From Wednesday, October 17 through Friday, October 19, Rachel Wentink, Vice President, Operations, and Mary Kruger, Client Training Coordinator, will attend the National Crisis Center Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.
The conference theme is “Gateway to Gold: Setting the Standard” with a focus on best practices for optimum success of the attending organizations and their clients. This year’s conference will offer sessions in two tracks focused either on Systems or Centers, with several workshops that satisfy both.
There’s no better group to speak to best practices than the two entities presenting this conference, CONTACT USA (CUSA) and the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD). Both organizations have a phenomenal history of supporting crisis work and we recommend considering membership for your service if you are a helpline, warmline, crisis center, suicide prevention service, or similar organization. By joining them you’ll discover fantastic networking and knowledge sharing from caring individuals who can relate to your day-to-day joys and challenges as a manager or executive director of a not-for-profit. Find out more about CUSA membership here and NASCOD membership here.
Our history with this group and conference is our longest association, going way back to iCarol’s earliest days, and many of the helplines and crisis centers who host this conference were some of iCarol’s earliest users. It’s a long standing relationship that we value and we’re proud to not only attend but are also long-term sponsors of this important gathering organized by pillars of the helpline industry.
As with all conferences we attend, we welcome the opportunity to connect with old friends and new ones. We’re eager to hear about your latest projects and discuss ways iCarol can support you and the needs of your community. Both Mary and Rachel will be on hand throughout the conference to answer your questions and talk about how iCarol can help. We look forward to seeing you!
We’re committed to providing excellent communication about iCarol capabilities, updates, and planned enhancements on regular basis. So, we’d like to invite you to join us for our quarterly review of recent enhancements, as well as a peek at what’s ahead, in a 30-minute webinar this Thursday.
In this fast-paced webinar, we’ll go over the newest ways you can streamline your day with new tools sprinkled throughout iCarol. Hosted by Shelley, our product manager, this is part of a quarterly “new feature review” series. We hope you’ll join us for this webinar on February 5th at 1pm EST.
In this webinar we’ll go over:
- Quick refresher on 2014 new feature highlights
- Review recently launched new features
- Enhancements coming soon
- How to keep up with new enhancements
- How you can impact new feature development
Remember, if you’re an Administrator in iCarol, in your Dashboard view, you can also view enhancements and changes in the “Announcements, Tips, and Tricks” and “Release History and Future Plans” sections, but these webinars will go a little further to explain the new features, and allow time for your questions.
We think this webinar will be most beneficial and interesting to current iCarol clients who are Program Managers or Directors and use iCarol at an Administrator security level, or those who are considering subscribing to iCarol. That said, all are welcome to attend. We hope you’ll join us on February 5!
Click here to Register
Want to know all that’s going on in the helpline industry in 2015? We have a list of events, dates of recognition and awareness, and more.
= Conference/Event that iCarol plans to attend
Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
Stalking Awareness Month
Bell Let’s Talk Day (January 28)
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
2-1-1 Day (February 11)
Eating Disorders Awareness Week
National Problem Gambling Awareness Month
Brain Injury Awareness Month
Self Harm Awareness Month
American Association of Suicidology (AAS) Conference
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 12-18)
Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) Conference
Mental Health Awareness Month
LGBT Pride Month
PTSD Awareness Day (June 27)
Minority Mental Health Month
National Council for Problem Gambling Conference
Be Kind to Humankind Week
National Breastfeeding Month
Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week
National Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Month
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Mental Illness Awareness Week
National Runaway Prevention Month
Transgender Day of Remembrance
International Survivors of Suicide Day
World AIDS Day
National Family Caregivers Month
Giving Tuesday (December 1)
Did we miss any? If so, please leave us a comment and help us add more dates of recognition and events to our list.
As one of the people who started iCarol, one of my greatest joys is sitting down with one of our clients to hear about their experiences using our software and how it has helped in the lives of the people they served. I wish it were possible to grab a mug of hot cider this holiday season and sit down by a fireplace with each one of you 45,000 folks, but since it is not, I’ll share my reflections on the year of 2014 and a glimpse into 2015.
Our clients collectively logged over 5 million calls into iCarol this year. Each one of those encounters was a personal contact by phone, chat, text or in person and represented a moment or more where two people connected and a help-seeker was served by a help-giver. Having been a volunteer on our local crisis line myself, I understand the wide range of emotions that can flow during such a session and the glimpse it gave me into the struggles people have on a daily basis. We try fervently to make iCarol a valuable and unobtrusive tool in those conversations – something to help the help-giver and not get in the way. A recent message to our Twitter feed said “Your software is like having magical powers to do good” and, while I’m not sure we can live up to that for every encounter, we are sure delighted when it can for even just some.
