Carver Model of Policy Governance

Introduction

Nonprofits and registered charities, like other incorporated entities, are required to have a Board of Directors to perform governance and oversight. Boards review the financial situation of the organization, write policies and perform risk management, among other duties.

There are a number of theories on the most effective form of Board Governance. Boards are generally separated into 3 types, with some overlap:

  • Working Board: This is a Board that participates heavily in the day-to-day operations of the organization. This might be the case at a very small or very new organization where a “Steering Committee” who helped build the organization moves into the role of the Board
  • Hybrid Board: This is a Board that performs some operational work (such as writing grants) but ideally spends the majority of their time performing governance and policy tasks
  • Policy (or Governance) Board: A Policy Board or a Governance Board is one that spends no time performing operational duties and strictly works on Governance and Policy

There are pros and cons to each approach, but most large organizations have Policy Boards to ensure that the operational tasks are appropriately handled by the paid staff, while the Board acts as the stewards of the organization. One model of policy governance (arguably the model that popularized policy governance) is nicknamed the Carver Model, after its creator John Carver.

The Policy Governance Model is a registered trademark of John Carver, all rights reserved.

John Carver

John Carver earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics, a Masters in Educational Psychology and a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Emory University in 1968. (Carver, 2006) He has published five books and 13 monographs and authored over 200 journal articles. (Policy Governance Model, 2016)

10 Principles of Policy Governance

The ten principles of policy governance are as follows (BoardWorks, 2005):

  1. The Trust in Trusteeship. This means the Board should be a steward or trustee of the organization – not just financially or for those who have a legal stake in the organization but all stakeholders, including clients or others to whom the Board has a moral responsibility to.
  2. The Board speaks with ‘one voice’ or not at all. A Board should never be fragmented. Reaching a collective decision ensures that the Board will be able to carry out their mission effectively and consistently. A single voice provides true leadership and avoids politics.
  3. Board Decisions should predominantly be policy decisions. Rather than intervening in operational or day-to-day decisions, the Board should restrict itself to making decisions in the form of written policies. The Carver Model actually sets out four types of policies (Carver & Carver, 2001) that the Board should concern themselves with :
    1. Governance Process. These policies set out the actions of the Board like its responsibility to perform visioning and accountability
    2. Board-Staff Linkage. These policies govern the relationship between the Board and the Executive. Examples of these policies include how the staff are monitored by the Board and who is responsible for making what decisions (operational vs governance.)
    3. Executive Limitations. These policies set out what the executive (e.g. the Executive Director or CEO) cannot do. For instance, in some organizations the disposal of real estate may only be with the consent of the Board – this could be codified in an Executive Limitations policy
    4. Ends Policies. Ends Policies set out the goal of the organization – the reason for its existence. This may be codified in a mission or visions statement in addition to an Ends policy.
  4. Boards should formulate policy by determining the broadest values before progressing to the more narrow ones. This means that policies should be developed from the broad (such as a policy statement that sets out the need for evaluation) down to the narrow (the policy surrounding the use of Key Performance Indicators.) The result is that policy flows logically from very large to very small.
  5. A board should define and delegate rather than react and ratify. This principle means that the Board should create policies that delegate tasks to the CEO and then respect the delegation. If situations are covered in existing policies, when something new comes up those policies will kick into effect, rather than the Board writing new policies.
  6. Ends determination is the pivotal duty of governance. The Board should always keep in mind the outcomes of the organization. Their goal should be to monitor outcomes and delegate the achievement of those outcomes to the CEO or Executive Director. The Board should remain strategic.
  7. The board’s best control over staff means is to limit, not prescribe. This means that the Board should indicate (as in principle 3, Executive Limitations) what an Executive is not permitted to do. They should not be telling the Executive what they should do. This subtle difference gives the Executive Director the freedom to achieve the goals set out by the Board.
  8. A board must explicitly design its own products and services. This means the Board should write their own policies rather than merely adopting policy templates that may not be relevant for their specific needs.
  9. A board must forge a linkage with management that is both empowering and safe. The CEO must feel that the Board will honour its commitment to policy governance while the Board has trust in the CEO or Executive’s ability to manage. If this trust breaks down, leadership will falter.
  10. Performance of the CEO must monitored rigorously, but only against policy criteria. Objective measurement criteria for the Executive is important – but this must be measured in relation to the Ends policies.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Policy Governance

Broadbent (1999) in his landmark report, Building on Strength: Improving Governance and Accountability in Canada’s Voluntary Sector (also called the Broadbent Report) reviewed the Carver Model among other elements and identified a number of advantages and disadvantages.

Strengths of the Carver Model include emphasizing the role of the Board as trustees of the organization and highlighting the importance of moral ownership, not just legal ownership. Additionally, the focus on policies and a rejection of operational decision-making avoids micromanagement of the Executive and prevents rubber-stamping of policies or decisions.

Finally, the focus on the “Ends” – the visioning and the measurement of the Executive against those outcomes rather than the methods to achieve them, produces a future-focused Board.

Disadvantages of the Carver Model include a lack of focus on operational priorities. Although the goal of the Board is to help set the strategic priorities, a Carver Board is not involved in the implementation of those policies which can lead to them becoming corrupted.

