Here in Rochester, there's a non-profit community space called the Flying Squirrel Community Space. Like most non-profits, we're not exactly rich. We have a telephone line, but we get charged up the behind if we actually try using it. It's there for residential DSL service, as far as I know and it'd probably be great if we could get it changed to a naked DSL line, but that's an entirely different thing.

Handling calls regarding space use, hours of operation, contacting members, us members generally give out our cellphone numbers. This isn't entirely professional and it leaves a gap in communication amongst official business. Being kept in the loop is a matter of word of mouth. However, I came up with two free solutions.for small businesses, freelancers and independent professionals.

Enter Phonebooth. A business-oriented VOIP phone solution. They have a few different products, one being a free VOIP service aimed towards "for small businesses, freelancers and independent professionals" and the other being a paid service designed for bigger businesses. I believe I read somewhere that VOIP telephones can be provisioned to use the latter. For us at the Squirrel, we use the former (free) service.

I'm not going to write up an FAQ on how to set up a VOIP setup with Phonebooth (since they already have awesome documentation), but I'll explain how I set up the system for the Squirrel. We have a single telephone number that when called, is picked up by an auto-attender. Everything is controlled and programmed via a web interface. The auto-attender features my *cough* lovely voice detailing different options (press 0 for A, press 1 for B, press 2 for C, etc). Option 0 connects to a "group". The group it connects to attempts to ring the cellphones of about half a dozen members, myself included, all at once. If you pick up, you have to press 1 to take the call (this way, incoming calls aren't lost because someone's voicemail picked up). This number is for emergencies/stuff that really needs a person to respond to ASAP. For official flyers, business cards, etc, we have another solution...

Enter Google Voice. This is absolutely nothing new so I'm not explain what it is (you should already know). We have a single telephone number that when called, goes straight to voicemail. All of the Flying Squirrel members are subscribed to a private mailing list. When a call comes in, a voicemail is left, or a text message is received, an e-mail is automatically generated by Google to the inbox of the Google account we have Google Voice set up on. From there, any e-mails received in that inbox is automatically forwarded to that private mailing list. Since any e-mail received will be from Google Voice (or Google regarding a change to either service once in a blue moon), we don't need to worry about any spam.

From there, all members can listen to any message that's been left via e-mails sent to the private mailing list. Anyone can return a call and then follow up by posting on the specific e-mail on the mailing list, noting what time they followed up with the person that called, who they spoke to (if it's a business calling), what was talked about, etc.
We're just beginning to promote this telephone number, and in the near future, I'm going to order some business cards from vistaprint.com to hand out, advertising the Squirrel with the street address, contact e-mail address, and (go figure) phone number.