Posted January 6, 2011 by stokeadmin
Last week, Terry got a bombshell letter from the unemployment office. She learned her unemployment benefits will expire for good before New Year’s Day. Do you know someone like Terry?
For millions of “99ers” losing their unemployment benefits after nearly two years, no new extended benefits are coming their way. Although this issue has received little local media coverage, state officials are wracking their brains, anticipating a coming tidal wave. As public coffers shrink, agencies are looking to community-based nonprofit agencies to help cushion the blow.
Right now, Community Voice Mail is mounting a response. To learn more you can read our project proposal.
Will you help us? If you are able, I hope you will. Please be as generous as you can so we can be there for our friends and neighbors who need us.
Thank you for caring, and for showing you care.
P.S. Community Voice Mail works. Click to hear how.
Community Voice Mail a Finalist for Collaboration Prize
Posted January 5, 2011 by stokeadmin
Great news! The Community Voice Mail National Office has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2011 Collaboration Prize, created by The Lodestar Foundation to recognize successful collaborations between nonprofit organizations.
The 20 semifinalists were chosen from over 800 submissions. The collaboration must involve two or more nonprofit organizations. Each collaboration will be judged on the extent to which it demonstrates improved effectiveness in achieving social good; more effectively uses human and financial resources; represents an innovative response to a specific challenge or opportunity; and exhibits characteristics that would demonstrate that the collaboration is a model for the field, sector, or community.
Out of these 20 semifinalists, the Selection Panel – a group chaired by Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and comprised of philanthropists and leaders of major philanthropic foundations – will choose eight finalists who will receive $12,500 and the grand prize winner, to be chosen from among the eight, will receive an additional $150,000. The finalists will be announced in early February 2011 and the grand prize winner will be announced in April 2011.
In announcing the semi-finalists, here’s what the Lodestar chairman had to say:
“The pool of applicants for the 2011 Prize exceeded our expectations and provided an array of impressive and innovative collaborations from which to choose,” said Jerry Hirsch, The Lodestar Foundation Chairman. “The semifinalists, who successfully leveraged human and financial resources to achieve greater impact, will now serve as models of collaboration for others in the nonprofit sector – showcasing how working together can bring about extraordinary results.”
We’re really excited about this, and honored to have been chosen as a semi-finalist. It is a tribute to the good work that our 43 program partners and 2,000 agency partners are doing every day around the U.S. (and in Vancouver, Canada). If you’d like to talk with someone here at the CVM National Office about the Collaboration Prize, please email Andrea John-Smith at email@example.com or call us in Seattle at (206)441-7872. You can read our press release about this here.
Photo: Collaboration Prize (www.thecollaborationprize.org)
Our 2009 Annual Report
Posted August 11, 2010 by stokeadmin
Community Voice Mail has become a trusted voice for isolated people who are in need of timely, helpful and encouraging information. Together with our local partners, we inspire our clients to persist and rebuild. In turn, they inspire us with their strength and gratitude.
The Community Voice Mail 2009 Annual Report has just been released. Entitled “Communication Matters,” it’s a nice snapshot of what we (our sites, our agencies, our clients) accomplished last year. Take a look!
And if you like what you see and want to do more, you can
But most importantly, the next time you see or meet someone experiencing homelessness, stop and talk to them. And ask them if they have a reliable phone number to stay connected.
Community Voice Mail and Google’s Project CARE (redux)
Posted February 9, 2010 by stokeadmin
From time to time, Google provides free voice mail numbers to homeless people at events in San Francisco or most recently, Washington, DC. Google is such a large animal that whenever they do anything, everyone writes about it. And when they do something to help the homeless with voice mail, we get asked questions.
This happened again this week on one of the NTEN groups, and we posted the following response today to someone asking about Google’s Project CARE and Community Voice Mail:
Hi Joe. Steve from the Community Voice Mail (CVM) National Office here. In our experience, there’s not a lot that is “easy” about providing voice mail services to anyone; any time you deal with phone companies *and* a lot of computer technology, there are…ahem, issues. After offering voice mail services all over the country to homeless and low-income people since 1993, we’ve learned a lot about this however. Just giving someone a phone number is great, but it’s only a small part of the value. The bigger part is what you do with it, how you take advantage of the ability to reach people directly, and what the overall service is connected to.