Additionally, some activities that are performed by working or hybrid boards like fundraising are not performed by a true Carver Board. This means that it may be unsuitable for some small organizations where the Board holds the responsibility for major fundraising in the organization.

Finally, because many decisions are made by the CEO rather than the Board this can lead to weakened information flow and a lack of transparency as decision are made by the CEO out of view of the Board. (Coyne, n.d.)

Conclusion

The Carver Model represents one way of governance that has become increasingly popular in Canada and the US. Implementing the Carver Model may allow you to make a more effective Board despite the potential drawbacks and criticisms that have been levied at the model.

References

BoardWorks. (2005) “Why is it that the Carver Policy Governance Principles can seem so hard to Honour?” Retrieved on June 30, 2017 from http://www.hospice.org.nz/cms_show_download.php?id=317

Carver, J. & Carver, M. (2001) Le modèle Policy Governance et les organismes sans but lucratif [The Policy Governance Model and non-profit organizations]. Gouvernance. 2(1). 30-48. Retrieved on July 2, 2017 from http://www.policygovernance.com/pg-np.htm

Carver, J. (2006). Boards that make a difference: A new design for leadership in nonprofit and public organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Coyne, T. (n.d.) The Many Failings of the Carver Governance Model. Retrieved on July 2, 2017 from http://www.k12accountability.org/resources/Accountability-Committees/Carver_Governance_Model_Failings.pdf

Policy Governance Model. (2016). “The Policy Governance(R) Model – Publications”. Retrieved on July 2, 2017 from http://www.policygovernance.com/pubs.htm

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2017), "Carver Model of Policy Governance," retrieved on July 21, 2017 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/carver-model-policy-governance/.
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Ultimate Guide to Starting a Crisis Line

Introduction

Following up on my previous post Starting a Crisis Line or Hotline, I had some reader commentary asking about some more specific nuts and bolts for someone who is passionate and interested in starting a crisis line, hotline or helpline but doesn’t really know where to begin. Obviously, while it is best to bring in experienced individuals sometimes they simply aren’t available. For the purpose of this guide, I will describe the steps to create a fictional crisis line, the Southeast Iowa Crisis Center (SEICC), or “Seek.”

Throughout this article, I use “crisis line”, “helpline” and other terms interchangeably, except in the section “Deciding on Type of Service Provided” where I distinguish between the two.

Staffing a Steering Committee

The first step will be to decide on and form a Steering Committee. This will be a group of individuals who will be responsible for helping to bring your vision of a crisis line to life. Too few people and you may feel overwhelmed. Too many and you risk decision paralysis – not being able to make decisions because of too many disagreements. Perhaps 4-6 people is the optimal size for a Steering Committee.

If (or when) you form a nonprofit, you’ll need a Board of Directors. The members of your Steering Committee often make a suitable Board. Their tasks will include all of the items discussed below.

Choosing a Population and Coverage Area

You likely know this information before you begin, but it’s important to clearly define your population and coverage (or catchment) area as you work on your crisis line. You might choose to create your crisis line based on a specific age range (such as the Kids Help Phone for those 0-25), subject area (like the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network [RAINN]), geographic region (like Tennessee Statewide Mental Health Crisis Line) or job status such as the Veterans Crisis Line.

Some funders will only fund certain populations or programs but it’s important that you not get into the business of chasing funding by going against your mission – this could lead to you losing your nonprofit status or losing trust among your supporters.

Identifying Mission and Vision

The next step to starting a nonprofit or a new product is to define what you wish to create. An organization’s mission statement is short and punchy, describing what they do. This can be a tagline or slogan, but doesn’t have to be. Distress Centre Durham‘s mission statement is “Helping people in distress to cope.”

Vision is more long-term and describes an outcome. An example vision statement for Habitat for Humanity is “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.” You don’t necessarily have to publicize your visioning statement but your mission and vision will determine whether activities that you pursue are within your organization’s purview.

SEICC’s mission will be “Keeping Iowans safe with 24/7 emotional support”, while the vision will be “Nobody suffers alone.”

Parkinson’s Law of Triviality

There is a concept in management called Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. Essentially it states that organizations spend disproportionate amounts of time on easy-to-grasp issues while neglecting more important but more difficult ones. This is an important trap to avoid when considering things like your organization’s logo, or other elements that are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

Picking a Staffing Model

At this stage, you have identified a group of individuals that are going to help you build your crisis line. You’ve also decided on a mission and a vision. You need to decide whether you will use a model of volunteers supported by paid staff, a blended model, or all paid staff. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Volunteers, Staff Supported

Advantages of the volunteers-supported-by-staff model include it is easy to start and individuals can self-select as one or the other (either applying for a staff position in administration or a volunteer position providing direct service.) One downside to this model is that initially your administrative staff will probably have to cover shifts on the helpline until you all get experienced, and that it can be hard to ensure 100% coverage if your service gets popular.

Blended Model

A blended model involves a mix of paid staff and volunteers. This is a more common model in the United States than in Canada, which tends to use purely volunteers. The advantages are that you can attract a more credentialed staff who might hold multiple roles (e.g. a helpline manager might be responsible for 20 hours of helpline work and 20 hours of administration.)

