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Posts Tagged ‘online emotional support’

Pride Month Spotlight: QLife


In honor of Pride Month we asked LGBTQI organizations to tell us more about themselves, their work, and what they saw as the highlights in the LGTBQI community and their organization this past year. Check out answers to these questions and more from Ross Jacobs, National Clinical Director of QLife, based in Australia.

Tell us a little about what your organization does, and how specifically you help the LGBTQI community.

QLife is a collaborative project, bringing together five separate agencies to provide telephone and web-based counselling for LGBTI Australians, coast to coast. We operate 365 days a year, with a small team of paid counsellors and workers supporting the efforts of nearly 200 volunteers.

What were your organization’s biggest accomplishments or milestones from the past year? What are you most proud of?

This year, QLife continued to grow, having only existed as a nation-wide collaborative project since mid-2013. (Previously, each partner service provided counselling to only their home state.) Webchat has been a significant part of this service growth, both offering clients a different way to interact, and reaching young clients for whom web chat is a far more comfortable platform than telephone contact.

What were some of the biggest or most impactful stories or moments you saw as they related to the LGBTQI community this past year? They could be happy, sad, momentous, regional, national, or international. What did you observe that really moved you?

One of the most rewarding pieces of work that QLife engaged in this year (beyond our counselling service of course!) was making ‘QLives’, a series of 16 short films featuring the lived experience of LGBTI people in all of our varied shapes and sizes. The QLives films featured heavily on the QLife Facebook page, and can be accessed at any time through our YouTube channel. It seemed to be really effective way to draw in people who may not have known about QLife to the service. We hope that watching stories from the lives of people who have similar life experiences can help people start to think about talking to someone and how this may be able to help them.

When you look to the year ahead, on what topics or issues are you hopeful/anxious/or watching closely to see how they develop?

As is the case in the US, Australia is still going through a process of dragging our political leaders across the marriage equality line that it feels like the public became comfortable with long ago. Beyond this, the mental health of our individual communities, including suicide prevention measures and access to appropriate and suitable medical care, remains an ongoing struggle.

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges still facing the LGBTQI community as a whole, or certain populations within the community?

The way LGBTIQ people are regarded, whether part of the fabric of a wider society or quite separate from it is at the heart of many of our challenges. But happily, the growing awareness, particularly in younger generations, that the individual lives of LGBTIQ people matter and are to be valued is relentlessly increasing. The way we think of ourselves as LGBTIQ people seems to be evolving too. It feels like traditional ideas of a single LGBTIQ community are being challenged, with an understanding that we are actually made up of many different communities that have different needs and interests, even among single identities – there are many distinct ‘types’ of gay men and how people choose to express this, for instance.

Thanks so much to Ross for telling us more about QLife and sharing these thoughts for Pride Month! iCarol is very pleased to be working with QLife as they provide these awesome services to Australia’s LGBTI community. QLife is always happy to talk to others doing similar work across the world, and they’d love to hear from you, via social media (they are on Twitter or Facebook) or by direct email to ! We also encourage our clients to reach out to one another to network or share information via our iCarol User Community found on your Admin Dashboard in iCarol.

Want to have your input and organization highlighted on the blog for Pride Month? Send your answers to the above questions to me !

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Setting up your Opt-out SMS messages

As we’ve discussed in our recent webinar and white paper, an important aspect of staying compliant when texting is to ask permission of the help seeker, and to put in a STOP message to enable texters to opt-out of text conversations. As a result, all U.S.-based organizations should have their first, outbound text message configured similar to the one below:

“[Name and location of organization] Welcome! Do you give your consent to text you? Reply yes to continue, STOP to cancel. Message & data rates may apply.”

We’ve made it easy for you to set it up in iCarol. Here’s how:

1. Select ‘Messaging’ on the Left Hand Menu Messaging left menu

2. Click on the SMS/Texting link on the upper right hand side of the screen SMS Settings

3. Look for “Settings for SMS”. There will be a new pull-down menu for your portals. It will automatically be set for “default”. Select the portal for which you wish to configure the message. If you only have one, there should only be one named choice in the pull-down list. Settings for SMS

4. Your first, automated message to the texter can be configured in a new field, labeled “SMS Initial Message.” Initial Message

5. Once you’ve configured the message, click the Save Settings button at the bottom of the screen.

Don’t forget that SMS messages have a maximum of 140 characters in the U.S.! Many organizations use abbreviations for some of the wording. You may have to play with your initial message configuration to get it under the character limit.

