In recent months we’ve released a few enhancements to our Resource API that we’re excited to tell you about. But wait, before I get ahead of myself…
What is an API?
API stands for Application Program Interface, but it might as well stand for “Awesome Possibilities Increase”
because it enables you to do all sorts of exciting things with your Resource record data and opens up a world of new options for what you can do with the service provider information you curate.
An API provides a way for web and application developers to access and display, in their own creative way, resource data housed within iCarol. These developers can query, or ask questions of, the resource data in your database that’s made available to them through the API, and iCarol will answer by responding with the resource records that match their request. This advanced tool allows them to be creative and do things like create resource directories, search tools, resource lists or any other application that displays or uses resource data.
Using the iCarol Resource API, our users have engaged with their developers to do things like…
- Create mobile apps that show mapped resources near a person in need, and provide them with record details
- Build completely custom designed resource searches , ways to view resource record details on their website
- Partner with other organizations to contribute resource information to their database — collaborations that are often revenue generators
Like other areas of iCarol, our Resource API undergoes regular maintenance and enhancements through periodic releases, and lately our team has been very busy making the Resource API better than ever!
What have we done for you lately?
Initiate Automated Resource Verification Requests
One of our enhancements has the Resource API working with another iCarol feature, Automated Resource Verification. Automated Resource Verification enables you to ensure resource accuracy while simultaneously saving hundreds or thousands, depending on the size of your resource database, of hours of staff time spent updating records. Using this feature, Resource Managers can generate batches of resources due for verification or updates, and send a verification request to contacts who work at those programs and agencies, requesting their input on the record information. The email includes a hyperlink that, when clicked, provides the contact with a live look at the information on file in the iCarol database. This contact can make suggested edits and submit them directly on this web page. When this request arrives back in the iCarol system, Resource Managers can review the submitted information, and make their own changes and edits, before accepting the verification. Once accepted and applied, the resource record reflects all of the updates with the click of a button. This solution is far better than spending time playing phone tag, sending manual emails, or sending out mailers and then updating records manually, field by field, when you finally receive responses. The Automated Resource Verification feature not only saves you time and money, but your resource contacts will appreciate the convenient process through which they can update their information and ensure clients are receiving the right information about their services.
With this new development to the Resource API, your web developers can create a process for your public users to automatically send a verification request to a service provider, prompting them to begin the verification process. Because the Resource API gives you the control to choose when, and who can send requests you can have your web or application developer create a process that meets your unique needs. Overall, being able to initiate new AVR requests using the Resource API gives you another way to ensure your resources have the most recent and accurate information available.
Filter results by Custom Field
There are over 100 difference “standard” fields available for use in your iCarol Resource Database which allow you to track and curate resource information you need to help your community. Some of these fields include Phone Numbers, Address, Languages Spoken, Description of services, etc. are of these are commonly used in the industry and describe what a service is, how it is offered and who it serves. However, many of our customers also use Custom Fields in their resource records to collect and display additional information that does not fit perfectly in a standard field. Custom Fields are often used to track additional eligibility, contact information, updating priorities, and to create custom filters for call and chat specialists to refine search results.
With this enhancement to the Resource API, the resources returned from a API request can be filtered by the resources with a specific custom field selection. This allows you, among other things, to create subject-specific Resource API Portals, which you can use to harness your data on your own website, and even to access new revenue opportunities with partners wanting subject or issue specific resources.
For example, you may have a partnership with a local service provider such as a domestic violence shelter or LGBTQ center, who would like to display a subset of your resources on their website or in an application they are building. They know and trust the great work you do curating a resource database, and they don’t want duplicate your efforts. They would like to contract with (and pay!) you to access your resources by subscribing to a Resource API Portal that has filtered results, of just resources that you have identified as serving their communities.
With all the time and effort you spend collecting, updating, maintaining, and curating resource information, you could and should leverage it to improve your service offerings and get more funding for your organization. The iCarol Resource API is a great way to expand the possibilities of what you can do with your resource data, and these latest enhancements go even further to boost your ability to help the public or explore new partnerships and revenue streams.
To find out more about the Resource API, including these new enhancements, check out the Help area of iCarol, or contact our Support Team if you have specific questions, or want to start using the Resource API at your center.
It’s been a busy year here at CharityLogic, as we’ve added lots of new and enhanced features to iCarol. Below are a few of our favorites. If you’d like more information on how to use any of these, please check the Help section of your iCarol system to access videos and articles, or contact our support team via the case management links, also found in that Help section.
You can send followups via text message. This does not require a subscription to our text messaging add-on (just a fee based on text usage), but if you do have a texting subscription, you could use your iCarol system to respond via text to replies you receive from visitors.
You can now send text messages to colleagues from within iCarol, and users can designate if they’d prefer to receive automated reminders – such as upcoming shift reminders — via text message instead of or in addition to via email. Here too, this does not require a subscription to text messaging, and will only incur a text usage fee.
Greater resource search success:
If you use iCarol’s Public Resource Directory to let visitors search your resource database, you could improve their search results with a new tool that lets you associate colloquial terms (“I’m hungry”) to terms in your database (“food pantries”). Clients using this — this method is called Folksonomy — tell us they’ve seen stellar results. Find controls for this Folksonomy tool in the Resources> Manage Resources screen, in the Taxonomy column. There’s no additional charge to adjust the folksonomy controls for your Public Resource Directory.
- Instant Messaging: The counselor screen has a new streamlined design.
- Instant Messaging: Would you like to have us customize your Visitor Chat screens and Chat Now button, so the colors and graphics better match your website? Please contact support (there is a one-time charge for this).
