Crisis Text Line closes $7 million funding round led by Omidyar Network and Knight Foundation

Press Release

October 8, 2015

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Launches white label strategy, offering free services to cities and organizations 

NEW YORK – Oct. 8, 2015 – Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 text-messaging support line for people in crisis, closed $7 million in funding led by Omidyar Network and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support a wide expansion of the service and improve public access to information on public health and crisis trends.

Crisis Text Line launched in August 2013 and has already processed more than 8 million crisis messages leveraging over 800 trained volunteer crisis counselors. The text line receives messages discussing suicide, depression, self-harm, LGBTQ issues, and beyond. This funding will support Crisis Text Line’s plan to process over 25 million text messages in 2016 alone, and train over 4,000 volunteer crisis counselors.

Related link 

"Crisis Text Line expanding public access to its services and data sets" by Liz Eddy and Bob Filbin on Knight Blog

"Crisis Text Line is the embodiment of the positive use of today's technology to support people at the times they need it the most," said Matt Bannick, managing partner at Omidyar Network. "We are deeply moved by Crisis Text Line mission and encouraged by the opportunity to scale its innovation and bring its best practices to new fronts of collaborative action."

In addition to providing a one-on-one service, Crisis Text Line is a big data company. Given the massive volume, velocity and variety of the messages it processes, it has a very large, meaningful, anonymized public health data set, which the organization is committed to opening for non-commercial use. The anonymized data set meets strict ethical and privacy standards developed by the Crisis Text Line Data Ethics Committee and independent experts.

“Crisis Text Line is leveraging technology to provide the public with access to better information and help improve people’s lives,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation. “The tools and insights developed through its expansion can offer valuable lessons on using digital platforms and collaborative open data practices to engage the public.”

Omidyar Network is supporting the expansion of Crisis Text Line with a grant of up to $2.5 million. Knight Foundation is providing $1.4 million, adding to its previous support. Knight provided initial funding for Crisis Text Line in 2011. The project was also a winner of the Knight News Challenge on Health in 2014.

In addition to funding, the organization is also announcing the launch of a white label program: Crisis Text Line will provide free keywords to partner cities and organizations. These keywords will allow partners to promote the text line to their communities and receive a monthly data report associated with their keywords. This data can inform school policy, research, and legislation around mental health.

“We are super pumped to offer our service for free to cities and organizations. Instead of spending taxpayer money on tech, text fees, or labor, they can use our service for free--brand it, own the data, and plug it in today!” said Nancy Lublin, CEO and founder of Crisis Text Line.

The first partners to receive custom keywords include the cities of Atlanta and Tacoma, Wash., and organizations such as National Eating Disorder Association and To Write Love On Her Arms.

"Crisis Text Line adds tremendous value to our city and how we support our citizens. This is an example of how innovation and technology can be leveraged to make a difference in the lives of so many people who are in need," said Ceasar Mitchell, Atlanta City Council president.

“Working with CTL allows NEDA to feel confident that our contacts who are in crisis are getting help from volunteers who are trained to handle crisis situations related to eating disorder concerns in a compassionate and timely manner,” said Lauren Smolar, Director of Helpline Services of National Eating Disorder Association.

“We couldn't be more excited to work with CTL. It feels like the perfect fit and collaboration to strengthen communities around the country. People will know that hope and help is real,” said Lindsay Kolsch, Operations Coordinator of To Write Love On Her Arms.

About Crisis Text Line

Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for people in crisis via text. For more, visit www.crisistextline.org

About Omidyar Network

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. Omidyar Network has committed more than $849 million to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including Consumer Internet & Mobile, Education, Financial Inclusion, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights. To learn more, visit www.omidyar.com, and follow on Twitter @omidyarnetwork #PositiveReturns.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.

For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

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Liz Eddy, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 212-254-2390 x225,

 [email protected]

Claudia Parazzoli, Marketing & Communications, Omidyar Network, 650-482-2504, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]