We recently upgraded the iCarol Chatboard area so that it allows for Rich Text formatting on your entries.
What does this mean? Previously the Chatboard offered Plain Text formatting only, which meant that all the text was going to be of a default font, default size, and no special formatting like italicized, bold, or colorized text could be supported. As the name implies, it was kept very plain.
Rich text exposes more controls and gives you the option to do more with your entry.
Rich text supports a number of functions including:
- Making text Bold
- Making text Italicized
- Changing font type, size, and color
- Numbered or Bulleted lists
- Inserting hyperlinks
These new tools support more customization and creativity in your forum’s format as well as making the entries more visually pleasing. You can also add more organization and clarity to your forums.
We hope you’ll enjoy using these new functions and that it will enhance the communication between you, your volunteers, staff, board members, and others who use your Chatboard to stay connected!
Categorizing your resources can help your staff and volunteers find appropriate resources for those in need. Rather than searching for a resource by name, they can search by a category and be presented with a list of resources matching that search term. The list of categories is completely customizable, and for those using the AIRS taxonomy, please note you can use both the taxonomy and custom categories if you wish.
To turn on the custom category feature in iCarol, follow these steps:
- Click Admin Tools in the left hand menu
- Click the Resources Tab
- In the AIRS/211 Taxonomy section, click the box next to “Uses Categories as well as 211 Taxonomy” to place a check mark there
- Click the “Save all settings” button at the top of the screen
Once the feature is turned on, the next step is to create a list of custom categories. It may be useful to review the resources currently in your resource database to determine what category names to use that would best represent the kinds of services those resources offer. Please note, this tool can be used to create just one list of categories, and it can also be used to create a list of categories with sub-categories.
To create a custom category, follow these steps:
- Click Resources in the left hand menu
- Click Manage Resources in the upper right hand side of the screen
- In the second column, click “Customize your keywords”
- Click “Add a new keyword”
- Fill in a Name for the category. A description and a rank for the category are optional.
- Before clicking Save, on the left hand side of the screen, place a checkmark either beside the option that says “Assign to the top level of your hierarchy” if you want the category to be in the top level of your hierarchy, or beside the name of a category already created, to make the new category a sub-category of that one. For example, in the screenshot below, “Youth” and “Matrimony” are sub-categories of Counseling.
- Click the Save button
The final step is to assign categories to your resources. There are two ways to do this. The first option is to search for a specific resource you want to assign categories to and edit it. Follow these steps:
- Click Resources in the left hand menu
- Search for the resource you would like to assign categories to
- When you receive the list of search results, click “Details” on the resource you would like to edit
- Click the Edit button in the upper right hand corner
- Scroll down the page to the Categorization section
- Click the link “Assign this resource to categories. For those who also use taxonomy, please note that this link will say “Assign this resource to taxonomy” but it will be used to assign both taxonomy and categories
- A pop-up box will appear that will show the categorization hierarchy you have created.
- Click the boxes beside the categories you would like to assign the resource to. This will place a check mark in the box
- At the top of the pop-up box, click the “save selection for this resource” button
- You can then close the pop-up box and the resource record will update to show the categories assigned
- Click “Save” or “Save and view resource” at the top of the screen
The second method to assign categories to resources is to use the “Assign resources to categories” tool. Follow these steps:
- Click Resources in the left hand menu
- Click Manage resources in the upper right hand corner of the screen
- Click “Assign resources to categories” in the second column
- Use the filters at the top of the screen to create a list of resources to assign categories to
- Once the list of resources has been generated, click the “Assign” link next to the name of the resource. This will bring up the hierarchy of categories you have created.
- Click the boxes beside the categories you would like to assign the resource to. This will place a check mark in the box
- At the top of the screen, click the “save selection for this resource” button
- The resource you just added categories to will disappear from the list of resources as your categorizations have been successfully saved.
- From here, you can click Assign beside the next resource and repeat the steps above
Once categories have been created, and resources have been assigned to these categories, one can then search by these categories. Searches can be conducted either by typing a category name in the search box and clicking the Search button, or by clicking on a category name in the category hierarchy that will appear on the resource search page. For example, the search depicted below was generated by clicking Cancer Type, and then Breast in the category hierarchy to generate a list of resources that provide services related to breast cancer.