The downsides are that this can make your volunteers uncomfortable, and increase the expenses you need to get your crisis line off the ground.

All Paid Staff

Using all paid staff is an emerging crisis line model. Some helplines like the Veteran’s Crisis Line have used this model for many years. With this model, you can ensure 100% coverage (because your staff are paid to be in the chair), but this will be very expensive. Although research shows that paying crisis line workers does not diminish their importance, it may make it harder for your callers to trust that they’re really interested in listening.

This can also increase the rate of burnout because paid workers are providing many more hours of support each week or month versus a volunteer.

Deciding on Type of Support Provided

It’s important to decide if you’re going to be a distress line, a crisis line, or both. Some organizations will break their services into two distinct phone numbers and lines, with specific caller concerns, while many others (like Distress Centre Durham) will provide all forms of support.

Despite the use of the name “distress line” or “crisis line”, an organization may take all types of calls. You’ll need to read the explanation of the service provided before making a decision about whether or not an agency really does limit or parcel out their support.

Distress Line

A distress line focuses on individuals who are struggling and need to talk to someone but who can still cope. Someone in distress can still think about potential solutions to their problem, is not struggling with high-risk suicide thoughts, and does not need safety planning.

Crisis Line

A crisis line provides support to individuals who are struggling with high-risk suicide, crisis situations (where they can’t think of what to do), or who are otherwise unsafe. Many crisis lines have access to mobile crisis units, may call ambulances to take callers to hospitals or otherwise access more intensive support.

Hours of Operation

Deciding on the hours of operations for a crisis line is an important element. Many crisis lines started as 4-hours a day, 7 days a week operations before moving to 12 or 24 hours. Other organizations started immediately with 24 hours.

Staffing Volume

You’ll need to calculate the amount of staff you need for your crisis line (whether paid or unpaid) once you’ve decided on your hours of operation. One way to do this is the Erlang C formulas that are used to staff call centres (which you can fill with dummy data based on crisis lines in other regions.)

If you’re paying your staff, this will be easier. It might be easier to start small and then build up as your service gets more well known and well supported.

Choosing a Location

Choosing a location for a new crisis line (or any nonprofit really) will depend most commonly on your finances. Many organizations get cheap or free space in an organization like a church starting off, before moving to an office. If you’re really tight on space you might even be able to set up in a large office in someone’s home.

The keys to choosing a location will include availability, security, convenience, and price. While price is obvious, I’ll speak about the others.

One advantage of a stand-alone building is you have 24/7 access to it. If you’re in another type of location you may find it difficult or impossible to access after-hours, which can complicate things. Security is also a factor, in that if you’re not advertising your crisis line location it shouldn’t be obvious where you’re located. While a far-away location might seem to be ideal for security, it complicates accessibility (distance travelled) for your volunteers and limits convenience.

Forming a Nonprofit (or not)

Choosing whether to incorporate is a challenging decision to make. Incorporation provides you with benefits like protection of your assets, tax exempt status (once you’re registered as a charity) and the ability to pursue formal funding. The downsides are that it takes work to form and maintain the nonprofit status.

Finding Sources of Funding

Initial sources of funding may come from your Steering Committee but eventually you’ll need to explore outside sources. When your crisis line has operated for 1-2 years you’ll likely be eligible to apply for formal funding grants such as those at the local, state and federal levels.

Other sources include corporate sponsorship, fundraising events and direct donations.

Developing Policies and Procedures

Policies and procedures are important for ensuring that your volunteers respond in a consistent way. Examples of policies and procedures that you may wish to develop:

  • Call Trace and Intervention
  • Callers as Volunteers
  • Confidentiality
  • Recruitment (Criminal Record Check)
  • Victims of Abuse (Reporting Child Abuse)

Call Trace and Intervention

A Call Trace and Intervention policy will describe under what circumstances you will initiate call trace (to try and find an individual’s address or other identifying information) and under what circumstances you will call police/911 for Active Rescue. Some crisis lines will never initiate Active Rescue, for instance the UK Samaritans, unless the caller requests it. Many crisis lines will always err on the side of caution.

Call Trace will depend on the technology available to your crisis line but may include use of 411 (for non-blocked numbers) or contacting 911 directly to pass available information to them.

Helplines will often describe their intervention policy on the lines as something to the effect of, “We only intervene in cases of imminent homicide, suicide, or disclose of child abuse.”

Callers as Volunteers

Callers to your helpline will usually result in the creation of a call report or other record of that conversation. If you recruit volunteers from the same area that you take calls from, it’s possible that someone who has previously called your line may become a volunteer – and therefore be able to read their call report.

For that reason, you may require that volunteers to your helpline must have not used your service in the amount of time that records are retained. For instance, at Distress Centre Durham call reports are retained for one year so volunteers must not have used the service in that time in order to be eligible.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is at the core of emotional support. Creating a safe environment is key to helping callers discuss their issues openly. Confidentiality means that volunteers who disclose information about callers outside of the crisis line or make contact with them outside of the line can be dismissed.

