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How to reduce your charity’s telecom costs

As more charities move towards remote or mobile working, finding ways to save money is crucial. Reducing your telecommunication overheads doesn't have to be difficult - here are some top tips.

1

Understand what you're spending now

Before you can weigh up what to spend in the future you need to know what it is costing you now. Remember to add up salaries, overheads and associated costs of support people – including their training requirements and maintenance of your existing on-site system.

2

Read your bills - and analyse

When your bill arrives do you stamp it and hand it straight to Accounts?

  • Check whether you have any extra services added to your bill for example, expensive 1571 services.
  • Look for which departments are heavy users and ramping up costs.

If your bills aren't clear and you don't understand them, it's time for you to speak to your provider or switch.

3

Ask for advice

So you recognise you’re paying too much for your telecommunications and need to do something about it. If you have in-house expertise start scoping your requirements and draw up a tender list of potential new suppliers. If you don't and you don't have a list of potential suppliers that you can trust, try using independent bodies and seek out recommendations from other charities.

4

Work out what you really need

The important bit! As it is very difficult to gather all requirements upfront, it is clearly necessary to list, in order of priority, your real requirements. You may do this in-house or bring in an external consultant to do this for you. This scoping document will be used to set out the basic needs of your future service so you need to get this right! Make sure you discuss user requirements with all of your departments and take more than a one to two year view on what your organisation may require. With telecoms, a longer term view might just save you money.

The Deer Initiative is a charity that provides advice and information on all issues relating to wild deer and their management. They work with a wide range of stakeholders in England and Wales to promote and oversee the sustainable management of the country’s expanding deer population. The charity was set up with two fixed telephone lines to meet their communication needs. As they expanded, they quickly became frustrated by their inability to do the most basic of telephone functions. Before even looking at suppliers, they set out their requirements which consisted of:

  • Wanting control over their phone systems and needing a system that could adapt to how they work, not the other way around
  • They required the ability to organise conference calls and enable homeworkers to be able to dial in to keep in touch without having to visit their head office as frequently as they work extensively with other stakeholders such as Defra, the Forrestry Commission and so on
  • They have to be contactable for homeworkers and staff out in the field

When the charity reached the point of maximum capacity, realising their set up was preventing them working effectively; they took the decision to upgrade to a hosted voice system which uses the internet for calls instead of a traditional phone line.

5

Shop around

Even if you’re tied into one supplier, it is good to shop around to understand what is on offer elsewhere. Talk to your supplier and negotiate directly with them. Most telecom suppliers like to engage with customers and will invariably offer you their best price if they think they may lose you or include extras that can save you money in the short term.

6

Make sure you check your contract before switching

Any ethical telecoms provider will advise you to always check the small print of your contract before you give notice. Most providers build in early termination fees and usually make you pay up so make sure you understand dates and timeline penalties – check too if you have to return equipment as part of the termination process.  Replacing handsets could prove expensive.

7

Streamline your suppliers

Is your organisation using broadband, mobile telephones, lines, calls and fax lines – all with different suppliers? You could save money by reducing the number of suppliers you’re dealing with and only using one or two trusted suppliers instead. This may strengthen your negotiating position and save your management time analysing each supplier bill, dealing with different customer service operations and following up on the relevant paperwork.

8

Experiment with new technology

A trusted telecoms provider will advise you of the latest developments and what they can mean for your organisation in terms of cost savings and efficiencies. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sales pitch, more of a ‘here is what is happening’ in the marketplace and ‘this is what it means for you’ type of discussion. The industry thrives on rapid technological developments, for example, the move to Hosted Voice over broadband lines using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies. Mobile phones with 4G technologies give users the potential to access the Internet at blistering speeds. Find out if they’re suitable for your organisation and ask for a demonstration.

9

Look at the maintenance costs for your system

Maintenance is dependent upon the age and type of telephone system you have. It can be hugely expensive for older in-house telephone systems; sourcing parts, re-training staff, reliance on supplier help-desks but if you move to a Cloud based hosted telephone system, your telephony partner becomes responsible for upgrades and maintenance.

10

Talk directly to your supplier - and be honest!

If you are under pressure to reduce telephone costs, and frankly, who isn’t, then talk to your supplier. Be honest and ask them what else they can offer you – ask them how your organisation can benefit from new technologies, for example, 'hosted voice' or a 'hybrid telephone system' to save you money in the longer term.

  • Want clearer bills – again, talk to your supplier – they want your business and should be able to walk you through the steps you need to make savings.
  • Want to develop an Integrated Information Communications (ICT) strategy – involve your Telecoms Supplier and see how and what they can contribute to help shape your organisation’s vision for the future and save you costs in the longer run.

Further information

The information in this how-to guide has been provided by Class Networks.

For more information on how you can manage your telecommunications, contact NCVO’s
Trusted Supplier the Phone Co-op.

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Page last edited Oct 16, 2017 History

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