Veterans in Central Florida have a new best friend! United Way Heart of Florida 2-1-1 wants Veterans to know they can come to one place for help with all services! And most importantly, they can access this help via text message (a preferred channel among Americans under 55).
MissionUnited is the name of the project. And Veterans can text the word "MISSION" to 898211 to begin an experience that will aim to provide them with specialized, tailored information in the following key areas: employment, education, legal aide, and special events for veterans. When a veteran texts "mission" to 898211 a series of automated messages will begin, encouraging veterans to text specific words related to each of these areas of interest. They can request information for one or more of the issues. They will also be prompted to text "vetanswer" at any point if they would like to start a live conversation with a 211 specialist!
The program is designed to be two-way. Many text programs/services will provide outgoing, push-style, group messages but offer no help or response to questions/concerns from individuals receiving them. In most cases, texts from the end user won't even be visible to the service provider. The design of MissionUnited offers veterans something very different. Live, two-way help is always just a text away. Their questions will always get a response.
Larry Olness, Sr Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Heart of Florida United Way says: "Our technology partner, PreventionPays Text, is providing the software and mobile communications system to support the project... they have been superb from the start meeting all our communication aims and program objectives... extensive web-based training and their attentiveness to every detail, has been critical to the program's success."
The platform was designed for programs like this. In fact, they work with many other agencies providing similar capacity. They saw a while ago that text is perceived as a very personal medium. While broadcasting information by text can be effective, the true merits of a text platform should be in their ability to capture the responses from end users and thread them accordingly.
Larry Olness says the biggest issue veterans face is not knowing where to go for help and having too many options to select from. His vision is to provide a single point of entry regardless of one's need. And then, offer the veteran ongoing tips about new services/resources that surface along the way. Veterans that sign up will be much more likely to find the help they need when they need it. The moment a veteran texts MISSION to 898211, a rich flow of information will begin that will aim to break down common barriers to help while enriching the lives of veterans in their community. Joining the program is free. Texting MISSION to 898211 is just the beginning. What happens next will hopefully result in an enduring partnership (between veteran and United Way Heart of Florida) that improves their lives for the rest of their lives. That's the goal. "Once they request the help, they're in the system and they will get the very best information for as long as they remain there."
United Way Heart of Florida 211 and the veterans in their service area are discovering just how powerful a simple text can be. Building better relationships, breaking down barriers to help, increasing access to critical resources like job skills, education, and legal assistance, all this and more in 160 characters or less! A truly amazing accomplishment!