Nonprofit Call Center: Choosing a Call Center in the Cloud

nonprofit call center
by
Dania McDermott

Nonprofit organizations face absolute business challenges. From fundraising for donations to measuring client success, the nonprofit community is usually more pressed for time—and money—than most for-profit organizations.

Despite these constraints, many nonprofits still operate in the technological past. Think local email clients. Bulky CPU units. Desk phones.

To help these businesses work smarter, this article will address when and why it makes sense to set up a nonprofit call center as well as what it takes to build one.
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Does your nonprofit need a cloud-based call center? 

Whether your nonprofit runs several hotlines, hosts an annual fundraising campaign or just needs a way to field customer service inquiries, there’s no question you need a reliable phone system. 

But which type of phone system will best suit the needs of your organization? Here are a few factors to consider:

What’s your current set up?

If you’re already using a PBX or IP PBX system and it’s working for your team, you may want to stick with it. PBX equipment is expensive and abandoning it too soon could mean squandering your investment.

If you’re starting from scratch and don’t have a system in place, an internet-based phone system will offer immediate and long-term benefits, including cost-savings overtime. 

Ready to build better conversations?
Simple to set up. Easy to use. Powerful integrations.

Organizations starting from scratch that have the resources needed to host their own systems in-house may want to investigate hybrid solutions like IP PBX. 

But for everyone else, if you want to avoid purchasing new equipment and hosting altogether—and your organization can manage a monthly subscription model—VoIP phone systems offer the most flexibility in terms of location dependence, setup, and costs.

How reliable is your internet connection?

Both IP PBX and VoIP systems rely heavily on a strong and stable internet connection. Before integrating either option, make sure your office has a strong internet signal and enough bandwidth to support calls.

If you’re contending with less than ideal internet conditions, an IP PBX system may be your best bet since it offers gateways to your phone line that bridge the gap between legacy telephony and VoIP technology.

When in doubt, experiment with a free trial or two. Many cloud phone service providers can help adjust your router to prioritize voice packets and eliminate most VoIP issues.

Does your organization’s work require travel?

If employees are frequently out of the office while traveling for work, researching VoIP systems should rank high on your to-do list.

This flexible phone option will allow staff members to receive calls on both computers and mobile devices instead of office extensions—a necessary feature for any team working remotely.

With a VoIP system in place, potential donors, members, and customers can connect with staff whether they’re on the go or on their couch.

On-site call centers vs. cloud-based call centers

Choosing between a traditional, on-site call center and a cloud-based one is a big decision that requires a mix of research and reflection. To help your organization make the call, here are some key things to consider:

Storage, usage, and maintenance

On-site call centerCloud-based call center
Hardware, software, and infrastructure must be stored and operated from your place of business.

Users make and receive calls from their desk phones. Your IT team is 100% responsible for installation, maintenance, and upkeep.

Everything (phone servers, software support, equipment, etc.) is managed and controlled internally.
Phone software is hosted in the cloud by a third-party provider that maintains and updates its own system.

Users rely on an internet connection to make and receive calls through web-based or installed apps on laptops and smartphones.

Cloud-based phone providers offer customer support and resolve technical issues. Your call center data is hosted in the cloud.

Set up time, costs, and expenses

On-site call centerCloud-based call center
Implementing an on-site call center is a major financial investment that can take months.

Buying hardware, figuring out licensing, creating the infrastructure, and finding compatible software requires diligence, an ample budget, and qualified IT professionals.

It also requires enough on-site space to safely store everything.

Ongoing costs include IT salaries and hardware and software updates every five to seven years.
Launching a cloud-based call center is relatively easy to accomplish—users must install software and configure their accounts.

Due to cloud-hosting, there is no hardware to purchase or servers to store, however, these costs are typically baked into monthly or yearly subscription costs.

Generally, cloud phone providers offer short billing cycles with per-user-pricing that reduces costs in the long term.

Flexibility

On-site call centerCloud-based call center
Making changes to an on-site phone system is often a multi-step process.

Adding new team members means buying new phones and modifying hardware. If your organization needs to scale down, you’re left with a surplus of unneeded desk phones.