Examples of violations of confidentiality:

  • Talking about callers to your friends or family
  • Posting information about callers on social media
  • Giving information from the crisis line to another agency without that caller’s permission

It’s important to establish a very high degree of confidentiality or else callers will quickly lose trust in the helpline.

Data Destruction

A data destruction policy includes information on when and how you’ll destroy data that you’ve collected, such as via call reports or caller profiles. The most important element is to include a timeline for how frequently you’ll destroy data – such as on a quarterly basis for data that is more than 12 months old.

Recruitment (Criminal Record Check)

A Criminal Record Check (CRC), known by other names like a Police Record Check (PRC) or a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Check describes a person’s record of criminal offenses. Many jursidictions include an option specifically for crimes against vulnerable individuals like children or seniors.

Many crisis lines will limit their volunteers only to those who have no criminal record, while some will allow – with approval – individuals who have certain types of non-violent offenses from many years ago.

Victims of Abuse

Nonprofit organizations are often legally required to report abuse, like child abuse or elder abuse. A policy explaining this will help callers better understand when they disclose child abuse, what the volunteer will do. In many crisis lines this means calling Child Protective Services (CPS) or a similar agency (like Children’s Aid Society in Ontario.)

You may also wish to include a statement about how your helpline takes a non-judgemental stance on abuse – not encouraging individuals to leave unless they’re ready to leave on their own.

Volunteers in Counselling or Therapy

Helpline work can be demanding and burnout can be a challenge. For this reason, it’s important to know when your volunteers are undergoing counselling or therapy. One way in which to do this is to have volunteers self-identify if they are receiving counselling or therapy and then giving them a letter to give to their therapist. That clinician will simply sign asserting that the work will not be harmful, and that can be filed away.

Volunteer Recruitment

Recruiting volunteers will depend on your local community. In some communities, United Way may operate a volunteer board online that you can submit your crisis line to. Universities or colleges may allow you to post flyers or distribute information to the students.

A good training class will be between 5 and 20 individuals, but recruiting throughout the year will be important for ensuring consistent service delivery.

Volunteer Screening

Screening involves determining if individuals possess the appropriate attitudes to be successful in helpline training. The American Association of Suicidology Crisis Center Certification identifies these attitudinal outcomes that individuals should experience by the conclusion of training:

  • Acceptance of persons different from oneself, and a non-judgmental response toward sensitive issues (e.g. not discussing suicidal ideation or abortion with a client in terms of its moral rightness or wrongness)
  • Balanced and realistic attitude toward self in the helper role (e.g. not expecting to “save” all potential suicides by one’s own single effort, or to solve all the problems of the distressed person)
  • A realistic and humane approach to death, dying, self-destructive behavior and other human issues
  • Coming to terms with one’s own feelings about death and dying insofar as these feelings might deter one from helping others.

Volunteer screening may include an application form that asks questions about the caller like:

  • Are there situations or topics (such as abuse or abortion) that may place you in a moral or ethical dillema?
  • What are your beliefs on suicide?
  • How do you feel you would talk to someone who is different from yourself?

The screening process does not have to rule out anyone yet, but may be helpful for prepping you on the interview.

Volunteer Interviewing

See also: Interviewing on a Suicide Hotline

The process of the volunteer interview will be to collect more information on the potential volunteer to make sure there is compatibility with your service. For instance, some individuals may only want to work with children or may not want to work with suicide – and your desires for your line may not align with that.

The interview is also an opportunity to see how someone is on the phone, and to help answer more of their questions about what the process looks like.

Volunteer Training

See also: Crisis Hotline Training Curriculum

Volunteer training is the process of teaching a volunteer the core skills that they need to be prepared for the helpline. Rather than reproducing material I’ve written about elsewhere, see the link above. From there you can find posts across my blog that will be useful for building a training program.

Training should run approximately 40 hours, with at least 24 hours of classroom training and 16 hours of supervised “on the phone” training being mentored by a shift supervisor or experienced volunteer before the newly trained volunteer is able to take shifts on their own.

You may find it helpful to bring on a therapist or counsellor to help you develop your initial helpline curriculum, or use a crisis line trainer from an area near you that doesn’t overlap with your catchment area.

Identifying Caller Issues

Caller Issues are the specific issues prevalent in your community that may lead you to develop training modules on them to prepare your volunteers. One example is in college towns where concerns over sexual assault or alcohol and drug abuse may be more prevalent.

The easiest way to do this is with effective helpline management software (see the next section.) With a detailed call report you will be able to pull statistics on exactly what your callers are discussing and this will help you fine-tune your training. Generally, the core elements of emotional support and crisis intervention will be exactly the same.

Helpline Management Software

In order to run a helpline you’ll need some form of helpline management software. I recommend iCarol, which my crisis line has used for several years. iCarol provides all the features you’d expect online helpline software to provide:

  • Shift Calendar so volunteers can sign up for shifts
  • Call Reports so volunteers can record details about their conversations
  • Chatboard for facilitating communication between staff and volunteers
  • Events Calendar
  • News

And a variety of other features, all designed with confidential helplines in mind.