Note that future updates to the iCarol system will include making the Initial message field a required one for U.S.-based organizations. This will help ensure you don’t forget to configure the message.

For any questions on the configuration options, please contact Support via the Help Page within iCarol.

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Text enable your helpline number

text enable 10 digit number helpline short code long code

So you’ve decided to add Texting to your Helpline’s service. Great! But how do you go about picking a number for people to reach you via text? And how will you advertise this new channel?

When you offer your services via Texting with iCarol, you can choose between a 10 digit number, or a short code. Either is allowed by the regulatory entities, so the choice is up to you. But what if we told you that you may already have the perfect number?

For helplines in the US and Canada it’s highly likely that you can text enable your existing 10 digit or 1-800 helpline number. That means that rather than adding on a new number, you can accept texts on the number where you already accept calls. We have several clients doing this already with much success. There are many benefits to going this route.

  • Parallel your advertising – When the number is the same for texting or calling, it’s easy to align your marketing efforts, saving you time and money.

  • Simplicity in messaging – Think of how clear your ad or website will look with a message like “Text or Call us at 1-800-555-HELP” rather than giving out two separate numbers. Cut through the confusion — there’s just one number to remember for either mode of communication.

  • Reach more people – Your helpline number is already well known to your community. Offering the ability to text this same number could increase the likelihood of people remembering it and using it, which can result in greater traffic to your texting service.

  • Your phone service is unaffected – Keep your voice service exactly as is with your current phone provider — enabling texting on this number won’t change your original voice channel.

  • People may already be texting you – That’s right — we’ve had clients text enable their helpline number to find that when texting is turned on, before any advertising of the text service happens, that people are already sending texts. Texting is such a common and accepted mode of communication these days that many people assume they can call OR text you on the same number.

There is a process to go through to set up your existing helpline number to also accept texts, but we’d be happy to help you through the steps. today to get started!

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Join the Dialogue on Texting!

teen texting permission rules compliance law

We held a webinar on May 12th on the subject of compliance in texting for non-profits, with telecommunications attorney Martha Buyer and Neil McKechnie, iCarol co-founder. There’s an incredibly complex set of rules and guidelines both from the government and the telecommunications industry to negotiate in the U.S. Our attendees asked a number of great questions during the webinar, which we’d like to address in this blog. And if you missed the presentation, you’re welcome to check it out at your convenience by watching the recording.

We’ll start with the one question that was arguably the hottest during the webinar:

“Who can grant permission to text?”

Many of you either operate a texting line for teens, or are planning to do so. As we learned in the webinar, asking permission to text is the right thing to do, and permission should be granted from the person who owns the phone contract. However, permissions can be a grey area as most teens do not own their phone contract. And you could lose trust with teens if you request permission from the parent or guardian.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Are there questions that you have? We’d like to hear from you! Leave us a comment below, and let’s get the conversation started.

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Texting for Non-profits Webinar recording

Smart Phone  with two thumbs

Thank you to all who attended our recent webinar “Texting for Non-Profits: Compliance in a Complex World” on May 12. Special thanks to our fabulous guest, attorney Martha Buyer, for all her knowledge and guidance on the unique challenges that regulations present to non-profit helplines. Also thanks to Neil McKechnie for joining Martha as our panelist and for helping to explain how iCarol can be used to accept these texts from help seekers in your community, with some examples of tools that help with compliance.

Did you miss our webinar? Do you want to hear the answers to these questions and more?

“What’s P2P and A2P? What are the differences between them?”
“What are ‘short codes?'”
“If someone texts in to your service, isn’t that implied consent?”
“Are there any rules that require you to use ‘short codes’ vs. ‘long codes’?”
“How big are the penalties for not complying with regulations?”

