I Did Something Good Today is a public charity that provides social isolation prevention programs for the elderly all throughout Greater Los Angeles. They run the GoldenTALK hotline that is powered by Telzio VoIP phone services. Since their founding in 2018, they’ve expanded ongoing programs beyond a hotline to include essential needs services and most recently food and PPE delivery.
An often overlooked issue that affects millions but particularly so for the elderly is social isolation. We are social creatures by nature and maintaining a regular connection is healthy for the mind and body. Kimberly Lewis, founder of I Did Something Good Today, recognized this issue from an early age and set out on a course to help seniors in desperate need.
Since the opening of their hotline, IDSGT has completed over 22,000 calls. Their numbers continue to grow and they have even enlisted the help of over 350 volunteers. Telzio offers an unlimited number of users with all plans, which allows IDSGT to continue expanding in volunteers without worrying about additional expense.
To make it even easier for seniors to contact, IDSGT uses a toll-free vanity number (888) 60-Golden, which has quickly found its way around the community and was even featured as a news story on local news channels.
From its inception, GoldenTALK aimed to provide not only help to seniors but a method for those that truly love to volunteer. Jobs, family obligations, and rush hour traffic are common deterrents that split the divide between would-be volunteers and passionate volunteers. GoldenTALK being 100% remote granted volunteers flexibility and more opportunities to give their time in connecting with seniors.
Although they conduct their operations in Los Angeles, being remote opened IDSGT to volunteers around the world in places like London, Italy, and Brazil. They have access to all the advanced tools from our mobile app and their computers like extensions for connecting with specific volunteers, call routing to groups, queues with request callback feature, and voicemail to email. "This is what I love so much about Telzio, because it allows people to be involved no matter where they are without incurring roaming fees," says Kimberly.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Kimberly for a Q&A and to learn more about her quest to brighten the lives of many within the senior community.
Can you tell us about how you started your nonprofit, and what kind of challenges you faced?
I was actually motivated to start a nonprofit at the age of 15, and even wrote an essay about what I wanted to do. This was sparked by my experience as a Police Cadet with the Compton Police Department. Once I graduated from the cadet academy, I was allowed to participate in ride-a-longs and work inside of the police station. It was the ride-a-longs that exposed me to homelessness while the community outreach programs opened me to senior homes and facilities. After witnessing those things I knew that I wanted to do something about it one day.
Many years later, I became a director for a homeless women’s shelter with 120 beds in South Los Angeles. My experience here was the deciding factor in launching a nonprofit focused on seniors. I witnessed people dumping off their grandmothers and mothers to the shelter as if they were dumping stray animals, and that just really hurt my heart. It was equally painful to see the lack of resources for seniors.
After my pleas for assistance for seniors fell on deaf ears in 2019, that’s when I decided that it was time for me to step out on faith and start the organization. The challenge for any nonprofit, especially for a new one is funding. Funding sources always want numbers, and proof of an agency’s impact so I knew what I was up against. I made a plan to withdraw monies from my retirement fund to sustain the hopes that we would obtain funding within the next year, and unfortunately, the current pandemic has made it even tougher to obtain funds.
What was your inspiration to start a hotline?
My inspiration for starting the chat line was remembering my work at the Compton Police Department and assisting with answering the switchboard. Seniors would call the police department daily around the evenings just looking for someone to talk to. They would tell me that they didn’t mind holding on the line while I answered other calls. That really touched my heart and it is something that I never have forgotten, so keeping with my organization’s mission to create a program that helps to combat social isolation, we made the decision to start the GoldenTALK hotline and I’m so glad we did.
Can you tell us about a memorable call where someone was able to receive critical help through the hotline?
One of our early callers was an 80-year-old woman named Elizabeth that I spoke with and she was very scared of not having anywhere to stay. She shared with me that she had just returned home from the store to obtain a money order for next month’s rent. The reason she did this so early is because she didn’t have any more money and did not want to risk spending it because she feared being evicted. This also meant that she didn’t have any monies available for groceries, utilities, or important medications.
I was able to assist her by connecting her with a colleague of mine to get her enrolled with the “Safe at Home” program through APS. I’m happy to report that her rent has been taken care of for two years, she received assistance with her utilities, and we also have food delivered to her. This story will always be remembered because I will never forget the panic in her voice which has now transferred into calm.
What advice would you give to other nonprofits about starting a hotline and recruiting volunteers?
Decide on the cause and population you wish to serve as well as the hours of services and the platform you will use for your service. Of course, I’d recommend Telzio because of the cost, reliability, ease of use, and support. The other crucial part is deciding how your lines will be manned, from an office or virtually? All of these considerations will assist in creating your budget for the program.
Volunteer-based organizations like ours must understand that recruitment, training, and retention is paramount. There are various platforms available to recruit volunteers, like VolunteerMatch.com. You will also need a volunteer management platform to manage your volunteers, and consider what incentive programs you can give to your volunteers like a “volunteer of the month” program and certificate.
You will also need to consider how you will track your calls, notes, and client information, such as a case management software solution. Other considerations for your case management system is where will it live? On a server at your location or in the cloud? Who will maintain it and does it need to be HIPAA compliant?
As you can see, there are lots of considerations when starting a hotline, but all of the hard work and efforts are more than worth it when you’re helping someone in need.
We often get asked about resources, best practices for handling calls, etc. Would you be able to offer any advice on that?
Proper training and preparing your volunteers for service is of utmost importance, for they will be the face of your organization. Like any paid position in a for-profit company, there is nothing more frustrating than being a customer and coming across an employee that has no knowledge about their products or organization. There is no way to prepare for every situation, but having a solid training program, excellent documentation, and a good communication channel is paramount.
The following program tools will help you build relationships, keep everyone on the mission, set up a successful volunteer engagement strategy, and solidify your brand.
- Organization Mission Statement
- Philosophy of Volunteer Involvement
- Volunteer Manager/Coordinator Job Descriptions
- Organization Emails / E-Signatures
- Volunteer Training Presentation
- Action Plan for Attracting New Volunteers
- Marking Style Guide with Organization’s Logos
- Volunteer Management Software (Scheduling, hours tracking, etc.) (We use Volgistics)
- Communication Software (We use SamePage)
- Volunteer Application Process
- Volunteer Application Process Handout / Digital (What to Expect)
- Background Check Policy and Company to Perform Checks
- Key Interview Questions
- Volunteer Agreement
- Volunteer Manual
- Disciplinary Process
- Volunteer Recognition and Retention Strategy
The above are just a few areas to consider when managing volunteers. Other platforms to consider would be Zoom and Calendly. We love Calendly because it helps us stay organized, and it also allows the prospective volunteer to select an interview or training time that fits their schedule. We simply add the times that we offer and when a volunteer signs up we are notified by email.
Another thing would be Customer Service Training. Teaching volunteers to de-escalate disgruntled callers, problem-solve, and to think critically will help with the success of your volunteer’s tenure. Fortunately, in today’s world, you can find many resources to assist you in creating the best volunteer training and retention program for your organization, such as managementhelp.org
Interested in volunteering for IDSGT **?**Get involved and submit your application today.
Telzio for Nonprofits
Telzio offers discounts to lengthen and stretch your budget. Visit telzio.org to learn more and you’ll be connected to one of our nonprofit specialists who will work with you to find a cost-effective and flexible plan.