Outcomes Measurement and Evaluation

See also: Methods of Evaluating Helplines and Hotlines

Outcomes Measurement and Evaluation describes the things that you will need to do in order to prove that your helpline is effective. One way in which to do this starts with your Basic Training program. Have your volunteers complete a pre and post training survey that includes questions about the perceived value of the training, their ability to display empathy and their understanding of crisis and suicide risk assessment. You’ll see their scores increase, demonstrating the knowledge transfer.

Another way to evaluate a Basic Training program is with a tool like the Suicide Intervention Response Inventory, which has volunteers rate how effective a series of statements are in providing emotional support. Their scores will change throughout training, indicating their increased skill.

On the phone calls themselves, your call reports can include space for Outcomes Measurement. This can include things like, “Callers says they feel better”, “Decreased distress and anxiety”, “Reduced isolation and loneliness.” These outcomes can be used to show what changes your callers experience throughout the call.

Joining Professional Associations

Finally you may wish to join professional associations like the Association of Crisis Workers or Crisis Lines in your area, or other professional groups that provide support to nonprofits. This will help you network, fundraise and attract volunteers to your organization.

Conclusion

As you can see, a lot goes into developing a crisis line – but it is not unmanageable. If you’ve decided to launch a crisis line, let me know in the comments! And please continue to ask questions if you’d like.

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Introduction to Social Media for Non-Profits

Introduction

Social media has become an important part of outreach for nonprofits as well as customer/client/donor relation management for nonprofits and for-profit organizations. Social media provides agencies with a way to connect with their clients in a real-time way to provide updates, address complaints, and continue to engage stakeholders. (Young, 2017)

Before exploring social media for your nonprofit it is important to determine what you hope to achieve with your social media presence. For instance, some organizations post primarily organizational related information (such as links to their crisis line number and events), while others post pictures and motivational statements that go beyond official crisis line communications into general wellness.

Bernritter, Verlegh, & Smit (2016) discovered that brand warmth, and a desire to publicly affiliate with positive organizations made users more likely to “like” nonprofits on social media, rather than competence. This means that nonprofits have an opportunity to build a strong brand online.

Wyllie et. al. (2016) showed how social network analysis (SNA) can be used to identify new stakeholders and potential by donors by looking at who engages with your organization and who those people are connected to; this can provide avenues for expanding fundraising efforts; additionally, when posts go “viral” (experiencing wide distribution) they may be seen by potential future donors and supporters.

Finally, Goldkin (2015) identified multiple advantages to nonprofits who use social media including fundraising, advocacy and policy changes, and the ability to directly engage clients or service users.

Facebook

Facebook is the most common social network in the Western Hemisphere according to Vincos (2017); it allows users to “like” and comment on posts. Facebook Insights allows you to see the engagement that each post received, including likes, comments and shares.

The biggest advantage of Facebook is that it allows you to communicate deeply with your clients and potential donors, who may share your posts. Unlike Twitter, there is no 140 character limit so you can tell your story without feeling constrained or limited, including images or videos.

Huang, Lin & Saxton (2016) describe the social media marketing of HIV/AIDS nonprofits, in order to examine what strategies worked well. They explained one-way informational messages and calls-to-action or event messages generated less user interaction than two-way dialogues.

Twitter

Twitter, despite its fame, actually has fewer users than other social networks. At 300 million users, it pales in comparison to Facebook’s 1.59 billion, and even Instagram’s 400 million (Adweek, 2016) Twitter’s advantage is that nearly 3 in 4 of their users are outside of the US. For nonprofits that serve international audiences Twitter can help you match these donors and clients.

Twitter contains a 140 character limit, requiring message to be short and sweet.

Other Social Networks

There are a variety of other social networks that can be used for nonprofits to communicate with their clients. The exact networks chosen will depend on your audience. For instance, Instagram requires photos and videos, versus Facebook’s use of text, videos or photos – however Instagram’s engagement by user is higher than Facebook’s. (Nwazor, 2016)

Networks for nonprofits to consider include:

  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

Hootsuite

Hootsuite describes their goal as “managing all of your social media marketing efforts from a single dashboard. With Hootsuite’s platform, you get the tools to manage all your social profiles and automatically find and schedule effective social content.” (Hootsuite, n.d.)

Hootsuite allows you a dashboard in which you can see and make posts on all of your social media profiles at once; this makes it much easier for you to maintain regular posts on all your profiles in much less time, and to send a consistent message to your donors or clients.

References

Adweek. (2016) “Here’s How Many People Are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Other Big Social Networks”. Retrieved on April 2, 2017 from http://www.adweek.com/digital/heres-how-many-people-are-on-facebook-instagram-twitter-other-big-social-networks/

Bernritter, S. F., Verlegh, P. W., & Smit, E. G. (2016). Why Nonprofits Are Easier to Endorse on Social Media: The Roles of Warmth and Brand Symbolism. Journal Of Interactive Marketing, 3327-42. doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2015.10.002

Goldkind, L. (2015). Social Media and Social Service: Are Nonprofits Plugged In to the Digital Age?. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 39(4), 380-396. doi:10.1080/23303131.2015.1053585

Hootsuite. (n.d.) “Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard – Hootsuite.com” Retrieved on April 2, 2017 from https://hootsuite.com/