You can also join the conversation about some of the hot topics that came up. If you missed our webinar, no need to worry. You can watch the recording at your convenience.

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iCarol Presents Texting for Non-Profits: Compliance in a Complex World

Smart Phone  with one finger

In a 2015 “Week in the Life Analysis” by the Pew Research Center, 97% of smartphone users used text messaging at least once. While 100% of younger users aged 18 – 29 texted, a surprising 92% of users 50 and older texted also.

Given those statistics, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of help seekers wish to use texting to connect with helpline services. That’s precisely why we built messaging capabilities into iCarol several years ago; so that you could meet your clients on their preferred methods of communication while using the same familiar and intuitive tools that you use to run your phone service.

But, industry rules can be complex, and they’re continually evolving to protect consumers. Even non-profit organizations must be careful to adhere to these regulations.

Webinars w gray

To help you, Neil McKechnie, iCarol’s CEO and co-founder has partnered with Martha Buyer, an attorney specializing in telecommunications law, to bring you the latest guidance in texting best practices and compliance.

Join us on Tuesday May 12th at 2pm EDT for a focused, one-hour webinar with Martha and Neil on the key legal questions facing helplines today when deploying texting. We’ll also leave some time for questions from our audience.

You will learn:

  • The magnitude of the risk to organizations if they do not adhere to regulations
  • Why asking permission to text is so critical, and who can give permission
  • How to handle “opt-out” requests
  • What long codes and short codes are, and whether there are laws restricting what each can do
  • What the industry means by A2P vs. P2P, and how telemarketing laws affect texting
  • How follow up texts can used while adhering to regulations
  • Which regulations apply if a non-profit outsources its texting activity to a for-profit firm

By joining our webinar, you’ll also receive a copy of iCarol’s latest white paper, Texting Regulations and iCarol.

Register now

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AAS Conference Recap

Last week Neil and Rachel attended the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) conference in Atlanta, GA. As always, it was fun seeing familiar faces and catching up with friends and clients in the suicide prevention industry.

Atlanta is a nice place for a conference; we enjoyed our trip there for the AIRS conference last year, and it was great to visit again for AAS. The Hyatt Regency where the conference was held proved to have a nice layout that allowed for good flow of traffic, convenient access between guest rooms, session areas and the exhibitor’s hall. We took part in some really fun and interesting “hallway conversations” with key people attending the conference.

The evenings provided a great opportunity for funders, call centers, and vendors alike to mix and mingle and share neat ideas. Here’s some of us (Neil in the upper left) out for dinner the first night.


Another fun jaunt led us to this beautiful view of Atlanta’s SkyView Ferris Wheel as seen from a nearby hotel.

Atlanta Skyview Ferris Wheel

It was also great to tour Behavioral Health Link located across the street from the conference location. That tour was extremely well attended and informative. BHL runs a clearly professional crisis center that ensures the clients are not only well referred, but also that the service providers to whom the clients are referred get accurate and timely service. Really impressive.

We enjoyed Lifeline’s session where they shared that their network has answered over 7 million calls in their 10 years. Coincidentally, this network launched the same day as iCarol: January 1, 2005. They also highlighted the success of Lifeline Crisis Chat, an important channel to reach people where they are at and provide help and counseling to them. They shared that they’re seeing more youth on their chat sessions than they see on phone calls; about 40% are under 25. Another reminder that there are groups that simply prefer to reach services online these days, and it’s important to be available to those folks. It’s a network that iCarol is honored to be working with and it was great to hear about the successes first hand.

We learned about an upcoming conference opportunity for suicide prevention professionals – The Midwest Regional Suicide Prevention Conference will be held July 22-23, 2015 with a pre-conference training day on July 21st at the Kansas City Airport Marriott. This conference is being organized by suicide prevention partners in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri and will feature some key experts in the field. Check out their website for more information.

AAS put on a really great conference this year. 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, contact us on our website or join an upcoming webinar to learn more about us and our features.