2014 was a year that we significantly improved our game. We hired quite a few people and reorganized into a well-structured team that can continue to grow for years to come. We invested in a more rigorous testing and release schedule, meaning that our enhancements are predictable, visible and higher quality than ever before. We firmed up our support of multiple language interface, opening up iCarol to use by communities whose first language is not English. We instituted a formal product roadmap process, giving us a vision of what iCarol will evolve to be in the coming years.
In 2015, that starts with solidifying iCarol as the best multi-channel platform for non-profit helplines around the world. Our support of live chat and texting is fundamental to the way our clients meet the public through wildly popular electronic channels, and its integration with the same kinds of tools that are needed when serving people by phone sets us apart from generic third-party systems. You’ll hear some exciting news early next year articulating improvements coming to iCarol Messaging.
Later in the year we plan to revamp the way our clients can make their Resource databases searchable from their public website. Our existing tool gets the job done, but we have a vision of bringing the wisdom of professional phone workers, who know how to bridge the gap between a help-seeker expressing a need to a service that can meet the need, to your public websites.
We’ll also seek to do at least a couple of more large projects like these to get you all excited about. And throughout 2015 we will continue to make innumerable smaller enhancements and tweaks to iCarol that will form a chorus of advancement we hope you will notice and enjoy in your daily work.
From all of us here at iCarol, we wholeheartedly thank you for coming on this adventure with us and wish you a safe and rewarding holiday season. Best wishes for your new year.
CEO and Co-founder, iCarol
It’s been quite a year so far at iCarol. Our team continues to grow and we’ve added on new features, enhancements, and capabilities to our software. We have some really great things planned for the remainder of 2014, as well as some exciting projects on the horizon. We’ve also made strides this year in how we plan, implement, and communicate all of this to our clients. We hope you’ll join us for a webinar on October 6 at 1pm EST to learn about all this and more.
In this webinar we’ll review:
- Our 2014 Growth Strategy
- Completed 2014 Enhancements
- Development Process
- Change Control Process
- Product Development Process
- In-flight Projects
- Projects on the horizon
- 2015 iCarol Goals
If you’re an Administrator in iCarol, in your Dashboard view, you can also view enhancements and changes in the “Announcements, Tips, and Tricks” and “Release History and Future Plans” sections, but this webinar will delve deeper than these sections, as the iCarol experts behind them explain how to use them at your center!
We think this webinar will be most beneficial and interesting to current iCarol clients who are Program Managers or Directors and use iCarol at an Administrator security level, or those who are considering purchasing iCarol for their helpline. That said, all are welcome to attend. We hope you’ll join us on October 6!
Click here to Register
The volunteer screening and application process serves a dual purpose. It gives the helpline manager the opportunity to meet the volunteer and evaluate their ability to work on the helpline. For the volunteer it can be a discovery meeting where they learn more about the realities of helpline volunteerism. For both parties it’s a major step in deciding if the volunteer will move to the next stage.
Most helplines have a well-established list of questions to ask, but we’d like to offer these for your consideration…
1. Why do you think you’d be a good fit for our helpline? – The responses to this question let your volunteer share their qualities, but they’ll also reveal their preconceptions about what it’s like to work on a helpline. Portrayals in movies, television, or commonly held beliefs about crisis work tend to permeate volunteer expectations. Someone might answer, “I think I could give great advice.” This may open the door for you to talk about the reality of the work you do at the helpline. Perhaps you don’t give advice but rather listen to the caller, talk through their options, and let the caller ultimately decide what they’ll do. The volunteer will appreciate the chance to learn about what they can really expect when working on the helpline as opposed to what they’ve been imagining it’d be like.
2. Are you comfortable being observed and receiving feedback? – There’s a good chance your call center is a place where several people are working together at once, often times in close quarters. Your workers may routinely be right there observing their partner’s calls and giving peer feedback afterward. They can also expect to receive feedback from supervisors. New volunteers should be prepared for the work environment and know that feedback isn’t about someone else being critical of their work, but rather it’s intended to help them be successful and better serve the callers. For some, the prospect of regular observation and evaluation may be more than they were expecting.
3. Can you think on your feet? – Quick thinking is an essential quality for any helpline volunteer. The tone of a call can change in an instant and a skilled volunteer will pick up on hints at suicide and know how to proceed. You never know when a caller might say or ask something that takes you by surprise, and the ability to come back with a quick response will ensure the volunteer is always ready and in control of the situation. Not all volunteers will know how to hit the curveballs.