If you have any questions about using categories in iCarol, please submit a case to the iCarol Support Team.
Beginning in 2011, when the Unites States Senate first recognized Information and Referral Services Day, November 16th was designated to raise public awareness and recognize the critical importance of the I&R field.
Every day thousands of people find the help they need quickly, conveniently and free of charge because of Information and Referral (I&R) services. I&R services come in all shapes and sizes, from crisis lines that provide their local community with a core set of human service referrals, to larger scale 2-1-1 centers and statewide 2-1-1 networks providing comprehensive Information and Referral services to entire states or provinces covering many different topics and types of services.
Information and Referral is the art, science and practice of bringing people and services together and is an integral component of the health and human services sector. People in search of critical services such as shelter, financial assistance, food, jobs, or mental health support often do not know where to begin to get help, or they get overwhelmed trying to find what they need. I&R services recognize that when people in need are more easily connected to the services that will help them, thanks to knowledgeable I&R professionals, it reduces frustration and ensures that people reach the proper services quickly and efficiently.
The people who work these lines are consummate professionals who are often times like living, breathing encyclopedias; providing answers to questions ranging from, “Where can I get a free meal for my family” to “There’s a horse running loose in my neighborhood, who do I call?” We at iCarol are really honored to have so many Information and Referral services all across the world use our software to help provide these services to people who reach them via phone, chat, or text.
If you’d like to learn more about what iCarol does to support efficient referral management, check out this page of our website that goes over some of those features. You’re also welcome to join one of our regular webinars that focuses solely on our Information and Referral tools. We hope you’ll join us sometime to learn more.
Happy I & R Day, everyone, and kudos on the awesome work you do connecting people with the services they need!
The 211 Taxonomy is one of the ways you can categorize your resources in iCarol. It’s a highly detailed set of over 9,500 various terms and an extremely precise, structured way of saying what services each resource provides. The Taxonomy is most used by 2-1-1 centers and other Information and Referral agencies, as its use is an essential part of AIRS accreditation. And when you subscribe to this feature in iCarol, you get to benefit of our regular updates such as migrating resources from terms that have been retired to active ones.
Taxonomy users in iCarol can import their own Taxonomy “filters.” These custom taxonomy filters are administered on the 211taxonomy.org website and anyone with a subscription to this site can download them at any time. The filters are a subset of the full taxonomy and allow you to deactivate a large number of taxonomy terms at once.
There are a few different types of filters available on 211Taxonomy.org. A couple filters are officially released by 211 LA County, distributors of the Taxonomy. Some others were created by other subscribers and set up to be shared.
Importing a filter can be useful when you want your taxonomy customizations to match those of the other entities using the taxonomy who have shared their filter on the site. Using these filters also gives your organization a starting point for the Taxonomy, rather than needing to pour over the 9,500 + terms to decide which your helpline wishes to employ. Applying these filters in iCarol was previously possible, but required help from our support team. Now we’ve put the control directly into your hands.
This tool to import a custom Taxonomy filter, available to Admin users only, can be used by taking the following steps:
- Download your custom filter from the 211taxonomy.org website. The file will be a .xml file.
- In iCarol, click Resources > Manage Resources > Customize the taxonomy
- Scroll to the bottom of the page to the “Admins only – Import a custom taxonomy filter” section (non-admins will not see this)
- Click Browse and select the XML 211Taxonomy file
- Click “Delete all existing taxonomy customizations in my iCarol system and import this new filter”
- You will receive an email notification when the new customization has been uploaded and applied to your system.
Please note that by using this tool, all existing taxonomy customizations in your iCarol system will first be deleted. Proceed with extreme caution and be absolutely certain you wish to proceed before going through the import process.
If you use the ability to send Referrals via SMS (Text message) on your Call Report Forms, we have an exciting new capability to share with you. You can now customize the template used when sending these referrals via SMS message.