Huang, Y., Lin, Y., & Saxton, G. D. (2016). Give Me a Like: How HIV/AIDS Nonprofit Organizations Can Engage Their Audience on Facebook. AIDS Education & Prevention, 28(6), 539-556. doi:10.1521/aeap.2016.28.6.539

Nwazor, T. (2016) “Faceoff: Instagram versus Facebook, For Business.” Entrepreneur. Retrieved on April 2, 2017 from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/280833

Vincos. (2017) “World Map of Social Networks” Retrieved on April 2, 2017 from http://vincos.it/world-map-of-social-networks/

Wyllie, J., Lucas, B., Carlson, J., Kitchens, B., Kozary, B., & Zaki, M. (2016). An Examination of Not-For-Profit Stakeholder Networks for Relationship Management: A Small-Scale Analysis on Social Media. Plos ONE, 11(10), 1-20. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0163914

Young, J. A. (2017). Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs: The Adoption and Utilization of Social Media in Nonprofit Human Service Organizations. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 41(1), 44-57. doi:10.1080/23303131.2016.1192574

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2017), "Introduction to Social Media for Non-Profits," retrieved on July 21, 2017 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/introduction-social-media-non-profits/.

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Introduction to Government Policy Development

Introduction

Policy development involves research, analysis and writing of government or organizational policies. Policies “refers to those plans, positions and guidelines of government which influence decisions” by governments, nonprofit agencies or other bodies. (Manitoba Office of the Auditor General, 2003)

This article focuses on government policy, rather than nonprofit policies and procedures, which will be explored in a future article.

Policies can be very broad or very specific, setting out specific plans and programs or instead suggesting the government’s commitment to development.

The 2012 US National Strategy on Suicide (Office of the Surgeon General, 2012) is an example of a specific policy, with 13 goals and 60 objectives that are laid out with clarity such as “Provide training to community and clinical service providers on the prevention of suicide and related behaviors”, while the UN Sustainble Development Goals (2015) are very broad, like “Affordable and clean energy” and “Reduced inequalities.”

Policy writing may be performed by Policy Analysts or Legislative Aides who work for government, Macro or Community Social Workers, or lobby groups who are advocating for a particular change in policy.

Policy Writing Steps

Policy analysis can be broken down into five steps:

  1. Issue Identification
  2. Issue Analysis
  3. Generating Solutions
  4. Consultation
  5. Performance Monitoring

In the first step, issue identification, the policy analyst will need to identify an issue. Issue identification may occur through many ways, such as constituents talking to their Members of Parliament (or Representatives), lobby groups focused on specific areas like Environmental Issues or Developmental Disabilities who notice concerns in their communities, or other issues.

In Issue Analysis, the Analyst gathers all available information and begins doing research to describe the problem. This can involve interviews, surveys, examining models and policies in other regions and the academic literature.

Generating Solutions involves, as the name suggests, generating a number of potential solutions, changes to policies or laws, or other ways of fixing the identified issues. There are pros and cons to all issues, so an important part of this step is figuring out what the most optimal solution is.

When the policy analyst reaches Consultation, the analyst will provide a draft of their copy to affected stakeholders and ensure that individuals have an opportunity to provide comment. This does not have to be limited to the public, but often public consultations are helpful.

Finally, after the policy is implemented, it should be monitored in order to see the desired outcomes. Outcomes measurement or evaluation is an important element of developing policies and programs.

Policy Issue Identification

The first step to policy development is to identify the issue. The important element here is to make sure that you are describing the cause of a situation, and not the symptoms of that situation. For instance, if an area does not have enough housing that is a symptom of something. That something could be lots of unoccupied, purchased houses. In that case, simply building more houses would likely not fix the problem. Instead, implementing a vacant or foreign buyers tax would help free up this real estate.

Other steps in issue identification is deciding what policymakers will actually focus on. For instance, governments may be confronted with many issues of which only some are within their control. Of those that are within their control, they must choose a smaller number to work with, so as to not exhaust limited resources.

Finally, you must decide on issues that can actually be tracked. Returning to our National Strategy on Suicide, “Provide training to community and clinical service providers on the prevention of suicide and related behaviors” is a measurable goal that can be tracked as the number of gatekeepers reported increases.

Policy Issue Analysis

Issue analysis involved collecting data in order to really deeply understand the issue at hand. There are multiple stakeholders who may see a problem in a certain way. For instance if school children are performing poorly on statewide tests, teachers, students, school administrators, academics, local and state government likely all have different angles on the problem. Those angles will need to be explored in order to get a deep dive into the issue.

Comparing your region with other regions to see if they are struggling with the same issue. If not – how come? If they are struggling with the same thing, what have they tried? This can help you rule out models that may appear to be effective but actually don’t work in your area.

Lots of data may be available at the municipal, state or federal level depending on your area. For instance, Statistics Canada in Canada and the US Census Bureau both collect a variety of data, along with many other agencies.

The expression, “Garbage in, garbage out” is useful here – if your data collection is insufficient or slanted rather than objective, you will find that you have an impaired understanding of the issues and therefore your solutions will not adequately fix the problem.