- Instant Messaging and Text Messaging: We’ve improved the ability to let partners handle messaging sessions for each other, which also streamlines how partners in a collaborative messaging environment can share duties responding to visitors. If you’ve wanted to add a messaging service to your center, but are concerned about having adequate staffing levels, you could consider using this feature to partner with another iCarol-using center — or multiple centers — who could help field your messaging visitor requests.
- Text Messaging: If you’d like a texting number that connotes a wider geographic range than a number with a typical area code might imply, we now offer texting numbers with toll-free prefixes. Despite the name, these toll-free numbers don’t cost less to use than “regular” texting phone numbers, but to some folks, they connote a more universal service area. As a bonus, we have acquired a nice stock of such texting numbers attractive to help centers, crisis centers, and 2-1-1s. We’ll be happy to let you select from that stock to use with your iCarol texting service on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Automated Resource Verification:
Enhancements include the ability to see the results of verification emails sent, a useful new screen that lets you sort and filter responses, and the ability to save settings for future use.
We’ve extended the functionality of the tool that lets your developers, with your permission, tap into your iCarol-hosted data to create whatever you’d like them to build.
Do your call-takers and/or visitors sometimes prefer to work in a language other than English? Please ask us how we can set your system to function nicely in more than one language, letting you toggle between languages on the fly. You can even store resources in multiple languages, too.
Many of iCarol’s screens now look even better on mobile devices. This comes in handy, for example, when volunteers and staff would like to sign up for shifts directly from a smartphone.
Assign taxonomy terms to multiple resources concurrently. We’re always looking for ways to reduce the number of mouse clicks needed to complete a task, and this new feature sure speeds up the resource editing process.
Enhanced resource management features:
When you create a printable document (.pdf) of an agency record, that document now includes the Agency’s child Program and Site records. Handy for “manual” verification and more!
Custom text fields are now searchable, helping you locate resources more quickly and accurately.
Calculate your resource database’s “complexity” and view a report estimating annual person-hours required to maintain your database. This may come in handy as you plan out your staffing needs in the new year.
We’ve added a handful of text messaging usage reports, and the aforementioned Resource Complexity Report.
We’ve added Admin dashboard access to release notes, which detail enhancements to iCarol on an ongoing basis. This list, in addition to the dashboard, is a great place to look to keep current on the ever-expanding list of enhancements.
There are a whole lot more video tutorials, to help you get the most out of your iCarol subscription.
Admins now have editing control of nearly all aspects of call report forms. Make changes instantly and easily.
More recently we’ve been busy in our labs finishing an Internal Chat tool, which we expect to release in the next few weeks. This tool lets anyone with access to your system exchange short, typed messages with each other, and Admins have total control over who can use this.
if you’d like to test this out in your system now and have an advance peek. Otherwise, we’ll keep you posted on the system-wide launch date via the Dashboard, which is where we’ll continue to post all enhancements as they become available.
It’s sure been a productive year, and we’ve got lots in store for 2015. We welcome your input, and expect to conduct phone-based focus groups with clients throughout the year on topics such as the Public Resource Directory, Messaging, Statistics, and more. Please
if you’d like to participate in those, or any other topic. We truly do want to hear your ideas on how we can improve the software to help you help others.
Recently Vinh and I attended the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems annual conference in Atlanta, GA. As always it was a great crowd and we had fun seeing so many friendly faces, catching up with our friends, clients, and colleagues, and hearing about what everyone’s been up to. Here we are at our booth, waiting to tell everyone in the exhibitor’s hall all about iCarol Helpline Software.
A true highlight was the reception on Monday night, held at the Georgia Aquarium, an amazing and beautiful place. If you visit the Atlanta area it’s a great attraction to check out.
On Tuesday night we had a great time with some folks at the Atlanta Braves game, though unfortunately the home team lost against the Mariners 5-7.
And of course, there were lots of great presentations and exhibits to check out at the conference. We enjoyed 211 Ontario’s presentation on Service Delivery from the Community up. With 7 call centers, 36 data providers, and 500,000 calls per year, it’s quite an impressive group that we’re proud to be associated with.
There’s a lot of discussion about “Open Data” with various initiatives underway, and iCarol is involved in all the discussions and brainstorming on that topic. We’ll have more to share about this topic and our involvement in the coming weeks.
California 211 presented information on the Kinship Navigator project which utilizes the iCarol API. In short, people search the Kinship Navigator system on the iFoster server, which is totally separate from and unrelated to iCarol. When a user searches the iFoster server on that website, it realizes there’s information in the participating iCarol systems that may fit that person’s search, and so with the details and nuances existing via the iCarol API, iFoster servers reach out via iCarol API to the four different participating iCarol systems and collects appropriate and authorized resources, then sends them back to the iFoster system for the person searching that website. This all happens seamlessly and in a matter of seconds. To hear a little more about this you can check out our recent webinar on iCarol’s Resource Tools (skip to the 36:10 minute mark if you want to hear specifically about this project). The technical ins and outs of understanding how an API works can be daunting, and so there were lots of questions. One audience member posed the analogy, “So is an API sort of like when a cashier at the front desk hollers back to the store room to bring them a can of beans, and the stock boy brings it to the cashier who then sells it to the customer?” And yes, that’s a great analogy!
The Orange County 211 presentation on their public website revisions was fantastic. With just a few small tweaks in how they use iCarol’s Public Resource Directory, including the addition of Folksonomy, they increased their website traffic by 108% in two months, with no changes in their marketing at all.
And finally a workshop on Resource Database Assembly: The Next Generation, presented a very interesting notion on Resource Complexity. It was so inspiring that it’s going to result in a new feature to iCarol, more details on that soon!
AIRS put on a really great conference this year, and in case you’re interested they’re making a collection of photos from the conference publicly available here. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth to say hi, and of course to the new friends we made if you want to learn more about iCarol we’d love to hear from you. Give us a call,
or join an upcoming webinar to learn more about us and our features.