One of the big challenges for small and medium-sized nonprofit organizations is building capacity. Staff salaries and wages are usually the largest expense and it’s hard to grow without a serious long-term hit to your budget. As a result, work tends to pile on the same people and threatening burnout. Thanks to the expansion of online technologies and the freelance economy there may be ways to build capacity as you need it.
I’m a big fan of Mac Power Users, a podcast that focuses on the hardware, software, and workflows that can make your business more productive. I’ve adopted their recommendations to use Evernote and the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 scanner with great success during the past few years. Although the podcast focuses Apple computers and applications, they can often be applied to other situations. For example, recent episode number 389 “The Mac-based Small Business” describes “virtual receptionists,” who may be very useful for small museums and historic sites.
I remember working as the only staff member for a small museum and the challenge of answering the phone while the museum is open or while I was running errands. I hated interrupting a conversation with a visitor or answering the phone while I was in the car. Virtual assistants can help by providing a professional receptionist who can answer your calls with a custom greeting and manage them efficiently by forwarding the calls to your phone, taking a message, or offering the caller voicemail. In episode 389, Mac Power Users recommended Ruby Receptionists with pricing starting at $269 a month. That may seem like a lot for a small organization but it’s less than one week’s wages for a part-time receptionist and they answer the phones when you’re closed or a staff member is sick or on vacation. It’s much nicer and professional to be greeted by a person than a recording. There are lots of companies that provide this service but Ruby Receptionists offers a mobile app for iOS and Android that allows you to create temporary call handling instructions based on your calendar, manage your calls and messages from anywhere, and import your phone’s contacts so that the receptionist can provide a personalized experience.
My consulting practice hasn’t grown to the point that I need a virtual receptionist (although I use several virtual freelancers for editing, project management, and graphic design) but your nonprofit organization might really benefit. It can free you up to focus on those tasks that you do best with fewer interruptions while ensuring an excellent experience for your callers.