There is a default SMS Referral Template which sends information via text message in the following formats:
Agency Name; Agency Phone Number (first found custom-phone or all named phones); Loc: Agency Address Line 1, Agency Address Line 2, Agency Town/District, Agency City, Agency State/Province, Agency Zip/Postal Code
E.g. Elmdale Food Bank; 805-333-3333; Loc: 225 Simi Village Drive, Unit 2, Simi Valley, CA, 93065
Program Name; (first found custom-phone or all named phones); Loc: Program Address Line 1, Program Address Line 2, Program Town/District, Program City, Program State/Province, Program Zip/Postal Code
E.g. Food Hamper; 805-333-3333; Loc: 225 Simi Village Drive, Unit 2, Simi Valley, CA, 93065
There are two ways that phone numbers will be added to your default SMS Template:
- If Custom-named phones fields have been used on the Agency or Program record the first Phone Number found will be included in the SMS Referral, all other custom-named phones or named phone numbers will be omitted. (e.g. If you use the 3rd and 4th phone number fields, only the 3rd phone number will be included in the SMS Referral.)
- If you use the Agency Phone Numbers (named phone numbers) all of these numbers will be included in the SMS Referral in the order Fax Number, Toll Free, TTY, After Hours, Business Line, Hotline, Out of Area. (e.g. 403-215-5454 403-5487-2485 800-5428, etc.)
This is how such referrals by SMS may look as you prepare your report form. Note that the default SMS Referral template does not include labels or descriptions for included phone numbers.
So, how do you go about customizing the appearance of these SMS messages?
Creating a Customized SMS Referral Template
To modify your custom SMS Referral Template, contact iCarol Support by submitting a case through your Help menu. In your request include the following:
- The name of the Call Report(s) you would like the custom SMS Referral Template to be used for
- The Resource record fields you would like to include in your template for Agency and Program referrals.
- Any labels for those fields (or groups of fields, such as “address:” or “Loc:”).
- Provide separate details for what you would like SMS referrals to look like for Agency and Program records, iCarol Support will then work to incorporate all of your requests into one Template.
Here is an example of what SMS Referral Template could look like, at this time we are only able to include fields located on Agency or Program records, any values located on your ProgramAtSite or Sites won’t be available for your template.
AgencyName; Short Description; Hotline: Hotline, TollFree: Tollfree, Main: BusinessLine; Loc: Address Line 1, Address Line 2, City, County, Zip Code
ProgramName offered by AgencyName; Short Description; Hotline: Hotline, TollFree: Tollfree, Main: BusinessLine; Loc: Address Line 1, Address Line 2, City, County, Zip Code
(Note in the Starter Template Examples, labels will be italicized to help identify them – these labels will not appear in your SMS Referral Template if values do not exist in the field. e.g. Only a handful of your Program records have Toll Free Numbers, but when the toll free number exists it’s important that it is sent to the caller.)
If your organization wishes to use this feature, or if you have any additional questions on how to use it, please send a request via the Online Case Submission Tool, found in your Help menu, for support. Not sending out referrals by SMS message? Contact our team today to get started.
Time is running out and available space is filling up fast! If you haven’t already, please be sure to register for our Quarterly Enhancement Review scheduled for September 30th at 1pm EDT.
In this fast-paced webinar, with time for questions, we’ll be discussing:
- New features recently released
- How these changes help you find ways to streamline your day
- How these changes can expand your service offerings in your helpline
The 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’re committed to providing excellent communication about iCarol capabilities, updates, and enhancements on a regular basis. We hope you’ll join us!
Click here to Register
Interested, but can’t make it on the 30th? No worries, we’ll have the recording available on our website shortly after the live broadcast.
We recently enhanced the “Follow-up Activity” section of call report forms to allow for scheduling several follow-ups at the time that the original form is being filled out. Previously you could add just one initial follow-up activity when first filling out a new call form. Scheduling additional follow-ups was possible, but it required that you first submit and then view or edit the report form before adding additional activities. These additional steps are now unnecessary.
Here’s how this capability works:
1. If you’re only scheduling one follow-up for the client, do what you have always done, which is to fill out your reporting form, fill out the Follow-up Activity information on the ‘Finish’ tab of the form, and then Submit the form.
