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The Miracle Messages guide to searching for loved ones

A client has asked you to help them search for a loved one. Now what?

Searching for loved ones is simpler than you might expect. Essentially, once you have some information about the loved one, your next step is to begin searching the internet, using basic search tools; when you find a possible point of contact, you simply try reaching out!

Although this is fundamentally simple, there are some pro tips that we've developed, that we'll share with you below.

The rule of thumb: get started right away--while you still have access to the client.

After working through hundreds of cases, we have discovered the following:

The best time to start searching for the loved one is while you are talking to the client.

Searching for the loved one while you have the client standing right in front of you (or in front of the kiosk, as the case may be) is the best way to get started. Why? Because it allows you to assess how easy or difficult the case may be, and to narrow and verify search results.

Having the opportunity to verify and clarify information is EXTREMELY valuable.

Just to drive the point home, imagine that you are trying to find the entrance to an apartment. The owner tells you which street its on, and describes the place as having a a brown door, a yellowish exterior, steps out front, and laundry hanging outside. Sounds like you should be able to find it, right?

You thought you had all the information you needed.

Now, if you were standing in front of this building with those instructions, wouldn't you want to be able to ask a clarifying question?

If time and circumstances permit, use the basic information that you have on the loved one (name, age, and possible location would be sufficient) and run a quick search. See if that search returns many results, a single result, or none at all.

A facebook search can also serve this purpose. If you run a search while you are with the client, and you find a result, show the client the result and ask "could this be the person that you are looking for?"

Of course, you won't always find a result that you can verify on the spot. Either way, get as much information as you can while you have the client on the phone. Once the encounter is over and you start searching for leads, you'll want all the info you can get.

I just ended my encounter with the client, and I took down a bunch of information. Where did it go, and what do I do next?

After you submit a case, it will be automatically transferred to our case database on Airtable.

When you sign up for a kiosk shift, you'll be invited to join Airtable and set up a profile.

(Didn't get your invitation? Please email jess@miraclemessages.org with the subject line "Airtable Access". Please note that this will only be granted if you've attended an orientation--if you haven't, you can sign up here.)

Using Airtable

The video below is the same one as you saw in the the kiosk training, but feel free to watch it again. If you want a quick refresher on Airtable, you can also revisit the clickable tutorial here.

In case you didn't get through the video here's the tl;dr:

  1. Finding a case: command+f (or whatever you use to search on a PC) is your best friend. Use the search function to find your cases.
  2. Reviewing a record: clicking to the left of the client's name (there will either be a chat bubble with a number, or a blank space that turns into a circle when you hover) allows you to expand the record and see all of the information about a client.
  3. Communicating with others: In an expanded record, you can communicate with Jess, Carlos, or other volunteers by tagging them (ex. "@Jessica Donig please help me with my case").

Searching for loved ones: best practices

For Whitepages:

  1. In whitepages, clicking on a phone number will show you who the number is registered to. If it's registered to someone who seems unrelated to the loved one, it's probably an outdated number.
  2. In whitepages, you can see the names of people affiliated with the person you've searched at the bottom. This is useful for positively or negatively identifying a loved one.

For Facebook:

  1. The best way to positively identify a loved one on Facebook is by showing the client the profile and photos.
  2. Don't limit yourself to direct messages! You can post in high school alumni pages, small town community pages, and police pages. Remember, you have been asked by the client to help them find the loved one, and they have consented to having their information made public. This gives you license to use social media strategically for this purpose.
I found some leads. How should I reach out?

The short answer:

Fearlessly!

Some people are very intimidated by the idea of cold-calling or messaging a potential loved one. Don't be! The truth is that if the person doesn't want to reconnect, they will tell you so. If they do want to be in touch, and you can help them do that, you are doing them an incredible service by picking up the phone.

The long answer is below.

Reaching out to loved ones

When you reach out to a loved one, you can do so using your personal phone, email address, or facebook account (same as you would do if someone had lost their wallet and you were trying to return it, right?).

Depending on how comfortable you are doing this sort of thing, you might feel more comfortable using a script when cold calling/emailing potential loved ones. A few samples are below. If you use these, feel free to edit them to match your communication style.

Remember: Respect the wishes of the client in regards to describing their current situation. That is, if the client does not wish to be identified as homeless to their loved one make sure you’re careful with how you describe our organization and how you came to meet the client.

You might want to refer back to these scripts when you are working on cases. Clicking the button below will direct you to a google doc with these scripts--you can just save the page and keep the scripts on hand.

Outreach Scripts

If you are using facebook:

Hi __[name]__! I'm a volunteer with Miracle Messages (miraclemessages.org), a nonprofit where we help folks record short video messages to their dearly missed loved ones.

I just met with ___[full name]___, who recorded a message to his ___[mom, brother, etc]___, ___[full name]___.

Would this be you? :)

Please let me know either way so I can ask our volunteers to continue the search if need be. You can reach me at _[phone number, email address, etc]_. Thank you!

[volunteer first name]

If you are using email:

Hi __[loved one first name]__!

I'm a volunteer with Miracle Messages (miraclemessages.org), a nonprofit where we help folks record short video messages to their dearly missed loved ones.

I just met with ___[homeless person full name]___, who recorded a message to his ___[mom, brother, etc]___, ___[loved one full name]___.

Would this be you? :)

Please let me know either way so I can ask our volunteers to continue the search if need be. You can reach me at _[phone number, email address, etc]_. Thank you!

[volunteer first name]

If you are calling on the phone:

“Hello, is __[loved one first name]__ available?”

“I just met with ___[homeless person full name]___, who recorded a message to his ___[mom, brother, etc]___, ___[loved one full name]___. Would this be you? :)”

“I'm a volunteer with Miracle Messages, a nonprofit where we help people record short video messages to their dearly missed loved ones.”

Credits:

Created with images by shotput - "magnifier newspaper history" • sweetlouise - "hands fingers positive" • Pexels - "archive bookcase boxes" • Derick Anies - "Man and cellphone"

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