For the past few years, we’ve been concentrating on sending broadcast voice messages to our 40,000 clients around the country. We have local people on the ground in 45 U.S. cities (and one in Canada that’s poised to launch!) who distribute phone numbers to social service agencies, who in turn give them to those clients who don’t have a reliable way to be reached. These managers, being part of the local community, learn about resources that homeless and low-income people need (jobs, housing, health care, training, benefits, etc.), and record voice messages that are delivered to every client in their area. Nationally, we work with entities like the Centers for Disease Control and AIDS.gov to send messages to all our clients about H1N1 flu, food product recalls, HIV testing resources and other things. Last year, we sent about 2,200 of these message to our clients, creating what we feel is a direct, highly effective communication resource for this usually hard-to-reach population. Clients can also reply to these messages, and we use this feature to gather data, solicit feedback and comments, and learn more about what kind of information our clients want to hear. It’s amazing to listen to messages from people all over the country who may be homeless or in crisis; every day, we’re astounded by their strength and determination to make a better life for themselves. It’s awe-inspiring stuff…
None of this connectivity and information richness would be possible without having local managers in each community, and the network of social service agencies that are providing the voice mail boxes to their clients. We know from years of doing this that if you don’t sit down with someone and walk them through the enrollment process (literally, by handing them the phone and telling them when to record their greeting, enter their password, etc.), it’s not likely that the voice mail box will ever be used. Our local managers support the agencies that give out boxes by providing them with training and other resources. They also provide them with monthly reports showing which of their clients have (or have not) used their boxes in the past month, and this becomes a tool they can use with their clients (“Hey, I left you two messages about job opportunities, and you haven’t checked your voice mail in three weeks. What’s going on?”). The agencies give us demographic data about each client so we know who we’re serving, and they also track goals and outcomes, so we know if we’re being effective. Without this network of 2,000 social service agencies around the country, and the information they give about the people using our service, we’d never have any idea how effective we’re being. The system is not without its problems, but it works pretty well.
We’re really glad that Google is providing some phone numbers to people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco and recently in D.C. People in this life situation need as many resources as they can, and a phone number is a great thing to have. We’ve kind of moved beyond this, however, and have created a system that we believe does more to meet the specific needs of the people and agencies we’re trying to support. We wish we had the resources that Google has to do this on a huge scale (and we’ve talked with Google about this in the past), but for now, we’ll keep improving and offering new things that have value.
Sorry for the long post! Google is such a huge entity that when they do anything, everyone in the world reports it, and I thought it would be worth while to talk in more depth about what we’re doing.
Steve (Community Voice Mail)
Keep the Messages Flowing in D.C.
Posted September 29, 2009 by stokeadmin
Street Sense is a street newspaper in Washington, D.C. that raises public awareness about homelessness and poverty in the city, and creates economic opportunities for people experiencing homelessness. Last week, they published a nice article about the D.C. Community Voice Mail (CVM) program, describing how one client used the service (and his personal will) to land a job and gain some financial independence. We love articles like this, because it shows what we know to be true; homeless people and/or those who can’t afford a phone number lose out on opportunities to live a better life, and CVM is a simple, low-cost solution to this problem.
But, CVM doesn’t happen by magic, and it doesn’t happen without support. And this article points out the hard truth; our D.C. program is in danger of closing due to funding cuts for social services in D.C.. For want of $40,000 and an agency to host the program, hundreds of homeless and low-income people in D.C. may no longer have a phone number to put on job applications.
So, times are tough all over, and every agency providing services to people living in poverty (including the surging numbers of newly homeless) is looking for ways to maintain services in the face of reduced funding. We’re not whining. We just want to find the right group of people who want to keep CVM available to the thousands of homeless and “phoneless” people in D.C.. We’re not talking about millions of dollars and big infrastructure; we’re only talking about $40,000 a year to pay for a part-time person in D.C. who will distribute phone numbers to the 35 existing agencies (and find new ones), send broadcast voice and email messages about about jobs and other resources to clients using the system, and innovate locally by finding new uses for CVM. It’s a plug-and-play program that scales, with great support from a National Office here in Seattle and 44 other programs around the country. Clients need it. Agencies benefit from their clients having a reliable phone number (so they can reach them. Duh.). Communities benefit from homeless or at-risk people getting back on their feet and contributing again.
Can you think of another program to help homeless people that achieves so much for such a small investment? $40,000? In a city the size of D.C.?
If you’d like to talk about ways to keep CVM in D.C., and make it an even stronger resource for the homeless and the people serving them, contact us.