Important Note: If you only want to add one follow-up activity, follow the steps above as written. You DO NOT need to click the “Add New Follow Up” button. If you do, then enter the follow-up details again, two follow-up activities will be created. The Add New Follow Up button is only to be used if you want to add more than one follow-up activity at a time.
2. If you know at the time the initial report form is being created that this client should receive not one, but several follow-ups, you can schedule several follow-ups at this time, before submitting the form. After scheduling the first follow-up, click the Add New Follow Up button to save this follow-up and create an additional follow-up.
3. Once the first follow-up has been scheduled, you’ll see it listed under the Scheduled Follow-ups area. Then, your follow-up activity will be clear once again and you can now schedule an additional follow-up. Once the information is complete, click the Add New Follow Up button as you did before to add this second follow up.
4. You can follow steps 2 and 3 as many times as needed to scheduled a series of follow-ups for this client, before clicking the Submit button once finished. If at any point you make a mistake when filling out follow-up details, the Clear Follow Up button can be used to clear all details entered.
You’ll still be able to add additional follow-up activities in both View or Edit mode of report forms just as you always could, but these new capabilities allow for a more efficient process if you’d like to schedule several follow-ups right from that first, newly created form.
There are many scenarios in which you may know during the first interaction that a help-seeker will want or need several follow-ups. One example is shown in our screenshots above, where a caller presenting with thoughts of suicide may need several follow-ups to stay in touch and help them maintain a safety plan. In fact, many authorities on suicide prevention best practices suggest that ongoing follow-ups from crisis contact centers are an important part of successfully seeing someone safely through a period of intense suicide ideation.
Other examples of multiple follow-up planning during the initial interaction could be planning out a series of surveys with a caller, or a series of follow-ups to follow their progression through an application process or other ongoing activity.
By being able to set out and schedule these follow-ups all at once when completing the initial form documentation, your staff and volunteers will save some additional steps and clicks, which saves time and more quickly gets them back and available for the next call, chat, or text.
September is considered the peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic, but disaster can strike all year ’round and in all regions. Earthquakes, wildfires, blizzards, tornados, floods, super storms – all areas have seen their share of destructive events.
Non-profit helplines play a large role in any community’s disaster plan. Local governments often partner with these helplines and advertise their contact information during disasters as a place to contact for non-emergency information and referral. Information about shelters, emergency food or water drops, road closures, and shelter-in-place tips, are just a few examples of the information that these helplines can relay to the public in a local emergency.
The availability of such services in times of disaster is crucial – they serve as a way for residents to get much needed information and listening support, while also reducing the burden on local government and diverting non-emergency calls away from 9-1-1.
Providing this service presents unique challenges to helpline staff, but iCarol offers a number of solutions to reduce the stress of being there for your community during emergencies.
Benefit from Partnerships
During a disaster helplines in a region often need to work together to coordinate response. Some disasters may force one or more local helplines to close entirely, or at a minimum a helpline may be short staffed. Using iCarol you can easily share responsibility for managing call/text/chat volume and resource maintenance by using our collaborative options.
We’ve discussed in previous posts how you can build chat or text networks using iCarol, and such a collaboration would come in extra handy if your center needs to shut down or simply offload some traffic during a disaster. And most phone systems allow for the easy transfer or forwarding of calls.
With Call Report sharing capabilities, forms used by one center can be set up for use by another helpline in the event calls, texts, or chats are being routed elsewhere. By setting up these shared forms, the original call center can be certain that the center answering calls is filling out all the necessary information and collecting the essential data as if the call was being handled by the original center. You’ll still be able to review the forms and collect statistics on those calls handled by your partner.
Collaboration is not just limited to call reporting forms, however. Helplines can also share a database of community referrals and resources with other helplines so that in the event of an emergency, these helplines can access resources not just in their own community, but elsewhere in the region. Further, helplines can partner together to not only access this database to give referrals to help seeker, but can also share in the responsibility of editing these resources.
Collect Essential Data
In the event of a disaster, helplines will likely have specific data they wish to collect on those disaster-related calls, as well as needing a way to separate those calls, chats, or texts from others that may ring through to the center. It’s also very common for local governmental and other agencies to request this data from the helplines so they can monitor the needs of the community and respond accordingly for this and future events.
