’s best way to provide them this feedback. It alerts them when they log in, to read their feedback, and then tracks it when they do!
- Legal lock of call reports: Did something happen on an interaction that may be subpoenaed or looked into more? You can put a legal lock on it to ensure that no one, even the administrative users in your system, can make changes to it.
Hands down, iCarol is the best solution to support your work with the Lifeline, or other programs.
Want to learn more? Start a free trial or contact me.
Your helpline is a trusted source of listening support, and even if you don’t advertise your service as specializing in topics of intimate partner violence or sexual violence, there’s a good chance many of the people that reach you are at risk.
Join us for a free webinar to learn more about using the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA) tool to help assess one’s risk, explore ways to reduce that risk, and provide assistance to your clients.
When: Wednesday January 18, 2017
Time: 1pm EDT
You Will Learn:
- About different types of risk assessments
- The goals of using the SARA risk assessment
- The differences between Dynamic and Static Risk Factors
- What information should be available to complete an assessment
- Ideas for implementing use of this tool at your helpline
- And more!
Presenter: Dustin MacDonald is a Registered Social Service Worker (RSSW) who has been involved with helplines including Distress Centre Durham for the previous 5 years, as well as performing quality assurance, producing analytics and forecasting for the Ontario Online & Text Crisis Services program of Distress and Crisis Ontario. He brings to these roles an understanding of statistics and experience performing a variety of program evaluations and assessments. We’re very pleased to welcome him as our presenter.
We hope you can join us for this webinar!
Regardless of which of the season’s holidays you may celebrate, or even if you celebrate none at all, we hope you were able to enjoy some quality time with family and friends, listen to festive music, and partake in lots of yummy food and beverages. And, if you were really lucky, maybe you even scored some good presents, too!
One of the time-honored traditions of Christmastime is the Secret Santa gift exchange, and this year our team took part in that, in spite of the physical distance between us, and being unable to do some of the other traditional holiday activities like having an office party. We wanted to share the fun with you guys.
Crystal gifted Mary with some beautiful decorations for her work space, all holding special meaning. Mary says:
“The tree statue is especially special because it combines 3 of my favorite things: green (my favorite color), nature, and stones/minerals – something only a Secret Santa would know. These gifts are so “me” and I couldn’t be more thankful!”
All Donna wanted for Christmas was world peace and a nice glass of wine. Her Secret Santa, Mary, delivered — a lovely peace-oriented ornament and some cute snowmen to decorate wine glasses.
Donna played Santa to Carmen with a gift of cupcakes. Carmen says:
“Back when I started at iCarol, I told Donna about the various staff meetings I participated in at my old employer, Distress Centre Calgary. Snacks were almost always provided, and the snack that was always a particular hit were cupcakes from Crave, a gourmet cupcake store here in Calgary. From that point forward, mentioning cupcakes at iCarol staff meetings became a thing, with some discussion of how we might deliver cupcakes to everyone scattered over North America for our virtual staff meetings. So, the fact that Donna remembered this and sent such a gift was extremely thoughtful. Thank you Donna, they were delicious! (I think I need to go buy more…)”
Carmen surprised her recipient, Polly, with a beautiful handcrafted paintbrush holder for her art supplies, which Polly loved. And it came not a moment too soon, as Polly was considering making something just like this for herself!
Dana is an avid bird watcher and has an extensive collection of owl items. She’s also a coffee enthusiast. Christa produced a perfect pair of gifts for Dana — a funny owl coffee mug, and an adult coloring book full of owl drawings waiting to be filled in with bright colors. Dana put the coffee mug to use almost immediately after she received it!
Dana was Diana’s Secret Santa. Being a lover of both caffeine and “The Golden Girls,” Diana received a sampling of various teas, and a Golden Girls-themed mug to enjoy them with.
Wendy’s Secret Santa was Eliisa. Wendy says:
“I got my Secret Santa from Eliisa and it is awesome. These are 2 new dish towels that are super fun and a great design that I have not seen. I love gifts that are functional and fun. It was just great to receive a gift from further away from a colleague for Christmas.”
Rachel and Wendy played Secret Santa for Neil and Jackie. A big baseball fan, Rachel gifted Neil with the book “Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend.” Wendy sent Jackie something that would remind her of the great white north and her Canadian roots — a pair of bear claw salad tongs!
We hope you enjoyed some holiday fun and perhaps an office party or Secret Santa exchange of your own. We’d love to share in the fun you had, please Tweet us your helpline’s holiday fun or leave a comment below!
As 2016 winds down, we’d like to reflect on the year that was both at iCarol and in the industry we serve, and look ahead to exciting things on the horizon for our clients and partner organizations.
We continue to take advantage of the fluid nature of web-based software by regularly enhancing iCarol. In 2015, we were proud to have released over 1,600 coding changes and enhancements to your iCarol systems. But for 2016, we’re on track to more than double that with a release of over 4,000 improvements. This is a reflection of our expanded Technology team at the direction of our new Product Management team. We’re with you on this journey, and this exemplifies our commitment to ongoing innovation and building iCarol to evolve and grow with the needs of your service and your community.
As we add on capabilities and as our user base grows, we know the importance of our infrastructure providing a stable foundation for the work you do in iCarol. Therefore, this summer we installed a state-of-the-art network storage appliance and fine-tuned our code for performance, which resulted in our total system uptime being on track to hit 99.975% for the year, well exceeding our stated target of 99.9% and considered by the industry to be excellent. Nothing is more important to us than helping you help people, and we know that a reliable connection to our software is critical to your mission. We will continue to invest in tools and technologies over the coming year that allow our infrastructure to scale and perform well, as we expect 2017 to be another year of growth for us.
In our travels to conferences and ongoing conversations with helpline industry leaders, we took note of the major trends either emerging or magnifying, including:
- Identifying and addressing “social determinants of health” so that people in need can be more systematically helped across the spectrum of medical, health, human and social services. We’re seeing partnerships in our client base and directly ourselves with other firms to help contribute to this trend and advance it in the years to come.
- Greater focus on “outcomes” rather than “outputs” – while this has been in motion for quite a few years, we’re seeing an increased focus on what composes a true “outcome”, as well as the use of much more advanced analytic tools like business intelligence to glean insights about the true outcomes that help seekers experience as a result of being served by you.
- The continued increased use of channels other than phone to seek help, like live chat, text messaging and social media.
So with 2016 almost in our rearview, what comes next? Looking forward to 2017, we intend to invest heavily in iCarol’s product capabilities in the following areas to stay ahead of the progress we’re seeing:
- Dramatically improved reporting
- Support for continuity of care
- Revised and improved follow-ups and outcome tracking
- Continued improvements to iCarol’s already robust support for popular channels like chat and text
- Enabling resource search and initiation of chats from the most popular social media venues
- Increased accuracy of resource data and search results for help seekers
In closing, we hope that 2016 has been a good year for you personally and also for your agencies. The work you do continues to be a source of inspiration and motivation for us, and we wish you nothing but the best this holiday season. We remain deeply honored to serve you, our clients, and look forward to another year of service and giving in 2017 and beyond.
Neil and Jacqueline McKechnie
CTO and CEO, Co-founders of iCarol Helpline Software