As for mobility, these devices must connect to the server in your office. As a result, call center reps can only make and receive calls while at their desks.
A cloud-based call center is easy to manage, scale, and customize. Adding or removing users is as simple as managing a Netflix subscription.

Without hardware involved, any changes to your monthly bill are immediately transparent—businesses can scale down in just a few clicks when seasonal or unforeseen changes arise.

Due to their reliance on the internet, virtual call centers enable phone reps to work from anywhere.

Reliability

On-site call centerCloud-based call center
Consistent call quality is one of the chief advantages of a traditional on-site phone system.

Hardware failures (or hardware becoming obsolete) may require replacement or repair.
Call quality depends on the relative strength of an organization’s internet connection.

Without sufficient bandwidth to support call activities, organizations will experience dropped calls and intermittent call quality.

Collaboration and productivity

On-site call centerCloud-based call center
Integrating on-site phone systems with other software is possible, but tricky. To pull this off, you’ll need the help of an experienced IT professional.One of the most compelling benefits of cloud-based phone software is the ability to connect with other cloud-based tools.

Security and privacy

On-site call centerCloud-based call center
An organization must manage everything—including data storage—on its own.

This may seem like the best idea initially (let’s keep our data in house!), but without an experienced IT team, you may make mistakes that spiral into security concerns.

An experienced IT team isn’t something most small businesses can afford, let alone nonprofits.
Your organization’s data is stored and maintained by the cloud phone provider.

This may seem like a bad idea for those unfamiliar with (or distrusting of) the cloud, but industrial cloud-services providers must prioritize data security when handling massive volumes of data at scale.

These companies regularly test and improve their data security, and the industry demands it of them.

If an organization isn’t prepared to handle the responsibility, they can entrust a reputable third-party to do it for them

The benefits of a nonprofit call center in the cloud

The benefits of a cloud-based call center go beyond dedicated data storage. For nonprofit and for-profit businesses alike, leveraging a cloud phone solution means:

More flexibility

Call center software empowers organizations with the flexibility needed to run fundraising campaigns during peak periods. Your call center staff can make and receive calls from anywhere with an internet connection—and you can add or remove phone reps as needed without ordering or reprogramming bulky equipment.

Less overhead and internal support

Cloud phone solutions are accessible to non-technical people and built with usability in mind. You won’t need to hire or maintain a team of IT wizards to maintain a robust call center in the cloud. You also won’t need to tie up internal resources—nonprofit staff will receive direct support from the provider’s customer service team.

Contextual advantage

Cloud phone systems offer a key advantage for nonprofits that use CRMs: context. When your CRM and call center software “talk” to each other, phone reps can leverage customer and donor history to aid fundraising efforts without fumbling between spreadsheets during calls. For organizations, the ability to track relationships makes it easier to identify trends and opportunities.

Setting up a nonprofit call center in the cloud

To avoid settling on a system that doesn’t truly meet the needs of your organization, proper planning is a must.

Crucial questions to consider before buying a cloud phone system:

  • What’s your budget? Knowing what your organization can reasonably invest will help narrow your options.
  • What type of call center do you need? Inbound (answering services, community hotlines, customer service), outbound (telephone fundraising, contacting potential donors, cold calling), or both?
  • What are your business goals and KPIs? Your organization’s goals will inform how to define and measure success.

What you’ll need to get set up in the cloud

  • Virtual call center software: Flexible phone software that empowers your team to work from anywhere while enabling your organization to track and analyze call activity.
  • Nonprofit fundraising software: A purpose-built platform for fundraising, from campaign management to donor management.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) tool: A cloud-based database that houses important information about key accounts.
  • Helpdesk software: A intuitive web-based inbox that stores customer, client, and donor interaction history and facilitates centralized, searchable email communication.
  • Laptops and headsets for employees: Relying on desktops undermines the mobile benefit of cloud-based apps. Before going virtual, invest in portable devices and good headsets.

Final thoughts on launching a nonprofit call center

If we had to reduce working in the nonprofit sector to one phrase, it would probably be something like do more with less. With a cloud-based phone system, nonprofit organizations can focus fully on their mission and let technology do the rest. 

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