The key to collecting data in iCarol is found within the customizable report forms you fill out for each client interaction. Using the robust form editing tools, staff can add necessary questions and other fields for data collection when needed, so as soon as the disaster-related calls come in they are ready to collect the necessary information on the form. Staff can also use this capability to create a simple checkbox where call takers can note that the call was related to the disaster event, which will help identify these calls during statistical reporting later.
When it’s time to report on the helpline’s calls, staff can run various spreadsheets, reports, and charts. Results are available in real-time and can be filtered based on whether or not the call was related to the disaster, making it easy to run reports specific to the event, excluding unrelated calls.
Offer Alternative Channels
Offering alternative channels becomes especially important during a disaster. Phone lines may be down or it may be easier for people in need to text you during these trying times. Plus the mobility of texting means that someone can reach out to you from anywhere, even if they’ve been displaced from their home.
With iCarol you have complete control over when your messaging service is available, so you can very quickly create a shift and open up your channels as needed. You could even have a special portal specifically for disaster that has its own special report form that collects all the necessary information. And remember with Messaging you can offer all the same referrals and run the same statistical reports as you would for phone calls.
Increase Your Bandwidth
An emergency in your community means your volume could increase, so reaching your volunteers and staff is important. Inside iCarol you can promptly send out an email blast or mass text to alert your staff and volunteers of information they need to know, or ask for additional staffing. Quickly adjust your shift calendar to accommodate more open spots and assign your workers to shifts on the fly.
If you’d like to specifically track disaster staffing, consider creating new shifts and naming them accordingly for easy reporting. Analyze the hours worked for use in future planning, or to apply for future grants or compensation that may be offered by local governments and other organizations.
iCarol can be reached from any internet connected device, so you could explore work-from-home options for disaster staffing. You may wish to temporarily turn off any restrictions in place for which computers can access iCarol, or grant certain staff the ability to certify their home computers.
Provide Critical Information and Referral
During any sort of emergency, information could develop rapidly and change throughout the event. As your resource managers receive information from the various community agencies or collect information released by your local government, they can respond quickly. Update resource records accordingly, or create new ones with just a few clicks. Use the iCarol News area to post the most up-to-date information; it’ll be front and center when your volunteers first sign on so they won’t miss the latest updates.
Much like we mentioned earlier with alternative channels, a disaster could mean that even more people are seeking information in alternative ways. Help seekers likely want self-service options to find resources. This is where your Public Resource Directory comes in. Visitors to your website can use an embedded search of your live resource database right on your website to find what they need.
You can even quickly add highlighted resources during a disaster event to point your visitors right to the information and resources they need. You can also set up advanced, guided searches that are both visually appealing and direct your community to the right resources
Our API is another option for referral sharing, giving you and your developers access to your resource data so it can be used in whatever ways you see fit, such as creating a home built web directory, mobile apps, and more.
Providing assistance to your community during a disaster is a lot of work, but having so many time-saving tools integrated in your helpline software will take some of the stress out of the event, and your seamless response will prove that your helpline is an invaluable resource in your community. And even if your center doesn’t use iCarol, I hope this blog has sparked some ideas for how your helpline can plan ahead and more easily provide services when your community needs it most.
We recently added a new feature to iCarol that allows users to set their preferred language on the Volunteer and Staff member profile. This Preferred Language setting controls how date and currency values are displayed throughout iCarol. Previously this was typically controlled by your web browser language settings, however our new Preferred Language Settings within iCarol allow for more control and consistency while using our application.
There are three primary options including:
- Date: MM/DD/YYYY (eg. 4/12/2015 = April 12, 2015)
- Currency: periods (eg. $299.00)
- Date: DD/MM/YYYY (eg. 12/4/2015 = April 12, 2015)
- Currency: periods (eg. $299.00)
English (Great Britain)
- Date: DD/MM/YYYY (eg. 12/4/2015 = April 12, 2015)
- Currency: commas (eg. £299,00)
For our clients elsewhere in Europe, Asia, and Australia, you are welcome to choose whichever format above aligns best with your business practices.
Volunteers and Staff can change their Preferred Language Setting. The preferred language can be changed directly by the User, or by an Administrator. To make these changes, take the following steps:
Note: By default all new users are created with English US as their preferred language.
