Voice Over IP (VoIP) telephony is a well-established technology these days. Offices large and small around the world and in every industry use Internet-based phone systems. They’re often far more cost-effective than traditional PBX phone systems, and offer more flexibility and features.
In the nonprofit sector, “cost-effective” is often the magic word. More and more nonprofits (as well as other organizations seeking to reduce telephony expenses) are switching to VoIP systems for their internal and external communications, for everything from quick inter-office queries to soliciting donations from thousands of community members. Modern VoIP technology is refined and reliable, and can easily meet the needs of any size organization at a fraction of the cost of old style phone lines.
However, a low price isn’t the only advantage VoIP offers. It’s another truism of the nonprofit world that everyone does a little bit of everything. The same employee or volunteer might be responsible for crucial field work, administrative duties in the office, public outreach, and more. It’s enough to drive anyone a little crazy, but fortunately technology is there to help. Here are a few lesser-known features of VoIP systems that can make that heavy workload a little more manageable even for workers who can’t be at their desk all the time.
- Voicemail-to-Email / Visual Voicemail: The days of looking for the little blinking light on your phone to see if you have voicemail are over! What could be more annoying than having to listen to a series of voicemails through an automated system prompting you to push buttons to decide what to do with the current message before continuing to the next? As iPhone and Android users have become accustomed to, you want to be able to “see” your voicemails and play them, save them, forward them independently. That’s exactly what every modern VoIP system provides—typically via a computer (and even smartphone) client similar to a messaging app, like Skype, etc. Don’t want to use yet another client? No problem, in addition, most systems will email your voicemails as sound files. Just click and listen, forward via email and more.
- Mobile Twinning: Using this feature, a mobile phone or other phone number (such as a home phone) can be paired with a VoIP desk phone. When the VoIP phone is called, both phones will ring simultaneously. This is ideal for the nonprofit worker who is just as likely to be out in the field as at their desk. They can always stay connected and in touch, using a single unified phone number and voicemail box. The system can even be configured so that voicemails will go to the VoIP phone only, allowing access to other great features like emailed transcriptions.
- Complex Auto Attendant: Modern automated IVRs (phone menu trees) go far beyond the old days of simple extension lists. Advanced voice recognition, filtering of calls based on time of day or the caller ID of the caller, and tight integration with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software make an IVR a key component of any business phone system. A well-configured IVR can give even a small nonprofit operation the polished public front of a much larger organization. This has the dual advantages of improving an organization’s image, and freeing up personnel from answering the phones to answer common questions or direct calls.
- Fax-to-Email: Yes, faxes are still a part of the business world, especially in the nonprofit sector. However, modern VoIP systems can free an office of that bulky, noisy fax machine with fax-to-email and email-to-fax capabilities. Incoming faxes are automatically converted to digital files and emailed to the recipient, no paper required. An additional perk of VoIP systems is the ability to easily accept faxes and voice calls on the same phone number without subjecting callers to any irritating squeals and chirps. The phone system can recognize an incoming fax and automatically switch to fax mode only when needed.