4. Are you a good detective? – You might not immediately think of investigative skills as being important to helpline work, but they’ll come in handy. You can’t just hear, you have to listen, and sometimes that means discovering more than what’s being revealed on the surface. In talking with a caller, sometimes it takes the right methods of reflection and questioning to get to the core of what’s going on for the caller and how the volunteer can help. Searching for the right referrals for a caller can also take some sleuthing and creativity especially when resources are limited or the caller isn’t eligible for services. Thinking outside the box and coming up with ideas and alternatives is a useful skill to have.
5. Do you need to see results to feel like you accomplished something? – New volunteers may be disappointed to find that after spending an hour talking a caller through a problem, that same person may call back in a month, still experiencing the same issue. And for callers who live with chronic and persistent mental illness, each day may come with a similar set of challenges, routines, and coping skills. Helpline workers aren’t always going to see huge changes and immediate positive turnarounds. In many cases, you never even know how it all turned out. The miracle success stories may be few and far between. This doesn’t mean, however, that the work you do isn’t helpful. Often in the helpline world, we need to re-frame our expectations and what we see as “success.” For some callers, just making it through the hour is successful. That hour spent on the line was an hour they didn’t feel as lonely, and it provided them with the boost they needed to get through the evening. If a volunteer needs to see more apparent success in order for them to feel like they had an impact, helpline work may leave them feeling burnt out and disappointed.
There’s a lot to consider when vetting a prospective volunteer. These questions may help both you and the volunteer further evaluate their desire, readiness, and natural abilities to determine whether they’ll end up joining your organization.
iCarol is more than a product that helps you manage the many facets of running your helpline. We’ve worked on helplines so we know the challenges you face. From our iCarol user community to our industry white papers and downloadable guides to our blog, we care about bringing you relevant content that will help you enhance and grow the services you provide to your clients and communities.
In our latest endeavor to bring you helpful material, we’re partnering with CONTACT USA (CUSA) to provide a series of webinars covering important topics in the areas of Helpline Management, Information and referral, and Online Emotional Support (Chat and Texting).
The first of these webinars, scheduled for May 20th, will focus on Online Emotional Support, why you should be providing this service, and how you can integrate this new channel into your existing services. iCarol pioneered the efforts in the helpline industry to integrate chat and texting capabilities with the longstanding avenue of phone calls. CONTACT USA is the leader in Online Emotional Support training and accreditation. Together we have the tools and expertise you need to turn the idea of offering these services to your community into a reality.
Anecdotal evidence from crisis centers around the country has shown that for many years young people have seemed reticent to reach out to a telephone hotline. Additionally, people of all ages may feel more comfortable with the additional layer of anonymity and ease of access afforded by communicating through a computer. This includes people that may have social anxieties, may be deaf or hard-of-hearing or living with other disabilities that make verbal communication more challenging.
So we hope you’ll save the date and join us and CONTACT USA on May 20th to learn more about this exciting time for our industry. Can’t wait? Join us for one of our webinars to show you iCarol’s messaging capabilities or contact us to schedule a private walk through.
The National Association of Crisis Center Directors (NASCOD) recently announced an exciting collaboration with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. These two leading authorities in the helpline industry will collaborate on the delivery of monthly Webinars and Peer Support calls. The collaboration allows both agencies to highlight their strengths, share vital information across a larger network of crisis agencies and maximize training opportunities with ease and convenience for the busy helpline and suicide prevention professional.
This collaboration presents two major benefits to participants:
NASCOD Members will be invited to the Lifeline Evaluation Webinar Series which will focus on research supporting crisis and suicide intervention best practices
NASCOD will coordinate and present a series of peer support calls that will be shared with the Suicide Lifeline Network
If you’re not yet a member of NASCOD we highly recommend you consider becoming a member. NASCOD provides great resources to professionals at crisis lines, helplines, and suicide prevention lines. Regularly held Peer Support Calls allow crisis center directors to engage with one another and benefit from the experience of other directors on a number of pertinent topics. NASCOD also holds an annual conference that helps directors hone in on management and leadership skills, network with other helpline professionals, and learn more about specific topics, issues, and challenges in the helpline industry. Many NASCOD members use iCarol helpline management software and so this is one more area in which members can share knowledge and information with one another, for example how they are using iCarol features such as texting/SMS, chat, statistics, and resources to their advantage.
With the announcement of this partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline it’s an excellent time to become a NASCOD member and take advantage of this opportunity to participate in the exchange of ideas and experiences between these two important leaders in the crisis helpline industry.