1. Log into iCarol
2. Click on “Vols – Staff” from the left menu
3. Navigate to the User profile to update, click on the users “First Name”
4. Click on “Edit” on the User Profile
5. Navigate to the “Profile” tab
6. Update the “Preferred Language” setting
7. Click “Save”
Admins can change the system setting for Regional Formatting for Exports. Exported information from iCarol requires a system default for how to format data in exports. Here’s how you set those controls:
1. Log into iCarol as an Admin
2. Click on Admin Tools
3. Click on the Setup tab
4. Navigate to the Regional Formatting for Exports section
5. Change your preferred language to receive data exports in
6. Click “Save all settings”
NOTE: The system setting for Regional Formatting for Exports does not affect the default that users are created in, all new user will default to English US (as it’s the first in the list).
Now you can begin choosing what date and currency formats your users will see when using iCarol, as well as how those formats will appear in Exports. If you have any further questions about this, please contact our support team.
Peanut butter and jelly. Chocolate and caramel. Peas and carrots. Some things just go well together!
We love it when we can make features in iCarol work well together, too. Take Automated Resource Verification and the Public Resource Directory as an example. By themselves they each have a specific and valuable role to play with your referral management. And these two features are now working together in new and exciting ways!
As you’re already aware, help seekers like having self-service options, like searching online for resources. Having a Public Resource Directory (PRD) means you can embed a live search of your iCarol resource database right on your website for easy access by the public. And of course there’s lots of flexibility and control over what is seen by the public and what isn’t.
But help seekers aren’t the only ones using your PRD. Staff at your local community organizations are likely going online to check out your resource directory to see what you have listed. If they see something that’s incorrect or needs an update, they could call or email you. If you use Automated Verification, you could then send them a verification request that lets them quickly and easily see what you have on record, make suggested updates, and send that back to you so you can review and update records with the click of a button.
But let’s see if we can simplify that process even further: Now, when you have both the Automated Verification and the Public Resource Directory features enabled in your iCarol system, you have access to an advanced feature that allows Resource record verifiers to initiate a new verification request directly from their Resource records in the PRD.
On your PRD, for resource records that include an email address in one of the available email fields of the record, the public will see a disclaimer on the details page of the Resource record that asks:
The public user has to fill out the security captcha, then click the button below, and this tells iCarol to send the verification request using the template and settings you’ve specified (See below for more on that). The request will be sent to the email specified on the resource, requesting a review. And if a record does not have an email then the disclaimer, captcha, and email button will not appear at all for that record, so verification Requests cannot be initiated.
When someone in the public initiates that verification request on your PRD, your staff with the “Resource verification requests from service providers” setting enabled on the Notification tab of their profile will receive an email.
And the resource verifier, depending on the email on record and the saved Automated Verification settings, will receive an email with their unique verification link.
So, how do you get this to work for you? Well first, you must subscribe to both Automated Verification and the Public Resource Directory. If you want to start subscribing or just want to learn more about these features, please contact our support team. Not using iCarol yet? Please contact us for a demo and free trial!
If you already subscribe to both of these features, setting up this advanced tool is a snap. Just take the following steps:
1. On the PRD settings page, make sure that the highlighted setting below is checked, and click the Save button.
2. In your Automated Verification settings, create a new email template that will be used for these PRD initiated requests, and check the box for “Use this template to email users on the Public Resource Directory when one of their saved records is updated” before saving the template.
3. Choose the Automated Verification settings you’d like to apply to all the PRD initiated requests by either finding an existing Automated Verification Request where suitable settings were chosen, or create a new request and set it up how you’d like all PRD initiated requests to be set.
4. Use the ‘Saved Settings’ tool to save these settings for PRD initiated requests. Make sure you check the highlighted setting before clicking the ‘Save’ button.
Once you’ve taken these steps, you are all set up! Now if someone visits your PRD and notices that their resource record is due for an update or needs a correction, they can easily initiate the request and receive the link to update their records. Not using the PRD or Automated Verification yet? Or maybe you’re using one, but not the other? Contact us today to get both of these features working together to boost your referral service!