Generating Solutions for Policy

Generating solutions involves defining a number of ways of answering the problem. This should begin with identifying the assumptions that underlie your solution or opinion, and then by indicating what changes would need to occur in programs, legislation, or implementations in order to allow the solution to proceed.

Each of the available solutions is going to have positives and negatives. Negatives may affect some stakeholders or many, and may have financial impacts on the government or on the stakeholders themselves. For example, environmental regulations may improve air quality in a town (and therefore reduce the impact of asthma), but with a cost on local industry. Detailed calculations would be necessary to evaluate the net impact on the area.

Examples of implications of policy from the British Columbia Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development (2012):

  • Financial
  • Legal
  • Geographic
  • Political
  • Environmental
  • Economic
  • Social

One final element in determining solutions is to identify the outcomes that will be measured and expected. In the example of children performing poorly on statewide tests, the rate of children passing the test in the region after the implementation of a new program may be one way to measure the effectiveness.

Policy Consultation

Although consultation is listed as the 5th of 6 policy analysis steps, in fact it will be throughout the entire step of developing policy. Consultation in a government setting will start with the Ministry (and often the Minister leading it) who will set the priorities for their Ministry.

As the policy takes shape, consultations will occur inside and outside of government, especially with affected stakeholders and lobby groups. The types of consultations can include distributing drafts, holding public “town halls”, private meetings, and so on. Many governments provide policies on their website and take feedback from the internet as well.

Policy Performance Monitoring

Performance monitoring begins after the policy has been implemented. Like any program implemented by a nonprofit, government programs must be evaluated as well. The reason that performance monitoring is a preferred term is that some policies may not be evaluated in the same way that programs are, especially if the subject of the policy is very broad (e.g. affordable and clean energy.)

If a policy leads to the creation of specific programs, those programs will often have evaluations attached to them that can make for fertile performance monitoring. As an example, the National Suicide Strategy goal to train gatekeepers will lead to the expansion of programs like ASIST, safeTALK and QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer). These programs can be evaluated for their effectiveness and the increase in trained individuals, in order to prove that the goal is being met.

Policy Writing Template

One example of a framework for an actual written policy is given by Young & Quinn (2002) at the Open Society Institute. Their review of common policy writing templates shows the following structure:

  • Title
  • Table of Contents
  • Abstract/Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Problem Description
  • Policy Options
  • Conclusion and Recommendations
  • Appendices
  • Bibliography
  • Endnotes

This final document could be between 5,000 and 20,000 depending on the depth and the amount of background information provided. Shorter policy documents are more common for those distributed to the public while longer documents are used internally in government, or with other policy analysts.

Policy Writing Training

Training in policy writing is usually on-the-job. For instance, many beginning Policy Analysts get their start doing internships for governments. Most policy analysts hold Bachelor’s degrees however it is also very common to see individuals with Master’s or PhD degrees.

Relevant courses from Athabasca University that may help an individual become a policy analyst:

  • GOVN 403 – Public Policy in a Global Era
  • HIST 328 – History of Canadian Social Policy
  • HSRV 311 – Practice and Policy in the Human Services
  • HSRV 322 – Ideology and Policy Evolution
  • MHST 605 – Demysitfying Policy Analysis and Development

A Masters in Public Administration (MPA), Masters of Social Work (MSW) or MA in Political Science may also give the student the advanced analytical and writing skills required to work as a Policy Analyst. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) includes policy writing resources to help policy writers meet US government standards.

Policy Writing Courses

Policy writing courses are available that may help analysts build fundamental skills. Most of these are available through governments, rather than online given the limited audience for many of these organizations. Completing internships with governments or lobby groups may help aspiring policy writers gain access to this training.

References

British Columbia Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. (2012) Sharpen Your Policy Skills. Municipal Administration Training Institute (MATI) Foundations Program. Retrieved on March 31, 2017 from http://www.lgma.ca/assets/Programs~and~Events/MATI~Programs/MATI~Foundations/2013~Presentations/NICOLA-MAROTZ-Policy-Skills-Workshop-Manual-Revised-July2013.pdf

 

Manitoba Office of the Auditor General. (2003) A Guide to Policy Development. Retrieved on March 30, 2017 from http://www.oag.mb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/PolicyDevelopmentGuide.pdf

 

Office of the Surgeon General (US); National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (US). 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Washington (DC): US Department of Health & Human Services (US); 2012 Sep. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK109917/
United Nations. (2015) “Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015 “. Retrieved on April 1, 2017 from http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E

Young, E. & Quinn, L. (2002) Writing Effective Public Policy Papers: A Guide for Policy Advisers in Central and Eastern Europe. Open Society Institute (OSI). Budapest, Hungary: Open Society Institute. Retrieved on April 2, 2017 from http://www.icpolicyadvocacy.org/sites/icpa/files/downloads/writing_effective_public_policy_papers_young_quinn.pdf

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2017), "Introduction to Government Policy Development," retrieved on July 21, 2017 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/introduction-government-policy-development/.
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Setting Limits and Boundaries with Callers

Introduction

Setting limits with Helpline callers is one of the most difficult tasks for a new helpline worker to master. It may go against a volunteer’s nature for them to be required to end calls with callers who still feel they need support or to set limits with callers who may be struggling with mental or cognitive disorders that make it more difficult for them to understand these limits.

