More Trevor Project crisis counselors means more help for LGBTQ youth in need

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More volunteers = more opportunities to save lives

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people are about five times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, according to research from the CDC.* The Trevor Project, the largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth, is on a mission to change that. The nonprofit offers free, confidential crisis services 24/7, and people are reaching out in increasingly large numbers. 

There are more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth who seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S., according to The Trevor Project. But the nonprofit has only been able to support approximately 100,000 LGBTQ youth annually. When monthly contacts consistently exceeded 10,000, The Trevor Project staff knew it was time to scale up operations.

The volunteer experience, centered around those who support LGBTQ youth in crisis via lifeline calls, texts and chats, needed reshaping since The Trevor Project didn't have a system in place to easily process potential applicants. Volunteers, who typically commit to one-year of service, were often lost in the onboarding process. Many who filled out initial paperwork, and were excited to start right away, sat in an extremely lengthy queue. Time between interviewing, onboarding, and training also lagged, causing recruits to drop off. This meant lost opportunities to help more LGBTQ youth.

The PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. awarded the nonprofit a $6 million grant to help strengthen its technological capabilities and revamp the volunteer program over four years. PwC US LLP provided pro bono consulting, bringing our BXT (business, experience and technology) way of working to deliver results.

*The Trevor Project, “Facts About Suicide”


Modernizing operations to reduce roadblocks

To speed up onboarding and help more LGBTQ youth, The Trevor Project needed to streamline its processes and find ways to save time for employees. The solution would also incorporate new technologies that were intuitive for those using them and met the needs of The Trevor Project employees, and help grow the number of youth they could serve each year.


Reframing the approach to speed up onboarding

The goal was simple, but critical: recruit, onboard and retain more volunteers faster to respond to growing needs. And, end long delays between applying, interviewing and training.

The Trevor Project was eager to transcend traditional ways of operating to eliminate wasted time, so PwC brought our BXT approach to help equip their volunteers and support youth in need. Drawing on everyone’s bright ideas, PwC gathered a diverse team to help detail friction points and brainstorm possible remedies — such as disjointed systems feeding into Salesforce, a Customer Relationship Management system, and the inability to easily use data. 

PwC also pivoted to assume the role of student and teacher to help improve the outcome. Typical consulting engagements go something like this: a client has a sticky problem; a team swoops in to solve it. This was different. To help understand how volunteers interact with the youth they help, the PwC team soaked in the nuances of the community. For example, we learned the importance of asking how people identify and like to be addressed, creating a more compassionate, inclusive environment.


Creating a virtual, inclusive path forward

Keeping The Trevor Project’s vision in mind, we interviewed current volunteers to help understand their needs and wants. The team then created personas and journeys that helped tap into the mindset, motivations, and hiccups throughout the volunteer journey, like the time it took to get through the full onboarding process. We sketched out goals that became success beacons, including simplifying applications.

The Trevor Project staff also empowered us to build a deep awareness of the stigmas and discrimination LGBTQ youth often face — including social, economic, and medical disparities impacting physical and mental health. 

When COVID-19 forced our joint team to go virtual, it was an opportunity to better understand the added isolation on top of existing stress LGBTQ youth might feel. This also meant there would likely be an increased need for crisis services, which helped make everyone more focused on finding a solution even quicker.


Goodbye confusing systems and endless email, hello automation

The first step was applying an agile operating model with two-week sprints. Then we helped set up centralized automations within an upgraded Salesforce cloud platform and helped eliminate a fragmented network of feeder information about volunteers and operations. We also helped reduce development time by using out-of-the-box Salesforce components instead of custom-build, which in turn helped free up time for more robust testing.

Working together using Salesforce and a combination of cloud components and other technologies, we helped automate manual processes, like following up with interviewees. We also built a foundation that displays real-time metrics — from how long an applicant has been in the system to the exact number of days between each step of the volunteer journey.

Finally, we helped streamline organization-wide emails within Salesforce, halting seemingly endless (and time consuming) threads and manual handoffs.


More time for supporting youth in need, less time on paperwork 

Additional volunteers for The Trevor Project are able to directly impact people’s lives, safety and access to help during their darkest hours.

Want to get involved? Sign up to become a volunteer.

Thanks to new digital efficiencies, The Trevor Project is on track to increase crisis counselors tenfold, from about 300 to 3,000, by 2022.

The first quarter of 2020 also saw a record number of counselors move from application to serving LGBTQ youth through The Trevor Project’s lifeline.

Automated email processes are saving every employee approximately two hours a week, while the nonprofit can now process 100 additional volunteer applications every month.

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“The work The Trevor Project does daily to help LGBTQ youth in crisis is inspiring and more important now than ever. I am so proud of the role we played in helping to revamp their volunteer system to extend their reach.”

Shannon Schuyler
Principal, Chief Purpose & Inclusion Officer, PwC

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Shannon Schuyler

Shannon Schuyler

Chief Purpose and Inclusion Officer, PwC US

Jon Glick

Jon Glick

Principal, Customer Transformation and Loyalty, PwC US

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