Following the lead of tech startups, the not-for-profit has created an innovative way to fundraise, securing funds in the style of a Series B Round investment.
Funds were granted by tech powerhouses Reid Hoffman, Melinda Gates, The Ballmer Group, and Omidyar Network
NEW YORK, June 16, 2016 – Crisis Text Line, the free, 24/7 support line for people in crisis via text, today at Wired Business Conference announced it has raised $23.8 million from tech titans Reid Hoffman, Melinda Gates, The Ballmer Group, and Omidyar Network. Following the lead of tech startups, the not-for-profit has created an innovative way to fundraise, securing funds in the style of a Series B Round investment.
“There is no equity; no possibility of a liquidity moment. Crisis Text Line is a tech startup, so it makes sense for us to fundraise like one,” said Nancy Lublin, Founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line. “The amount raised and the caliber of the people we attracted underscore the quality of what we’re doing.”
“Like other tech start ups, Crisis Text Line has demonstrated accelerating growth, and this funding will enable it to scale rapidly to deliver its critical services to many more in need,” said Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and tech investor.
The round was led by Hoffman, followed by Melinda Gates, The Ballmer Group and Omidyar Network. Additional funds were granted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist and Craigconnects), Mark & Ali Pincus, Anne Devereux-Mills, Joe & Suzy Edelman, Amy & Rob Stavis, and an anonymous donor.
“Crisis Text Line is shaping a new understanding of mental illness in our country by helping people where they are: on their mobile phones,” said Shripriya Mahesh, partner, Omidyar Network. “We are impressed by the organization’s impact so far and excited to renew our commitment to its growth, so it can continue to connect with people at the times they need it the most.”
While the funds raised are unrestricted, Lublin notes the focus on three main initiatives:
- Crisis Text Line has a community of over 1,500 volunteer Crisis Counselors. In the next two years, the organization plans to grow to more than 4,000 Crisis Counselors.
- The organization plans to hire more developers to build smart products and programs to support their Crisis Counselor community.
- YouTube is Crisis Text Line’s earliest tech partner and has worked over the past year to provide support to users searching for self harm, suicide and depression related content through the innovative use of YouTube’s Crisis One Box. The partnership has had profound impact and since implementing the Crisis One Box it has saved numerous lives. “Crisis response is a priority for us at YouTube, and we couldn’t be happier with our partnership with Crisis Text Line. Thanks to our collective work, YouTube’s Crisis One Box is saving lives. We hope to continue creating important resources for people in need,” said Julia Paige, Director YouTube for Good.
- The organization has been working with popular teen app After School for the past six months to provide a direct link in the app to 24/7 crisis support with Crisis Text Line.
- Today at the Wired Business Conference in New York City, Crisis Text Line announced its partnership with Facebook Messenger to support users in crisis both through the safety checkpoint and the Messenger API. And also a pilot program with Kik to help support users in the popular teen chat app.
- Crisis Text Line has piloted a tailored solution allowing other organizations and locations to benefit from its technology platform. Partners have access to data trends specific to their population. “Crisis Text Line is an innovative addition to our programs to help teens and families at risk. It is important at a time of crisis that people receive help quickly and effectively,” said Ras Baraka, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, where “Text NEW to 741741” was recently launched.
- Instead of creating their own text line, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) partnered with Crisis Text Line to offer “Text NEDA to 741741.” “Our partnership with Crisis Text Line has been a truly collaborative process. Crisis Text Line worked with NEDA to develop a comprehensive training on eating disorders, which gives us confidence that people who struggle with these life-threatening illnesses are receiving quality support in the moment when they need it most,” said Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
Crisis Text Line has exchanged over 18.8 million messages since its launch in August 2013. The organization is proud to note that this growth has not resulted in a decline in quality. In fact, the data shows quality improving in lock-step with volume.
“Crisis Text Line is a powerful way to reach young people in need using a technology they know and trust. I am inspired by Nancy’s deep understanding of the power of connection, and her track record shows that she knows how to turn a simple text message into an instrument that can transform lives,” said Melinda Gates.
Crisis Text Line’s service skews young, rural, and low-income. The organization’s real-time surveying of texters shows that:
- 80% of Crisis Text Line texters report being under the age of 25.
- 6% of Crisis Text Line texters say they are Native American and 14% Hispanic
- 19% of Crisis Text Line texting volume comes from the 10% lowest-income zip codes
The data that has been collected and analyzed is a huge secondary benefit of Crisis Text Line. The organization uses natural language processing and machine learning to make its service faster and more accurate. For example, conversations are triaged based on severity, instead of being handled in chronological order.
Aggregate data is being shared publicly on crisistrends.org, in hopes of inspiring system change and reducing stigma. And the organization has even opened up enclave data by application only, for non-commercial research.
“This data set has the volume, velocity, and variety to inspire really exciting research and policy,” added Lublin. “You can’t fix something if you don’t understand what is broken.”