The opposite side of that coin is that if volunteers do not set adequate limits with their callers, they will experience increased levels of burnout as they handle calls that are upsetting or even abusive; additionally, if limits are not placed on regular callers, they will “crowd out” crisis callers who may have less of an opportunity to receive support while at imminent risk because a repeat caller is using a disproportionate amount of service delivery.

5 Step Limit Setting Process

There is a 5-step process to setting limits with callers that is commonly used at the Distress Centre and I imagine other helplines or organizations where limit-setting is required. The five steps are as follows:

  1. Identify the inappropriate behaviour
  2. Identify what correct behaviour is
  3. Indicate the consequences for failing to change behaviour
  4. Give the caller an opportunity to change their behaviour
  5. Follow through on consequences (e.g. hanging up) if behaviour does not change

Let’s examine each of these steps in sequence:

Identify the inappropriate behaviour

The first step is to identify what inappropriate behaviour is. This can be an agency limit such as a prohibition on the discussion of sexual explicit content or of a caller masturbating on the phone, or this can be a personal limit like a volunteer being uncomfortable with a caller swearing.

The volunteer will identify the inappropriate behaviour, e.g. “I recognize you’re very angry but I need you to refrain from swearing during our conversation”

Identify what correct behaviour is

In a situation where there is a correct behaviour, the volunteer should indicate that. For example, “We can discuss this sexual experience but I need to stay focused on the emotions and not the physical elements of the act.”

Indicate the consequences for failing to change behaviour

This identifies what happens if a caller does not change their behaviour. “If we can’t stay focused on the emotions, I’m going to have to end the call.”

Give the caller an opportunity to change their behaviour

This is to allow the caller to show us they have recognized the issue, such as by refraining from swearing.

Follow through on consequences (e.g. hanging up) if behaviour does not change

In this step, the caller has not changed their behaviour so the volunteer ends the call. “I’m sorry, but I asked you to refrain from discussing the physical elements of this call. As you have continued to do so, I have to end the call now.” This should be followed by the volunteer hanging up!

This limit setting procedure can be used in a variety of settings, both in person and on the phone.

Call Restrictions

Call restrictions are different from in-call limits (described above), and instead describe things such as a caller being put on a 20 minute time limit per call, or being limited to one call a day. These limits are best deployed when a caller is using significantly more service than average.

One way that Distress Centre determines limits is by examining how often a caller uses our services and for how frequently. Our goal is to limit most callers (who have limits) to one call, once per day, and then to decide on how long. For instance, if a caller tends to call twice a day and speak for 30 minutes, we may set their restriction to one call a day, for 30 minutes.

This restriction is always suspended when a caller is in crisis so that we can de-escalate them or connect them to emergency support.

When placing a caller on restrictions it’s important to speak to them about the rationale for that. A caller who calls repeatedly is likely getting less out of each call than they would otherwise. One focused 30 minute call may deliver much more support to a caller than three 10 minute calls, for instance. One focused hour long call will provide more support to a caller than three hour long calls.

Speaking to the caller, you can explain that we want to make sure our service is available for that caller and help meet their needs but also meet the needs of our other callers and volunteers. If a caller is upset, we can help them find additional supports in their community in addition to the Distress Centre that can help meet their needs.

Working with Abusive Callers

Abusive callers can be very challenging. These are callers that frequently disregard the Five Step Limit Setting Procedure above and instead abuse volunteers by being insulting, sexually graphic or simply by disregarding their time limits consistently.

Abusive callers may need to be temporarily blocked until a staff member can speak with them, in order to reign in that behaviour. If a caller continues to be abusive, the best option may be to simply block that caller from using your service, referring them to alternates in your community.

Winding Up on Text and Chat

Text and chat is a different beast from the telephone. Conversations can stretch much longer if your responder is not careful. Fortunately there are a variety of winding up strategies that can be used on text and chat conversations.

When it comes time to wind up a conversation, you have a few options:

  • We’re just coming up on (45/60/75/90) minutes so we’ll need to wrap up soon. I’m wondering if there’s anything else on your mind?
  • We’ve been talking for (45/60/75/90) minutes, how are you feeling?
  • I’m going to have to open up our queue soon, is there anything you haven’t told me yet that you want to?
  • We’ve been talking for about an hour now so I’ll have to let you go for now

In situations where someone is using the service multiple times per day, you may wish to try things like:

  • I saw that you’ve spoken to one of our responders earlier today, how did that conversation go?
  • I’m wondering if we can focus on some coping strategies that can help you get through the rest of the night

In my experience most visitors respond positively to these gentle wind-ups and allow you to move towards wrapping up the conversation at the appropriate point.

Call Blocking

In a future post I will discuss the technological options available for call blocking; it’s a good idea to check with your telephone provider about the option of blocking abusive or harassing callers from your helpline.

Conclusion

Limit setting can be a challenging task for your volunteers to master but is essential for their continued success on your lines!

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2017), "Setting Limits and Boundaries with Callers," retrieved on July 21, 2017 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/setting-limits-and-boundaries-with-callers/.
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