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Collaborative Messaging: Build Networks, Connect with other Helplines

Collaborating w partnersOne key feature of iCarol is the ability to link and share service delivery with other helplines in a variety of ways. Historically a common partnership scenario involves call centers who pass some or all of their calls to other iCarol-using centers either as after-hours contracts, or on an as-needed basis for overflow. iCarol accommodates these partnerships with call report sharing capabilities. Much the same with resources, centers can share resource databases with others who may be taking their calls, or to better service the needs of help-seekers with a wider range of potential services to refer them to, or through setting up provincial and state-wide resource databases to be accessed by a network of helplines who can all take part in maintaining these resources, thus reducing burden to each individual center.

These same principles of sharing volume to benefit centers and clients alike also extends to iCarol Messaging, and in recent month’s we’ve made improvements in this arena.

As an example, one nationwide network using iCarol was using a sort of round-robin approach in how to route chats to the centers who were members of that network. Visitors would arrive to the website and click through to chat, and from there they’d be routed to one of the centers based on the schedule, and the coverage area of the center. Once they were properly routed, they’d arrive at that center’s registration page and after completing registration they’d appear in just that center’s messaging queue.

There are some challenges to this approach, namely:

  • The routing system didn’t take counselor availability into account so chats may be routed but the destination center may be overwhelmed with other work and short on counselors to take chats
  • The visitor was visible just in the iCarol system to which they were routed
  • Registration pages may have a different look and feel, depending on the center to which the visitor was sent
  • Lack of control over the data being collected by individual centers
  • Statistics could not be run in real-time; they had to be aggregated first

chat networks sharingOur developers have been working on a new approach for this network, and they’re currently using it to much success during the pilot period. So, how does the approach work now? The network is using a single shared “portal” made available to the participating centers in their iCarol systems, rather than routing the chats as it did before. This means:

  • Standardized registration pages make for a more consistent look and feel, and better branding for the network
  • Pre-written messages, reporting forms, and data collection are standardized
  • The network system directly hosts and controls their own data, so they get better reporting capabilities
  • Chats are visible to any center serving the visitor’s area, meaning better load balancing and shorter wait times for visitors, fewer abandoned chats
  • Chats are clearly marked as being from the network, but appear in the same queue as the center’s other local chats for ease of use

We’re excited to say that this pilot period has gone very well and the network is enjoying the benefits of the shared portal technology.

We’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your network whether it’s provincial/statewide, or national, to see how this functionality could improve and streamline your messaging services and benefit all your participating centers and visitors alike. Current iCarol users, please open a case with us, or if you’re not using iCarol yet please contact us to learn more!

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48th Annual AAS Conference is next week

AAS SuicidologyNext week members of our team will head to Atlanta for the 48th American Association of Suicidology Conference.

We really look forward to this event each year as it’s an opportunity to reconnect with so many of our friends and clients who work in the suicide prevention industry, and it’s a great chance to meet new friends as well. We’ll have a booth at the conference and you’ll see us at many of the events and sessions, too.

Please look us up at the conference, or send us a note beforehand so we can set up a time to connect with you. The conference is a great time to talk about iCarol’s all-in-one helpline software solution. And remember, it’s not always about the calls. In fact, these days your helpline needs to be using integrated channels to reach help-seekers who don’t use the phone, like offering live chat through your website, or being able to accept text messages from your community. You can use iCarol to field those interactions, too. We can’t wait to see you in Atlanta so we can talk more about how iCarol can streamline all these channels for you, while simultaneously bringing many of your other administrative tasks under one roof.

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We never talk anymore: The preference to text instead of talk

An interesting take on the preference for texting over talking can be found in this article by Bizzuka.

Some key points to take away:

  • Smartphone owners aged 18-24 send and receive 4,000 messages per month.

  • 43% of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone.

  • 42% of teens say the primary reason they have a cell phone is for texting. Safety was second at 35%.

These and other statistics about millennials are sourced here.

Millennials aren’t the only ones who text, though. According to Factbrowser, statistics reveal that US smartphone owners who use text (92%) send an average of 111 messages per week, and 49% of those who use social media daily would rather text than call someone.

More evidence that texting is not a fad but rather an often preferred mode of communication that’s here to stay.

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