Posts in 2-1-1
2-1-1 Counts

At the recent Great Rivers conference in Madison, Wisconsin, we were having a discussion over breakfast about the possibility of using 2-1-1 data as a surrogate for the data found in a needs assessment. This may be closer to reality with the release of 2-1-1 Counts, which is a web-based tool that provides real-time, searchable information about the needs of a community.

2-1-1 Counts is developed, distributed, and maintained by the Health Communication Research Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis, with funding from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust.

This Web site is currently available for Florida and North Carolina 2-1-1 call centers. It uses data from these call centers to track and summarize callers’ needs. The data is available by percentage of requests in each category, or can be displayed as a count of the number of requests in each category. You can also click on a category and it will display subcategories. For example, when you click on food, you will see subcategories like help buying food, food pantries, soup kitchens, home delivered meals, and holiday meals.

According to 2-1-1 Counts, the data tracked is only the top requests, which are the most important basic needs of callers, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Although 2-1-1 centers track every call and request, 2-1-1 Counts focuses on these most important needs.

2-1-1 Counts also provides the ability to drill down into the data by region, with the Triad region of North Carolina shown below:

You will note the map with the different colors of green in the lower right. You can click on any of the ZIP codes in the map and see how many calls came from that ZIP code.

The data may not be perfect, as it only tracks requests for assistance through 2-1-1, and not requests made directly to service providers. It is also limited by awareness and usage of 2-1-1, which may vary from area to area, making comparisons more difficult. But, 2-1-1 Counts provides a great opportunity for Florida and North Carolina United Ways to have current data about the number of 2-1-1 requests for help and services in their service area.


Today is #GivingTuesday. If you aren’t familiar with what #GivingTuesday is, it’s a day dedicated to giving back (and it’s the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday).

Organizations across the country are inviting people to give to those in need today, such as Feeding America, who is providing a challenge grant and information about the impact of contributions.

United Ways are also promoting #GivingTuesday and asking people in their communities to give today. I viewed over 100 United Way #GivingTuesday Web pages, most of which had general information about #GivingTuesday and a donate button. Some United Ways had press releases or long paragraphs of information about their United Way, while others had information about the partner agencies they support. Some United Ways offered incentives to give on their Web site, such as a chance to win a car.

I wanted to find examples of United Way #GivingTuesday Web pages that made me want to give. These are the Web pages that grabbed my attention:

United Way of York County (Kennebunk, ME):

This Web page explains that donations will help “Keep York County Warm” and will provide emergency heating assistance to people in need in the community. United Way of York County’s goal is to raise funds to fill two oil tanks, which is equivalent to $3,000.

United Way of East Central Iowa (Cedar Rapids, IA):

This Web page provides information about the RED Ahead program and explains that contributions will be used to purchase books and support family visits with an Early Literacy Specialist. You can see how much impact your gift will have and learn about a family that benefited from the RED Ahead program.

Oshkosh Area United Way (Oshkosh, WI):

This Web page explains that donations will buy books for preschoolers in the community, as part of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Oshkosh Area United Way informs you of the importance of reading regularly with children during their preschool years and lets you know that your contribution will make a difference for children in the community.

United Way of Rhode Island (Providence, RI):

This Web page communicates the importance of 2-1-1 and explains that 100% of your contribution will support 2-1-1 because United Way of Rhode Island has paid the overhead. You can donate on their Web site or their Crowdrise page.

United Way of Greater Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA):

This blog post was actually from last year, but came up in my search. I wanted to share this example because it was one of my favorites. At the very top, it says “Giving Tuesday: Let’s House Someone!” and United Way of Greater Los Angeles explains very simply that by donating, you will help to move someone into a home for the holidays.

I found other great examples of United Ways inviting people to get involved in #GivingTuesday by volunteering or posting an #unselfie. However, what I really liked about all of these examples is that they shared information about a specific United Way program and the issue(s) addressed by the program. Donors will have an easier time understanding what United Way does when the focus is on a specific issue and the actions taken to address the issue. I also like that these United Ways made it clear what my donation would support and the impact of my contribution in the community.

If you haven’t promoted #GivingTuesday in the past, consider doing so next year to invite people to donate to your United Way. If you are already promoting #GivingTuesday, remember to communicate a focused message that explains the specific issue(s) you are addressing and the impact of your donors’ contributions. If your United Way focuses on categories, such as education, income, and health, consider focusing on a specific program/issue within those categories to highlight for #GivingTuesday. People connect with issues and will be more likely to give to your United Way if they know about the importance of a specific issue or a United Way program that focuses on an issue in your community, and if they know that their contribution will make an impact on that issue/program.

2-1-1 iPhone App

There are many great applications out there that serve all types of purposes that allow you to do things, such as: read a novel, edit movies and pictures, find the perfect recipe for your next dinner date, and so on. What about an app for someone who is in need of essential human services? There is now an app for that, too.

Various United Ways have created apps for their 2-1-1 service, which provides assistance to people in need of human services. A 2-1-1 app for the state of North Carolina, called “NC 2-1-1,” makes it easy for people to find community resources across the entire state. You can search by service and refine it by your location. You can also make the resources you use most often “favorites,” and can share the resources by texting or e-mailing them to family and friends. 2-1-1 apps can be found for areas in Arizona, Florida, and Washington, as well.

While I found the idea of an app that helps people locate human services to be useful, I questioned how many people in need of the services would be able to afford an iPhone to use these 2-1-1 apps. So I walked down the hall to Kristin’s office and had her download the NC 2-1-1 app so I could try it out.  I would have downloaded it myself but she has more data on her plan than I do, but that’s another story for another time. I was surprised to find such a large variety of services in which 2-1-1 can connect someone. From basic needs, such as dental services, to home repairs, a job search, or legal assistance, 2-1-1 is a wonderful resource for everyone.

After learning more about 2-1-1 and what it provides, I realized how helpful and important an app for 2-1-1 can be and encourage every United Way to offer this app. Visit the iTunes app store and search 211 or click here to learn more about the NC 2-1-1 app and consider creating one for your United Way’s 2-1-1 service.